The purpose of these Dev Logs will be to share with everyone the creation process for Steampunk Panic. A way to look behind the curtain, so to say. Some of these Dev Logs will be simple, others will give plenty of in-depth explanation for how things work or why things were done the way they were.
Let’s Make A Game!
Today, I’ll be hitting upon the first prototype of Steampunk Panic and the first few screens made in order to operate the game. The goal of this first prototype was to determine if the gameplay was fun and provide, essentially, a small game loop that is the title screen, mode select, game screen and the results screen. I used simple pixelated button art and started building up the screens.
The goal with Steampunk Panic was to create a fairly simple game that players can just pick up and play in short bursts. Players are presented with a group of buttons and a timer. If the timer expires, the game ends. Every button that is tapped will perform an action, providing points and resetting the timer. Players need to quickly decide the best button to press in this limited amount of time. For the first prototype, the types of buttons available were:
1) Normal (Orange, provides points for current hit)
2) Multiplier (Purple, increases the multiplier for future hits)
3) Lose (Dark Red, forces the game to end)
Note: These are prototype screens. The layout, look, feel, features … basically everything is going to change. These are just to get the basic prototype done and are not meant to be pretty.
Select Mode Screen
The mode select screen allows the player to select a difficulty. For the purpose of the prototype, there is only a “Normal” mode, so all buttons take you to that mode. Having this screen show a few extra modes is a teaser for my play testers, to let them know that there will be faster modes and ways to earn even more points. The weekly and lifetime scores don’t work, but are another tease to show where I want the game to go.
The game screen is made of your current score, possible points to earn on this hit (with a multiplier shown next to it), a group of four boxes, and a timer bar. This is all that I needed in order to get the basic gameplay in front of a player and see if the game was fun. This is an image of what the game looks like when you start a new game. All buttons are valid buttons to be hit and the timer is not active for this first group of buttons. I wanted the player to not feel stressed when the game starts, until they start interacting with the buttons. The “9 x 1” is the score that you will earn for tapping a button, which is based upon the timer.
Game Screen (Being Played)
With the game in progress, the timer bar goes down and decisions must be made. The score in this shot is “6 x 1” because it started at 9, but since the timer has started, the score granted also drops. Since the timer bar is near 2/3 time remaining, you can get 2/3 of the base score of 9 (hence, the 6 that you see). I’ve hit the boxes a few times already and have 50 points, as I wanted to get to a group of buttons that showed all three prototype button types.
Since this is just normal mode, your base points are set to 9. In theory, hard mode will have base points set at 99, and expert mode will have 999. For a score chaser, you are constantly trying to beat your high score or the score of someone else on a leaderboard, so you will want to pick expert eventually. Although not in the game yet, the idea is to have a different starting and final speed for each game mode, with expert being the most difficult.
Game Result Screen
Lastly, the game result screen. Doesn’t do much other than let you know your final score, which is all that is needed for this prototype. The games start and end pretty quickly, with little to no friction to start a new game.
With all of these screens in place, I was able to play the game all the way through and make adjustments to base points, speed, and timer length until I found something that was fun, hectic over time and fairly rewarding when you hit a stretch of quick perfect hits. I ramped the the points and speed to get an idea of what hard mode and expert mode could be like, then settled on what I wanted normal mode to feel like.
The game was placed in front of family and friends and the score chasing began. Gamers and non-gamers found it easy to play, which was a good sign. The first couple games were always fascinating to watch, as the player had no idea what to expect and the timer ended this game fairly quickly. After playing these first few games, the player would last longer and definitely score higher. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down names and scores, with players telling me their updated scores and I would reorganize the list and tell them their new rank. A hand-made paper leaderboard, essentially. Some rivalries started and after an hour or so, we decided that this was a good project to continue working on.
Base score matters. When it is too low (1-5 points), watching your score slowly climb is a pain. Setting normal mode’s base score to 9 felt good, and when I tested the 99 and 999 point range for hard and expert mode, it was really satisfying. I originally tried (5, 15, 25), (9, 19, 29), and (9,29,49), but adding more digits just makes it feel better. So, I expect players to hit billions of points if they’re really good.
Also, for the first prototype, there isn’t any animation or polish anywhere. Tapping a button simply changes all the buttons immediately and resets the timer. When you tap the buttons and are presented with a new button group that is identical to the previous one, not having the buttons have any response really feels like the hit wasn’t registered. I will need to add some kind of hit effect so the player knows they touched something.
Also, for a reaction speed game like this, the buttons need register the hit when it is touched, not when you release your finger from the button (like a click). Waiting to release the finger adds milliseconds to the input time, which could end a game early. I changed it to register on touch before the play test at the last minute and the game felt way better for it.
This score chaser needs more buttons and more choice!
It also needs those difficulty modes working properly, so I’ll be adding those features next.
I’ll also need to let players submit their scores to a leaderboard, so I need to decide how I want to validate scores. How many leaderboards? Should they reset?
Monetization is also something I will need to think about, so I’ll be brainstorming on various ways to tackle that area.
What should the theme of the game be? Should it be retro pixel art buttons and minimalistic in appearance? Should I push for crisp hi-rez images?
These questions and more will be addressed and tested over the next couple Dev Logs!