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.
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.
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.)
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.