Importance of Group Playtest in Game Development (Making of XnO- V)

  • 5/30/2014

Digital Eclairs went to Pinewood's after school program called AppLab, focused on getting kids more hands on on new electronics coming up.

We presented our project XnO, with multiple handled devices to kids (age group 8-12). After the first 15 mins of hands on experience, they were really enjoying the gameplay, comparing it to different games titles and how it was better, why they liked 3D, asking questions on when the app would be released, and they were very interested in knowing about the process of how it was created.

It showed us that 3D environments were a welcome change, kids respond well to warm colors we used. We set each kid on a different level and they seemed comfortable playing and getting familiar with the app. Some kids responded very well with the higher levels and some not so well because we had not ramped them through the initial gameplay, but after a few tries they started to get the hang of the game and when they were able to win they were really happy. In retrospect we realized that this was a bit of a difficult learning curve for someone new coming to this game, but with the release upon us we had to move forward with what he had. In order to give people a taste of the game on the iOS we released with a showcase of 5 levels, which looking back on it now, care is needed when choosing the level of difficulty to the casual gamer.

The Accelerometer presented an interesting challenge to the kids, once they figured out they could lift the device and tilt it left and right to move the character they were able to pick up on it quick and continue with how they had been completing the levels previously. We were short few devices and a few kids had to share the same device. The ones who were collaborating did very well on higher levels taking turns and really engaging in the game and helping each other and were faster in adapting to the game. This helped us understand that putting out a physics puzzled based game would definitely require a walkthrough to help the community through some of those tough levels.

As a developer with our first game a week away from release, it was an exhilarating experience to see our product being enjoyed by these kids. Their eagerness to explore all the game features gave us so much satisfaction and all the pain and efforts in building this game were totally worth it. The kids were very interested in knowing the process of how the game was made and when they were asked for feedback they all jumped in saying: They loved double headed turtle and wanted a three headed turtle, in-game currency that they can use to buy in things in game like weapons, wallpaper, and many more suggestions.

To anyone who want to make their own game, arrange group play tests ahead of time once you have a working build. You will get wonderful insight into your game. We had initially done a lot a individual testing from industry people, which is very useful and should not be ignored but for a complete overview on a game and end user perspective go for group tests, as individual test can sometimes be misleading. And do it as soon and as often as possible.

Welcome X and O!

  • 4/26/2013

On April 25, to celebrate World Penguin Day! Digital Eclairs adopted two Magellanic penguins X and O. They are 5 year old and live in Cabo Virgenes, Argentina.

Developing Characters and Storyline (Making of XnO Part III)

  • 4/26/2013

Connecting white-box to real game characters with personalities

XnO white-box gameplay was developed using spherical ball with cylinder shooting fire balls to break cylindrical objects. At white-box stage of the game development we had used models/prefabs and coding practices which would make it very easy for us to plug and play other models. Once we had a working white-box and good feedback we focussed on character and storyline development.

As a first project of Digital Eclairs, our aim was to experiment in developing a non violent game which was fun. At the same time we wanted to use this platform to raise awareness about human interference and the damage we are doing to our earth and all its inhabitants.

Combining the two goals was a difficult process. For the lead character, we decided to go for a sea creature which was cute and had a personality and would help us convey our message, thus Penguin was chosen. The next step was to choose other playable characters which would also be good companion to the lead character and at the same time would not hinder the gameplay.

The original spherical ball with cylinder which was used to shoot fire balls, got converted to Turtle "T" shooting Puffer from its mouth. This use of characters made it possible for us to develop the game without any violent gameplay.

We wanted a storyline which was fun but at the same time with a message that things are wrong and we need to do something about it.

Success at each level of the game was symbolized by release of captured penguin. To emphasize the importance of characters and yet maintain their familiarity with the player we introduced Penguins from all walks of life: lawyers, sheriffs, baseball players, warriors. To build climax we introduced a lady penguins which has to be rescued, and around whom the story revolves.

To add whimsical effect we introduced Devils, Angel Puffer fish and a double headed turtle TT. They all have unique characteristics, Devil the anti-hero are guarding the captured penguins, Angel act as power-ups and help in rescuing the Penguin and double headed turtle TT has the ability to shoot two puffer at the same time.

We chose the name XnO from XOXO - hugs and kisses. Which is all that we feel for the game characters X and O and in reality for all the lovely creature whose existence we as a humanity have put into peril.

With XnO, Digital Eclairs aims to raise awareness about Penguins, endangerment and threats by: oil in water, overfishing, iceberg breaking. As our first step, Digital Eclairs has adopted two Magellanic penguins X and O. They are 5 year old and live in Cabo Virgenes, Argentina.

