Tiny World was an interesting theme since a few of my past game jam games fit the theme perfectly. I wanted to create something different so micro gravity and spherical worlds were out. I also bought an iPad a few days prior to the competition so I wanted to make a game that would work on both tablet and desktop. At this point I knew I was going to use Unity but I wasn’t sure if I would go 2D or 3D. After sketching a few ideas like giants playing soccer with planets, I thought about making a board game with relationships. It went through a few iterations. It started out as a simple rule base combat version of Conway’s game of life game and ultimately arrived at a solitaire worker placement game inspired by Carcassonne. This was the final sketch before I started. It still had hex tiles and citizens had ‘hates’ too, which I quickly eliminated.
What went right
Using RagePixel – It allowed me to create all the art inside the Unity editor and not have to deal with exporting and importing. I could see exactly what they would look like in game and iterate over the design quickly.
Using Paper by 53 to brainstorm – I had just bought an iPad so I wanted to use it for brainstorming. I started by using Procreate but I quickly realized I needed a notebook solution instead of a single canvas. Working digitally is slightly slower than a pen and paper but I liked how quickly I could share my pages on Twitter and undo mistakes. You can achieve pretty good looking results in no time.
Balancing the game (sort of) – I created 7 different types of desires with parameters to tweak. At first I randomly assigned three desires to each citizen but then I realized it was too random. Certain combinations were more interesting than others. So I created citizen templates for those combinations and grouped them into 4 categories: easy, medium, hard and rare. Each category is assigned a probability with each template in the category having equal weighting. In total there are 13 templates and this made the game much more enjoyable.
The amazing feedback – I’m honestly surprised by how much positive feedback I got. I thought my game was decent but not as good as people are telling me it is. I’ve been encouraged by many people to polish it up and release a mobile version. It’s definitely something I’m considering.
What went wrong
Resolution independent font positioning – I ended up using Unity’s GUI system and wrote code to scale and position the text on the iPad. It didn’t work perfectly in the end but most people played the web version.
Not enough playtesting – It wasn’t until the end of the competition that I had the time to sit down and play my game for real. I quickly discovered problems I hadn’t thought about before. Now I understand why Notch plays his games so much during development.
Representing desires – The biggest challenge I faced was displaying each citizen’s desires visually. It’s quit easy to represent attributes of a citizen such as their name and colour, but there was no space left over to display their desires. Right now you hat to tap on each square to see them.
I’m really happy I placed 41 in the innovation category. Other categories weren’t bad either. My desire as a game developer is to create innovative games but that doesn’t always work out.
I used Playtomic to record some basic stats. The average playtime of my game is 9 minutes and at least 24 games have been completed out of a total of 273 plays. It’s inspiring to see which countries are playing my game.