Saturday, September 5, 2015

No Crashy Spaceship

In late January this year I was close to having Doombot Arena ready for release. At the time I wanted to focus on mini-games where I could keep the scope really small so that I could focus on actually releasing them and get familiar with the deployment process on the Apple store. I decided to leverage a lot of the work I'd done on Doombot Arena and build a similarly small-in-scope game based on time challenges. I started working on a racing game, but found that the standard techniques suggested for car physics in Unity to provide an experience that was not quite as fun, frantic and simple as I was looking for. And so I decided to change course and go for a spline-following approach. The result was No Crashy Spaceship, a game which is essentially an infinite-runner (a genre in which you attempt to dodge obstacles to see how long you can survive).

Note before I proceed: I have interspersed this wall of text with a few screenshots to make viewing this blog post less of a chore to read.

I have subsequently started working on games that are somewhat larger in scope -- games that I am more passionate about. As a result, my enthusiasm started to wane on this project (my larger projects running concurrently just offered more of a challenge). However, I recently decided (after looking at the graveyard of unfinished and almost-finished projects I have lying around) that I need to stay the course and make more of an effort to finish and release.

The overall look of the game was inspired by Tron (having watched the animated series I became quite fond of the dark background contrasted with bright lights; it's a unique sci-fi look that I feel is very effective). The initial work-in-progress name was 'Lunatic Skyway', but after chatting to some work colleagues about it we concluded that the name was a bit bland and generic. After throwing around a few names I threw out the whacky 'No Crashy Spaceship' idea (as a joke). There were laughs all-round and unanimous approval, and so I decided to go with it.

Initially it was far more fast-paced and frenetic. I played it so much during testing that to me this felt like a suitable level of challenge. User-testing confirmed that I was utterly mad -- the game was completely intimidating to first time players. So I have toned it down a lot. When I watch friends play it on my iPad I'm always commenting about how I've made it too easy (the whole point in my mind was for it to be ridiculously difficult to simply not die almost immediately -- think Flappy Bird levels of frustration). However, not a single person who has tested it agrees and the consensus seems to be that having a slightly gentler difficulty curve makes it more fun. The speed does ramp up significantly with each lap though. I laughed when people were commenting how fast it gets a few laps in (my initial speed was WAY faster than that, even on the first lap). I think I have to acknowledge that I have an overly active brain though (and the attention span of a newt) -- a wiser course action is to accept that complete sensory overload isn't palatable to everyone.

As it stands it is pretty much ready for release, though my latest play-through did uncover one or two minor bugs which I'll have to fix first. Creating the promotional screenshots (which are the images you see here) has been a bit of a trial because the Apple store requires images of various vastly differing resolutions and aspect ratios -- trying to cater for all is a bit of a nightmare. This is one of the tasks that I have been avoiding. I could have released a few months back had I not been so reluctant to just whip myself on the back (like a Catholic monk fervently self-flagellating himself) to inspire enthusiasm and force me to go through the schlep of it all.