Tappy Lander Dev Diary #6: Scoring, Risk & Reward

I love going for a high score! I first tried back in the arcade days and again when home consoles were in their infancy, but as they grew, the tech grew, and soon visual storytelling trumped scores and they nearly disappeared.

Then games grew even further. The market expanded, the internet came, and Microsoft tried something crazy with achievements and gamerscore, little indies threw out the rules out and started making games about everything, and arcade experiences made a comeback on our telephones of all places!

So scoring is back, thank goodness. Both Apple and Android platforms are great places to challenge your friends, again.

That pesky buggy!
Scoring

Tappy Lander is all about scoring. A successful landing on a each pad nets you points (based on the precision of your landing) and, if you’re feeling dangerous, you can grab a data disk for 1000, pop a buggy for 1000 or rescue tomatoes for 1000, apples for 2000, bananas for 4000 and the ultra rare carrot for 8000!

Disks, buggies, fruit and veggies are rare and may not appear at all. If they do appear, they are in hard to reach areas or places where going for them may put you in danger, so don’t get too greedy!

Oh, who am I kiddin’? Get greedy! Get reeaal greedy! Beating your friends will not be easy because of the risk reward system.

Risk & Reward

If you successfully land your rocket you will be given two choices. You can either “Cash In” to cash in your points to level up and submit your high score to the game network or you can “Risk It” and go on another random run, adding to your current score but risking losing everything. Tappy Lander is a game of permadeath. If you blow up, you lose everything, no matter how big your score is. Getting to the next landing pad is ALL that matters.

Leaderboards

There are four leaderboards:

  • Biggest Bounce (See dev diary #5)
  • Longest Slide (See dev diary #5)
  • Best Run (Best score in a single run including pickups, pops, tricks and accuracy)
  • High Score (The mother of all leaderboards)

The Big Picture, Your High Score!

At the end of your run, danger points are tallied for your pickups and buggy pops along with points for bounce, slide and accuracy. Once added together, a risk percentage is thrown in to boot! The more you “Risk It” the higher your risk percentage gets which can make or break your placement on the High Score leaderboard!

Next I will discuss achievements and the data disk collectables.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

Amazon Fire TV: A Consumer Review

I recently purchased a Fire TV and have been surprised by the lack of information out there. After a few days experience with the device, here’s my two cents.

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Why did I buy it?

  • I’m a cord cutter and I love set top boxes.
  • I’m a gamer who enjoys alternative ways of gaming. I was hoping for another option for gaming before bed other than my iPad.
  • I’m a developer and interested in this new platform for my own games.

Why do I know what I’m talking about?

  • I’m experienced with set top boxes. I have a Roku 3 downstairs and a Roku 2 in my bedroom that the Fire TV will replace -if it’s good enough. I have tinkered with a friend’s Apple TV as well.
  • I’m a gamer and developer. I currently play mostly on Steam, iPhone and iPad. I have a PS3 and Wii. I haven’t invested in the new consoles because there’s too few options for me that I can’t get on Steam or functionality I can’t get through my current devices.

I have to admit, I’m a little biased. I want to like the Fire TV. I want it to be a success because it could kindle (no pun intended) a gaming set top box industry, giving me more places to play and more places to develop.

I typically avoid reviews because I don’t want them to sully my enjoyment of new experiences. I only looked into information after I had paid for the device. Mostly, I found “ho-hum” reviews and sentiments. Very few of those sources however seem to have a credible background in gaming.

