Student Questions

coders coding
Recently, a student interviewed me for a game development project so I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the more interesting segments. There are so many budding game developers out there; maybe you’ll find this helpful or inspiring.

Also, I’m a total narcissist!

Q: How long have your worked for your organization?

My partner and I started Eggroll Games in October of 2011. I started working for Eggroll Games full time in 2013.

Q: What are your major duties and responsibilities?

I just tell people I do “whatever is necessary” haha. We are currently working on a puzzle game template that we can release with many different themes. I conceived of the visual design and control, and made mockups and documentation. I designed the UI and created the UI assets that will be used in the game. I picked the music and sound effects. I will probably create the description in the various app stores and its promotional screenshots. I’ll be sharing it on social media too. Although I’ve only tweaked code and made suggestions on this particular app, I definitely still program too. Here’s a game I programmed 95% of that we released last year as a fun diversion. It’s our only non-kids app to date: bit.ly/rocketvalet

Q: Who is your immediate supervisor? What is his/her title?

We never established titles here haha. My partner and I both own exactly half of the company so I’m my own boss, he’s my boss and I’m his boss haha. I call myself a developer/producer. It’s intentionally vague because I do whatever has to be done, but I put developer first because I love to create.

Q: What do you perceive to be the major rewards of your job?

Wow, I get to do anything I want anytime I want haha. The job itself is the same thing I’ve done since I was a kid. Dream up games, doodle them, research stuff that could inform me to make the game better, create mockups, art, design documents, etc. I would be doing this in my spare time even if it wasn’t my job.

Q: What do you like most about your work?

My favorite part of the job is when I have a blank slate and I get to create a new experience from scratch. I am always trying to finish up all the projects on my plate so I can get to the next one!

Q: What are the major frustrations in this job?

The tedium of creating hundreds of art assets in different sizes to accommodate all the different screen sizes out there. Also, the waiting. Examples: Waiting for a bug to get fixed so I can keep working on a game, waiting for an app to get approved or waiting to get art back from an artist. Technical changes in the platforms and stores we support. OS changes that break things. We just updated some of our apps on Google Play to fix the IAPs. Our code stopped working because of a change Google made on their end. iOS 8 made one of our app’s text disappear and has thrown off the position of some of the piece slots in some of our puzzle apps. We still haven’t fixed them all haha.

Q: What are the most frequently recurring problems in your position?

Our wall that we have struggled to break through for the past few years is scaling up. We have established a successful business model. We are still trying to get away from working on one project at a time and doing the work ourselves. Our goal is to have teams of people working on several projects at a time.

Q: Is your job better or worse now than it was a few years ago? Why?

No, it’s awesome. There’s more pressure to diversify. The market is changing and we can’t rely on one single platform or store. We used to be on iOS exclusively but we are now on Google Play, Amazon, Samsung and even Ouya! We make a point to support new platforms too-like Fire TV. We want to get on Steam, the Apple Mac store and possibly Windows phone next. In the future we’d like to be in browsers and on Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo’s platforms too.

Q: What job in the organization would you prefer above your own?

None. I have the best job in the world.

Q: Do you have any long-term goals?

To scale up the company and diversify where people can find our games. I’d like to remove myself from the day to day projects so I can concentrate on my personal masterpieces.

Q: How did you become interested in this career?

I played Donkey Kong at the beach a million years ago and haven’t stopped dreaming about games as a medium ever since. I was probably 5 or 6 years old.

Q: How did you prepare yourself for this job? How did your education help?

I prepared mostly by obsessing over gameplay and design my whole life haha. Learning to program so I could actually turn my ideas into reality was definitely a turning point. I taught myself a lot but school helped me devote time and focus on turning it into a career. Your drive is more important than your education. It takes drive turn information into something-it doesn’t happen automatically just because you sat through a lecture. It doesnt matter if you teach yourself or if you learn in a classroom. If you are driven and it’s the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think of at night, then you will figure out how to make it happen one way or another.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in this career?

Forget what everyone else has done and what people say online, just make a game. There is no wrong way to do it. If you can finish a game (even a simple 2D one), you are better than 95% of the “developers” out there.

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My OUYA!

In an attempt to blog more, I am going to keep it short and simple (the less work, the easier-right?) Disclaimer: forgive my errors and poor grammar.

OUYA-Console-set-h (1)

When Ouya happened I was excited. It was new, it was a market disruptor, and it was another opportunity for me make games that used a controller just like the games that have influenced me over the years (my company focuses mostly on touchscreen devices.)

…and then Ouya became a popular target to slam, slander, make fun of, poo poo and spit upon.

This didn’t deter me. I’m just busy-and I never bought one. However, a month or so ago, I saw an Ouya on the shelf at Target and I got excited all over again.

The reasons were two-fold (keywords: “two-fold” check,) It’s on the shelf at Target-a major retail store-cool! That almost guarantees a certain number of users-possibly enough to sustain a teeny indie game community of players and makers. The second reason? Corona SDK, my game development platform of choice supports Ouya development.

I bought it on sale for $69.99 (thank you Father Christmas!)

Getting to point one, the controller is great. No latency issues in my opinion-and I’m a latency snob. The selection is so, so, so, so indie. It’s crazy. There is no platform out there that has a more indie vibe. Within two days I had enough fun to validate the purchase. So now what?

Hey! I’m an indie dev! Why not put a game in the Ouya store? There’s a kids section and everything (with no actual apps made for kids that I can see.)

Point two: A weekend later, we were ready to submit. The folks at Ouya were more than happy to feature it on the console and post about it across their social networks. They were so easy to reach and SO easy to talk to. True indies.

I started a thread about it in an Indie Game Dev Facebook group. It went crazy.

The game went live for $2.99 on November 25th and has sold 12 copies so far. We are porting all the apps in the same series (educational preschool and math games) to Ouya. I’m proud to say that we broke new ground on Ouya by offering the first educational game designed specifically for kids in that store.

I just submitted an update for that lets players press “A” to exit levels and press “Y” to replay the current challenge instructions.

We are submitting our next title today. It’s called 123 Animal Preschool Games for Kids. If I’m a good blogger, I’ll keep you posted.

Tappy Lander is now available on the App Store for free!

Thank you for believing in this project! I can’t wait to see you all on the leaderboards!

Tappy Lander is now available on the App Store for free!

Tappy Lander

Be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #7: Achievements and Collectibles

As the developer, I wanted to add something a little mysterious to flesh out the atmosphere of Tappy Lander and I have always enjoyed collecting things and striving for 100% completion in games.

Data Disk

As such, I have added collectables and achievements

Collectables

In the world of Tappy Lander you may find floppy disks floating around in space. These disks are numbered and contain data that can be read-if you know where to look. We don’t know who wrote these tidbits of information and they can be random. From time to time however, they can provide hints, tips and even insights into the Tappy Lander backstory.

This disk idea started as simple tips that would appear on the title screen to teach you how to play-but evolved into a full blown collectable. This means no in-your-face tutorials. I want to preserve the sense of discovery in this game and I think you will enjoy figuring it out on your own.

Collecting all the disks is one of the 14 achievements.

Achievements

There are 14 achievements in Tappy Lander. I don’t want to give them away, but I will say that some are easy and some are very difficult. It will take some practice to master the skills necessary to get them all. Skill and a little luck that is-you’ll definitely need the universe to throw you bone for some of them.

That’s the short and sweet story behind collectables and achievements. I’m writing this before the game is released and I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovering things on your own.

I’m not sure what the next entry will be. The game is coming very soon and I’m so excited to see you on the leaderboards.

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

 

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.

 

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.

Image

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.