Monday, 18 November 2013

Stability Sim - Postmortem

The Game
The game myself and Joseph Kinglake made in 24 hours for Game Hack this year is best described as ‘Human Tetris’ - inspired by the Japanese game show where people have to get position themselves accordingly the pass through oncoming shapes to prevent being thrown into a pool of water behind. Before the jam we knew we wanted to try something new and step out of our comfort zone and that’s exactly what we did. It was satisfying to do something that was both hilarious to create whilst learning a ton of new skills through the development pipeline in Unity 3D.
Game Hack 2013 - Pinewood Studios
The prototype juxtaposes with clear clarity a strong comparison to our previous more ‘serious’ work. I remember one of my lectures saying to me “I’d like to see you try to create a funny game Brad”. This made me consider a lot of things, but what I think his intention was to simply for me try something new and to push out of my comfort zone – and that’s exactly what I have been trying to do.

The game we made is entitled ‘Stability Sim’ – players take control of a rag doll character where they can manipulate each limb accordingly (X = left arm, Y = right arm, B = left leg, A = right leg). Players have to position their rag doll in the appropriate stance in order to fit through the oncoming shapes that move towards players over time.

What went well?
Approaches: For me personally I learnt a ton of new design approaches and principles. I learnt first-hand the importance of user testing and feedback is vital in ensuring a compelling and sophisticated experience. I learnt that multiplayer games go down well, people seem to enjoy local multiplayer as there is a tendency to make people laugh - I am a big believer in making people laugh with games. For me personally the things I find to be funny in games are the things that aren’t supposed to happen in the system. I learnt that considering the pacing of a game can be crucial in keeping players interest, to avoid boredom and controlling difficulty. 
Relaxed mentality: We attended Game Hack with the intent to have a good time and to not take the competition side of things too seriously. This mentality works well for us as a team, often taking too much time to focus on competition and winning as a whole can often stale your game design – this simply adds to the pressure. I think the game that we created definitely reflects our mentality we had going into this jam. Admittedly this isn’t our most sophisticated design.
Playable build within the first 2 hours: Kudos to Joe, he managed to get the core mechanics of the game more or less in very early in the jam – this meant we were able to test the game and tweak the controls from very early on in order to establish how enjoyable the experience was. What we presented was reasonably polished and almost well executed. I think it is essential at any game jam to get a playable build that you can get as many people to playtest out as soon as possible – I feel it is important to prioritise design in the early stages and throughout development, otherwise your game will have very little substance. It is important to tap into the core fundamentals of what really makes a unique experience that has the potential to touch and inspire players.

What Went Bad?
Pacing: This was our second Unity prototype we have worked on so we are not as compatible with the tool as compared to say Adobe Flash – upon reading The Game Jam Survival Guide I have since come to the conclusion that this may have not been such a wise idea, particularly from a competitive stand point. One of the main design flaws with Stability Sim was the pacing of the game. It is extremely slow; having little experience in Unity meant there was even some serious frame rate issues when demoing the game.

Overscoped: Looking back I do think we scoped the project ever so slightly higher than was needed. The project was well scoped for a 48 hour jam, but maybe slightly over for a 24 hour jam. I think we could have simplified a lot of things which would have benefited in order to enhance the prototype. One thing I would do differently would have been to not have had a single player mode as well as a local multiplayer mode but to simply concentrate all efforts on one mode, this was perhaps a little un-necessary given the time frame.

Stability Sim was built in Unity 3D by myself and Joe Kinglake with Autodesk Maya & 3Ds Max for asset creation, Adobe Illustrator for GUI and & Audacity for sound design.
As it stands this prototype simply sits as another stepping stone to my next game. I am open to idea of working on this game further, however I have a plethora of additional projects that myself and Joe have worked on that already take priority over Stability Sim.

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