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Secludedness: Gameplay and Design

In my second post I’d like to talk about the two topics gameplay and design of Secludedness. The main focus of the project is the development with libgdx and Google Play Game Services. Therefore, the question arises if gameplay and design are important enough to spend some time. I think so, because I want a game whose gameplay is (a little) more complex than TicTacToe and its design is more appealing than classic Pong (that’s not that hard). It’s really nice, if you can accomplish in your students project more than a technology demo. I hope at the end of the semester Secludedness will be a game worth playing.

Gameplay

The gameplay should use the given technologies at there best and motivate players to play the game with fun. And of course, the gameplay should be implemented within the given time, without losing the focus on the important combination of libGDX and Google Play Game Services. So much for the theory!

In practice, the gameplay has suffered the greatest sacrifice, when it became clear that otherwise I couldn’t follow my schedule. In my search for inspiration for the gameplay I’ve watched and read some interesting videos and read articles and books from game developers. As an example I’d like to share some information, before I introduce the basic gameplay of Secludedness. At first a important note: Please don’t review the current gameplay state of Secludedness based on this information. As far as I can foresee it at the moment, I could only implement a portion of this ideas and good tips in Secludedness. So don’t blame them, just blame me. Maybe they encourage you to develop a more exciting game idea than I done in Secludedness.

The first video is a talk by Jonathan Blow, developer of the popular indie game Braid with the title Indie Prototyping. The second video is also by Jonathan Blow and bears the appropriate title Design Reboot. Both videos have inspired me and they are exemplary for many good videos on game development. If you’re interested in (indie) game development and you have some free time: It’s really worth your time to search and view some other videos, too.

If you do prefer to read a book, then The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses from Jesse Schell is recommended. I read it two years ago and looked into it again for the project. Really worth reading. As noted before: I read the book, but I’ve probably failed strongly in the implementation. But the book is still really great! 🙂

Now it’s time to get to the actual subject. At the moment the gameplay is kept very simple, but it can be further expanded. Secludedness is a puzzle game in which the player moves through a two-dimensional map. The player starts at a starting point with a specified number of health points. The player can move in the four cardinal directions to reach an exit field. In this task he is hindered by the following map items:

  • Objects block the movement of the player
  • Portals teleport the player back to his start point
  • Traps hurt the player (lowering health by one)
  • Fog hide a field until the player entered it for the first time

As you can see, it’s a simple gameplay with a simple game mechanic. The map items have a basic functionality, which could be enhanced in the next development steps. For example: I’m planning to introduce another kind of portal which teleports the player to a specified position and an option to specify the damage taken by a trap. For future iterations new map items (moving enemies or random effect fields) could (should|must|might) be introduced.

Design

At first another necessary note: Designing the game is really hard for me. I’m not a design-guy running around with a macbook, fancy clothes and a lots of ideas about the proper colors and textures for Secludedness. Indeed I’m running around with a thinkpad, a black full-zip hoodie and with no idea how good game design should look like. Therefore, the current design is temporary and it’s made in a few minutes in GIMP. The game will initially have two simple texture packs, once in a black/white-look and another in pixelart. As I mentioned, I’m not a designer and due to the limited time the design is revised in later development stages.

Part of the design (for me as a developer) are the sound effects and background music. The game supports this already and I created some really cheap effects for Secludedness. This will eventually be replaced by better effects. For the music I’ll probably use titles with Creative Commons licence.

Premature Conclusion

The above game content is currently implemented. At the moment the game has a campaign mode and the ability to play a random map. So try it out and give me feedback! The next, already begun, step is the integration of Google Play Game Services. I will discuss this topic in detail in the next posts.

In my opinion game development differs from classical application development. A really important point is that you should develop your game with great enthusiasm and playfulness. Getting feedback really motivates on this path, thanks for that. Playing other (indie) games before and during development has broadened my horizon. Therefore special thanks to Papers, Please, Kerbal Space Program and many other good games.

I’d like to end this post with a quote by Jonathan Blow from the really good documentation Indie Game: The Movie:

Part of it is about not trying to be professional. A lot of people come into indie games trying to be like a big company. What those game companies do is create highly polished things that serve as large of an audience as possible. The way that you do that is by filing down all the bumps on something, if there’s a sharp corner you make sure that’s not going to hurt anybody if they bump into it or whatever. That creation of a highly glossy product is the opposite of making something personal.

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