What you need to know about Fire TV

  • The voice feature only helps you find Amazon content. This was a disappointment. The Roku has a search feature that allows you to search for content across all its apps. The functionality of the voice recognition is great so I hope they will consider changing this in the future. As it stands, I probably won’t use it.
  • The response time is good. You know that laggy feeling you get on some devices-like it’s a second behind you. It’s so aggravating and some people can’t even articulate that this is why the experience is lackluster. Well, on Fire TV, it’s good. it’s snappier than the Roku 3. The games run very well. One of my favorites-Hill Climb Racing, worked as well as the iOS version. The controls were not delayed. The sound effects were not delayed. All the 2D games I played worked great and ran smoothly. I definitely want to make a game for this system! I played three of the available 3D games. Riptide 2 – worked well with remote or controller. The game is pretty good. Asphalt 8 – The reviews are true, this is a great game with lots of options, tracks, cars, customization and still accessible to anyone. It makes you feel like a great driver, the wrecks are spectacular and rewarding, it’s fun! Sev Zero – I was very impressed by this game too. It’s actually a tower defense game, not a shooter, but you can teleport anywhere on the map to help your defenses fight in third person. IThis part of the game is like a shooter. You unlock cool guns with alt fire but I found no cover system in the game (yet?) and the AI is on par with a tower defense game, not a shooter. Still, I had a lot of fun, the framerate and control is the best it’s ever been for a set top box. The game has easy to learn controls and works in real time. You can zoom in and out of the map quickly to relocate your character, upgrade turrets, etc. The presentation is nice too.
  • The remote is good. It’s heavy and feels like a chunk of metal in your hand. The button layout is great and its simple. I was intuitively using it in a fe minutes without thinking about it. There are games that just use the remote. You can even filter out games that require the controller when searching for games. The buttons on the remote feel firm and clicky. They work just fine for gaming if you are playing casual games.
  • The controller is good. It doesn’t feel cheap, the buttons and sticks are solid. It is nearly the same layout as an Xbox controller but because of slightly different dimensions, takes a few seconds to get used to.
  • The UI is ok. I am used to the Roku grid style layout and prefer it despite the fact that it limits the accessibility to a large number of apps. On Roku, you tend to use 3 or 4 apps 90% of the time, so it’s not an issue. Here, since there are games that you actually want to play, there is a need to get to and search lots of content-its current UI is not the perfect solution-but it works.
  • Hulu Plus works great, as good as the Roku 2 I had in bedroom before it. Netflix is not as good as the Roku 3 version, but better than the Roku 2 version in that it has continuous play. Hopefully Netflix will refresh this soon. Of course finding Amazon content is easier than it is on the Roku Amazon apps.

Because the games are actually good for the first time in set top box history, I am sticking with the Fire TV and retiring the Roku 2. If you’re on the fence, need a set top box and especially if gaming is a factor in your decision, get it. It’s a great value.

If you already have a Roku 3 and you are not interested in the gaming aspects. You’re probably fine with what you have.

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #5: Physics & Tricks

You’ve practiced and taken all variables into account. You zero in on the target. Finally, through the combination of calculation, instinct and luck… SWISH! Two points!

I believe the popularity of physics in games is due to two things.

  • Familiarity Physics gameplay allows you to use the instincts you have developed since childhood. You’re using real-world skills to do the impossible in a virtual environment.
  • It Feels Good It gives you a sense of accomplishment that you only get in physics simulations. The same feeling you get when you successfully shoot a basketball.

Tappy Physics

Being created with Corona SDK and Box 2D, an open source physics engine, Tappy Lander is a game that pits your piloting skills against your biggest enemy, gravity. The physics engine handles the forces of your thrust in a semi-weightless environment splendidly. It also handles collisions so that your ship explodes only when it feels like it should, and the falling debris bounces around on the ground realistically. Although some of the collision code is built from scratch, most of it relies on the Box 2D engine. Friction, bouncy-ness and gravity of each planet varies and is all controlled by Box 2D.

Emergent Gameplay

One of the joys of physics is that you get all kinds of fun and sometimes unexpected results. The first time I landed in the prototype I noticed a little bounce. At first I thought “Wow, that looked realistic and cool”. My imagination sparked, I quickly then asked. “What if you get extra points for a higher bounce”?

Tricks

Both the slide and the bounce trick (seen here in the Tappy Lander Trailer) was made possible and inspired by side effects of the physics code. Some planets have less friction than others, allowing a super long slide if you come in at the right angle with enough thrust. Other planets are softer and bouncier, allowing for a super high bounce. Tricks yield lots of points when done correctly but are very risky and easy to botch.

