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.

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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.

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.