After I had established my gameplay idea, I needed to think through how it would work – there is only so far you can get before you actually need to make a prototype, but it is certainly worth testing it on paper and in your head. I role-played the idea of the ‘van’ – I knew it’s speed needs to vary, while the opponents speed would be constant. But I didn’t know how many speeds would be needed, and how many is too little or too much! So I mapped out what 5 speeds and tracked what that would do for the game play. Ie. At what speed is the opponent? How many pickups do i need to get to the same speed as the opponent? How quickly will the opponent reach the top before I can catch him? How slow will I become after collecting a Beat. I had to sketch out these scenarios using a grid, because I was not able to visualize them all in my head – There were so many configurations to try and remember. I would relax on my bed, close my eyes, and just role play or visualize as many scenarios I could from start to finish. Essentially, I would visualize myself playing the game in a simple way – no fancy images. I used bright colors in my head so I could keep an eye on things – so the player was a green dot, the the opponent was red – nothing else existed (yet). Then I would write down any issues. The main thing I was looking for is what I was calling ‘saturation points’ – that moment in a game where the pressure is off, and you are no longer challenged or you have beat the system because of a loop hole. I would try think of the these saturation points and then adjust the game to maintain pressure on the player.
I eventually settled on 4 speeds for the van (special triangle) to make it simple, and one speed for the opponent. I also decided that you cannot be at the same speed of the opponent, you are either just slower or just faster, but never equal. This I hadn’t though of originally but during the role playing I realized that if you are never the same speed, then you will always be watching the opponent, and this is key to the player not losing interest in the opponent. I also decided that speed 4 for the fan, would be super fast. This meant that if you were very far behind the opponent you could use speed for to catch up. During this speed up, the player may decide to skip a Beat just to stay alive. I loved that idea that the player had to restrain his desire for a Beat, because he may die. Finally, If I could spawn pickups in clusters, then the player could alternate his speed from fast to slow very quickly and sporadically, this keeps the game play interesting and dynamic so that you don’t get comfortable to one speed. I knew players would master the speed changes, so I wanted a difficulty rake. This would be a constantly increasing speed for the player and opponent, the longer you stayed alive! so all 5 speeds were constantly changing in proportion to each other and getting faster!
This role-playing helped me understand the game-speeds and game-logic, but I didn’t entirely know if the mechanics would work. I knew this was as far as I could go on paper, before prototyping. I also role-played the background logic. Let me explain that quickly: I knew the final look of the game needed to be a beautiful 90’s poster graphic. I also wanted the background landscape to be randomized and not entirely controlled by me. This way I could keep it unique for every game play, and every user! I planned for the background to be like Photoshop layers, where I have a primary background and multiple layers on top. I closed my eyes again, lay on the bed and visualized this idea. I could see that these layers would be parallax and stacked. This is so that they would overlap and move at a different speed to the viewer and player. I wanted the user’s photogrphs to be embedded, and I decided they would be an extra layer. Then I had to limit myself to a number of layers for the graphics – I chose 6 for simplicity. I also felt that 6 was enough to give me very random spawns. I started painting and drawing these layers together. Ok, painting is not that necessary – but this was my craft! I googled 90’s design ideas and patterns and began drawing and painting mock ups of the background.
While painting, I realized that to add to the randomness I needed that layers to have two colours, or a top and bottom. Only 2/3rd or 1/2 of the layer would be visible in the scene, and then I could rotate the asset and have it appear again the other way. Now my 6 assets where essentially acting like 12 assets. This would increase my artistic palette by double! I dug into photoshop and started to make mockups. These were very rough and you can see the early ones on my instsgram @vectorpop. Mockups are so important and they will become part of the next post – which is about creating a development BRIEF!
I did some more role-playing and visualization in bed, covering other areas like sprite animations and and how to represent the player’s speed. This you’ll notice is by using colors trails behind the player’s special triangle. The role-play and visualization process helped me take what was an idea from ’90’s inspired neon landscape in which a triangle races through the graphics against an opponent’ to a working logical game. One that I understood better and new how to communicate. I had also made my mockups. This is when you take the next step: MAKING THE BRIEF!
The brief is essential! not only for game development – but for you personally and then for testing your game idea and logic! Think about the Brief as a Business Plan, you should start your first game development without it! Read about that next!