  • Sliding A proper slide requires that you touchdown onto the landing pad and slide off of it into the planet terrain. If you touchdown on the planet terrain at any speed your rocket explodes. Oftentimes when attempting a slide you will either overshoot the target or skip off the target and hit the ground.
  • Bouncing If gravity is low and you come across a soft planet, conditions are perfect for a high bounce. Remember, however, one of the fundamental rules of landing: hitting the target too hard results in an explosion-so be careful! A 2000 point bounce unlocks the “Megabounce!” achievement and its possible to get an even bigger “Gigabounce!”

That’s how physics work in Tappy Lander and now you know the origin of the trick system! Next… I’m not sure what I’ll talk about yet!

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

 

 

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #4: Control

I love the mechanics of lander games and the fun, to me, is maneuvering your rocket through a series of subtle movements into a good position and a soft landing. It’s difficult but rewarding.

Traditionally these types of games had a variety of buttons: rotate, left, rotate right, thrust, etc.

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However, on the target devices I have one button, the touch screen; and I refuse to clutter the screen with complex controls just so it plays exactly like the originals (see my last post about UI.)

In order to simplify, I ask my favorite question: “What makes it fun?” and my cat looks at me like “Who are you talking to?!”

What I came up with…

  • Gravity – yes, still fun after all these years!
  • Rotating – a little frustrating to manage and even time consuming
  • Thrusting – absolutely, compensating for a force like gravity or your last thrust, in order to change direction, is fun.
  • Managing fuel – no way, maybe its just me, but I don’t like time limits. I don’t want to tell a player “You know this fun little playground I made?, well you can only play here for THIS long.”
  • Avoiding an obstacle or flying to collect an object – yes! an opportunity to test your flying skill.
  • Landing – yes, slow down and center yourself over the target for a soft, safe landing.

The Redesign

I immediately wanted to remove the fuel consumption issue. This is in essence, a time limit. It makes sense for quarter munching coin-ops, but doesn’t in a free mobile game. The gameplay is not made more fun by adding a time limit and removing it allows you to focus on manuvering even if you need to take your time.

Most classic gravity and lander games allow you to rotate your ship so that you can thrust in any direction. Again, this is something that I felt I could remove. With a simple up, left or right control scheme, I can move in any direction by timing my taps (except down, and gravity takes care of that.)

A Prototype

The prototype allowed me full control over my ship and maintained the fun of using your skill and instinct to manage the physics of flying through space. It was fun but simple; easier for general audiences to pick up and play but very challenging at the same time.

…and so I moved ahead with development! The next post will be about game physics.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #3: UI

Because I had worked out the controls before putting pencil to paper, the gameplay UI has not changed much throughout production.

Tap left, up or right to thrust left, up or right

Sketch vs. final

The center circular button has been replaced with a thumb-shaped button because the controls need to bleed off the bottom of the screen to accommodate lots of different screen sizes. Also, there is no space between or around the buttons that allow you to see the background. Although the sketch suggests this, I felt it would be distracting. The control panel must feel like it is separated from the game completely. In fact, the top of the control panel acts like the bottom of the game screen. Other than that, the final is nearly identical to the sketch.

80s arcade control panels = good touchscreen design

Like a classic coin-op arcade game, the control panel was to be at the bottom with the viewscreen above them. Vision-obscuring on-screen controls for touch interface games is a pet peeve of mine and this layout would ensure that no thumbs or fingers ever get in the way of the action.

Don’t look down

The touch area for the three buttons extend all the way to the top of the screen and they are as wide as possible. The width and position of the buttons mean that you can control the game without looking at the buttons, removing the no-tactile-button problem which is a common stumbling block when making traditional games for touchscreen interfaces. The center button is skinnier than the others because you use the left and right buttons more frequently than the up thrust.

That’s all for the gameplay UI. Next time we’ll probably discuss the actual gameplay control experience.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #2: Influences

I played Lunar Lander (1979, Atari coin-op) for the first time just a few years ago. It made a big impression on me and ever since, I have wanted to make a game like this.


In Lunar Lander, you try to safely land on a craggy planet before running out of fuel by rotating your ship and thrusting in the desired direction.

