So hey been a while. Let's get this thing wrapped up.

I've gotten a curiously small amount of commentary on this game, and I'm not quite sure why. Doesn't give me a lot to go on, and it worries me that, perhaps, I did something wrong that I will be unable to figure out.

Who knows!

What Went Right

I decided to tackle hardware shaders and higher-end graphical effects in this game. Overall I think this was an amazing success – there are a lot of effects in this game that are done entirely via hardware and on the graphics card, and the game comes across much better thanks to those. In fact, even something as simple as the lit-up paths are hardware processed. Wonderfully powerful and I'll be using similar stuff in the future as needed. Huge success.

I feel that the sound effects turned out great as well, which is surprising because I maybe spent two hours on sound for the entire game. I wasn't intending to end up with such a meditative soundscape but that's kind of what happened, and I really rather enjoy it. Happy accident there.

The basic game design . . . I'm a little uncertain. I've had a few people suggest that it would be better with a touchscreen interface and a countdown, and I think that might be true – the "falling tiles" behavior doesn't lend much of interest to the gameplay. However, the actual idea, linking things via wires one way or another, seems to be pretty dang fun. I think it's got potential for tweaks and improvements.

What Went Wrong

Nobody anywhere has commented about the achievements. Did people not notice them? Did people not care about them? I have no clue! Tell me what you thought of them, or even if you noticed. The idea was to give people suggestions towards things that might increase their score, or towards things that they might not have thought of – essentially encouraging people to explore the bounds of the game mechanics. Hopefully it worked.

The hardware shaders ended up turning into a huge code and efficiency problem, and I ended up spending a week before the game making them work, plus a week after the game making them work fast. Ugh. On top of that I'm still getting frequent crash reports. I'm not sure if this is thanks to the hardware shaders or what – I'll have to instrument some codepaths better to figure out where this crash is coming from. It may simply be that a lot of people are trying to run this game on low-end graphics systems.

I also still don't have OSX crash reports working.

I didn't have time to play around with the game mechanics much further. I wanted to have things like "score doublers" that you could drop in, that would double any points gotten "through" that link. Didn't happen. I had some ideas about ways to modify the board layout after placing pieces, or letting the player stash a piece. Didn't happen. This game was a huge time crunch from beginning to end, and I'm glad I did it because I ended up with some great infrastructure in place, but the game design suffered.

The Bottom Line

I feel like I've made my prettiest and most atmospheric game yet. That's cool. I feel like the game design itself was kind of a failure, and I'm pretty much just gonna be moving on to whatever's next.

Which, lately, has been an iPhone port. Getting close to the point where I can (relatively) easily build iPhone games!

  • Supersausagedog

    2010, February 11th 11:23 AM

    The achivements were perhaps too hard. After one playthrough of the first level I didn't get any, but I got 2 when a came back a week or so later and won the other two levels. Most games seem to have at least one "free" achivement like play one level or light one light, that would make the player feel proud early on and perhaps play longer. Some parts of the gameplay seemed to make certain achivements impossible(The lack of thinking time due to the height near the end of rounds made lighting all bulbs pretty implausible).

    Also, was there any difference between the 3 levels or were they all identical? They did seem to serve the purpose of making me realise how my score was higher after each playthrough at least.

  • Zorba

    2010, February 11th 12:06 PM

    Yeah, I probably should have added an easier achievement or two. I'm new to the achievement thing :D I can guarantee that every achievement is possible with the exception of "light everything without rotating", which I sort of threw in there for comedy value.

    The three levels had a very different piece breakdown. I'm not really sure this came across in gameplay or not, I perhaps should have explicitly mentioned it. One of them was sort of a normal generic piece layout, one of them had very few branches and was all about making good use of the branches you have, one of them had tons of branches but huge numbers of ornaments and was about not getting yourself trapped.

    Light-all-bulbs is definitely possible on all three levels, just a little tricky :)

  • Supersausagedog

    2010, February 11th 2:03 PM

    Ah just tried once more and got Shiny and Sparkly in one game. Spectacular sounds awfully hard though as predicting the flow of power in such short times would be difficult.
    I did notice a lot more straight connectors(as in just two connections on either side of the tile) on the final level as well as less bulbs, but I put this down to bad luck rather than deliberate design, so a mention of each levels properties would definitely have been good.

    Also, I neglected to mention about the actual game design in my previous post. It's definitely one of the more interesting falling tiles games out there, hexagons were pretty nice and worked well too. I did think the levels were a bit too long sometimes, an option for shorter games (less tiles) might've been nice.

    Also, where you mention adding the ability to edit board layout, I think that would've been cool and added a lot more depth to gameplay, all though double score, countodwns and touchscreens I don't think I would've liked.

  • Stiltskin

    2010, February 15th 12:27 PM

    The sound, what little there is, is good. But this game would benefit greatly from some music. Also, a failure screen popping up when you've blocked off all your electrical pathways would be a good idea.

  • Eryx

    2010, February 15th 12:44 PM

    I cannot judge how good are the graphical effects you achieved, but they come with a cost: the game crashes for me after intro, and from the comments I see I am not the only one. I suppose this is because of this use of graphics hardware. So, you lose some players. (It is not the only game I have problems with, for example I was also unable to play one big commercial game I tried, and I suppose I would have more problems if I played more commercial games rather than indies, as indies usually do not use graphics card hardware that much. And I had problems both on my desktop computer (probably because it is very old) and my laptop.)

    And I don't agree that hexagons suck. They are cool. I have worked with them on several occassions and had no problems. I have once transformed my (not available) tactical game from a square grid to a hexagonal one – that turned out to be very easy to do (much easier than I suspected) and I could continue adding features while easily keeping both square and hex as options. My biggest problem was implementing honeycombs on a square grid. ;) Even creating mazes on a triangular grid (a big equilateral triangle subdivided into small ones) could be implemented without special cases for normal/reversed triangles (except drawing) when using a well designed coordinate system.

  • IkaTaii

    2010, February 19th 8:42 AM

    I managed to get all of the achievements except "I don't even need that hand" which I am going to have to declare nigh-impossible save for longer fall time and / or exceptional luck. They seemed decent, and the "path 14 up and back" combined with "Spectacular" was perfect for cluing me in on how scoring worked (W*X*Y*Z, right?).

    I actually really, really like the game design on this one and would love to see it developed further. My biggest gripe with it is the insane falling times toward the end of the level. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to put a piece in the upper corners of the triangle, which just should not be. Decreasing the piece count on the same stage or adding a "fall zone" above would be good solutions, possibly with a limiter so if any piece gets set too high you lose, to prevent stacking all the useless pieces off to one side too egregiously. Other than the fall distance and the literally-impossible-and-totally-murders-your-score achievement, I'd say a bit of polish is all it needs to be worth of a commercial release (or at least a $5 iPod app).

  • Stiltskin

    2010, February 19th 10:38 PM

    Also, limiting yourself to 10.6 for Mac OS X is not a very good idea, as it blocks out a big chunk of the userbase that uses 10.5 or 10.4.

  • Zorba

    2010, February 20th 12:53 AM

    I may end up porting it to iPhone in one form or another once I have my library working, though it'll take some recoding to do so. The big issue is just all the tweaks and quality-of-play changes that would need to be made. It would . . . add up. Still, we'll see.

    I have to figure out what's causing the 10.5 errors. This is made difficult by not owning a 10.5 box, but I need to look over it some. I probably won't go down to 10.4 though, and certainly won't bother going any further. Gotta figure out where to spend my time profitably.

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