How-To White-Box a Game (Making of XnO Part II)

  • 4/26/2013

No story is complete without its origins. We love to share with you the very first white-box environment of XnO!

XnO began its origins from the name "Ice Breakers", the way the cylindrical blocks were breaking. We had 3 walls couple of boxes from unity asset packages. And began the journey. We wanted to take a simple idea and implement in it all the possible depths.

When we began majority of the games were 2D or side scrollers, that never gave the player full satisfaction of real life interaction with physics of the objects. So we chose a 3D engine, as to why "unity" - the amount of tutorials, community support and ease of start was a key factor in choosing that engine.

To be a team you would need atleast 3 components to begin with - programmer, 2D/3D artist and level designer. Not to say one person can handle more than one aspect. As a team we were all on the same page, we want to make a physics based game with focus on gameplay first.

We followed the following steps:

  1. Create first level - We used very basic components - rectangle, sphere, cylinder to create a game play scenario.
  2. Create a flow through of the game - Main Menu, Options and Level Select Screens. Once this was done adding new levels was very easy.
  3. In Game HUD - To enter and exit from any level
  4. Uploaded a web version for our friends/family to play.
Once we had all the pieces then we focussed on exploring all the possible depths and variations in the gameplay that can be achieved to make the game engaging and fun. In our case - target variations, introducing obstacles, power-ups, use of accelerometer to enhance gameplay. Once we had built the key features in, we explored on how to increase difficulty of the levels as the game progressed. At this stage we made some of our models, used some from unity and still used royalty free music.

Once we had good 20 levels working with all the above, we started showing it to people who either played a lot of games or were in gaming. This gave us a good insight on how improve.

As an indie developer it was so much easier for us to do the white-box the way we did because we focussed on Gameplay and Game Design, not so much on the art in the beginning. So when we got the feedback to change, it was so much easier to do it. We were never set in stone.

XnO is our attempt at making a 3D game with as close as possible to real physics without sacrificing the gameplay and memory footprint of the game.

White Box to Final Release (Making of XnO Part IV)

  • 4/26/2013

Going from game mechanics to looking pretty

Before we the focussed on look and feel of the game we had already gone through the following steps:
3D Modeling by George Flores
2D Illustration by Gia Luc
3D Modeling by Creath Carter
  • White-box of the game
  • User feedback on Game Mechanics, Gameplay Features and User Interface
  • Character and Story development

A few key things to keep in mind when developing the final product:

  • Maintaing a unified look and feel of the game. After Gameplay, Character and Story development we focussed on developing the concepts for the environment. Since we already knew our gameplay and the characters it was easy to choose environment that revolved around them and we did not have to compromise on the core pieces of the game.
  • While white-boxing a game always integrate model/prefab in a way that it would be very easy to switch them. Basically with the least amount of dependencies and coding practices that allow for easy model replacement. We had almost completed the full gameplay and environment setup but even after doing lot of research beforehand, in the final product the cage and the target models were not a good fit to the new environments. And since our targets were dynamically created using scripting, when we wanted to replace the cans and the cage a couple of times to find the best match, it was merely a model replacement at our end and we could re-create target with the press of a button.
  • A lot of time is consumed in creating a final polished product: testing, bug fixes etc. It is better to keep collecting user feedback at each phase of development. In the last stages of XnO development, we got very focussed on pushing the product out and we did not collect any user feedback. But once we had the final product ready in mid January and we showed it to our test audience we received a feedback that compelled us to re-design a few of the levels. This costed not only in monetary terms but also time because we had already started testing the game and going back to game design was time consuming effort. Looking back we could have easily escaped this by constantly taking user feedback.
  • Never loosing focus on what you want the game to say and present. With XnO we were very clear that we wanted a non-violent gameplay with a message. So when we got suggestions that were not inline with our initial goal we were able to easily ignore them and choose only what was important to us.
In the end when XnO was completed even though with some delay we were very happy that the core of the game was intact. We hope you all enjoy playing XnO and would pass on our message of minimizing human interference and its effect on the habitat of Penguins.

Making of XnO - Part 1

  • 4/26/2013
  • We would love to share our history in the making of XnO. Every few days we would share assets that were created by our talented artists, modelers, and designers but unfortunately didn't make it in the final published game.
  • Its in the nature of game development that not everything we create can be used. Game designs change to make the game fun and in the process art assets get reworked sometimes even to the extent that they don't look anything like the initial concept.
  • We would like to use this blog as an opportunity to credit the original creators and contributors. These are just as valuables as what ended up in the game and they deserve equal recognition.
  • Above image is the initial version of the Mainmenu - designed and illustrated by George Flores