Gravitar (1982 Atari coin-op)

Gravitar (1982 Atari coin-op)

Gravitar focuses on flying through caverns and shooting at targets while saving prisoners. It’s very difficult and even has a level where you fly around a planet with gravity pulling you toward the center of the screen.

skydiver

Sky Diver (1978, Atari VCS)

Time your jump out of a moving plane and pull the ripcord before hitting the target in Sky Diver. Points are scored based on the accuracy of your landing. You have limited steering ability once your parachute is open and must take wind speed into account.

Sub-Terrania (1993, Sega Genesis)

Sub-Terrania (1993, Sega Genesis)

I love Sub-Terrania! Fly around a map using lander-style controls, shoot enemies and save prisoners-but with a snazzy soundtrack and nice presentation.

What does Tappy Lander borrow from these games?

  • The gameplay mechanics. Gravity pulls you down toward the target and you control your ship by thrusting in different directions.
  • You must not hit the landing pad too hard and more points are rewarded for accurate landings.
  • Get bonus points for rescuing floating vegetables, stranded in space.
  • Lots of dodging and maneuvering around traps and obstacles.

What does Tappy Lander do differently?

  • There is no fuel to worry about. Fly forever!
  • Controls are simplified: You can only thrust up, left or right.
  • No shooting. It’s all about precision flying.
  • In addition to touching items for points, there are items you must collect to complete a set.
  • More stuff that I’ll talk about in a future post!

The next post will probably address controlling the game and UI. See you then!

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #1: The Name

After deciding to try something new, I have named our new game Tappy Lander!

Tappy Lander!

Tappy Lander!

I went with Tappy Lander! because it sounds fun to me and it’s descriptive of the game’s content without being boring. In the game you will tap the controls to land your rocket on the target (trying not to explode in the process.) The name is actually informative in that tapping is a better strategy than holding the buttons because of the precision of the physics-but I’ll talk about that in another post.

Other factors that went into naming the game:

  • We are targeting phones as the primary game platform. I’m very particular about little details and it bugs me when the words under the icon on my phone have a “…” appended to the text. Best case scenario, the title in its entirety is completely visible and “Tappy Lander” as well as “Tappy Lander!”  fits.
  • This game falls under the “lander” genre of games, the first of which is Lunar Lander (1979 Atari coin-op)
  • If I’m being completely honest, “Tappy” was inspired by “Flappy”. It was Flappy Bird that inspired us to try quick, simple projects and  I’m having so much fun developing this game. No apologies!

The next post will probably be about influences.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

 

Trying Something New

Mike and I have been making kids apps as Eggroll Games since November of 2011. But this year, inspired by the success of a certain Flappy game, we both decided to make a quick, simple project.

I told Mike the day we made this decision that I had always wanted to make a lander game, so…

This is the first sketch I drew of the lander game.

Concept Sketch

This is the first sketch I drew of the lander game. It shows the control panel (which hasn’t changed much) and a rocket landing on an elevated platform with jagged, outer-space mountains in the background.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

Steam Box

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I was disappointed with Valve’s official roll out of the “Steam Box”, a standalone PC designed to run Steam using their own OS on your television.

My expectations as a consumer, who is a big fan of Big Picture Mode–my main game console right now, was that I would grab a box from either:

  • The same shelf as the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U and pay a comparable price for gaming hardware
  • The same shelf as the Roku and Apple TV and pay a comparable price for game streaming hardware

Then hook that box up to my bedroom television with an HDMI and play my Steam library before bedtime.

What they gave me was a catalog of Alienware (using the term to encompass all overly flashy and over-priced computer hardware–sorry Alienware.)

I hoped this would open the door for my non-Steam using friends to start playing PC games. …people who were taught throughout the 90s that playing games on PC is a hassle requiring a technical skillset and a ton of tinkering to get it to work “right”.

I hoped this would open the door for all the gamers who are looking for innovation and variety not present on game consoles. It’s all there, and it’s easy to use, but it’s not going to happen.

It looks like the Steam Box is more about becoming Windows-independent than showing Steam to a new world of gamers. I just can’t figure out how that is more important.