Entries Tagged 'Game Design' ↓

Desire Post Mortem

The Beginning

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.

Revisiting old prototypes

I was looking through my old game prototypes the other day and realized just how many of them could be expanded into full games. Most of the ideas I revisited are suitable for short-form downloadable games or what Andy Moore of Steambirds fame calls “marketable prototypes.” I clearly remember dismissing many of those prototypes as experiments and that nothing more would come out of them. I would like to share some observations I made while going through mine and hopefully encourage other designers to take another look at their shelved prototypes.

The best prototypes teach you something

When I’m coming up with an original game concept I almost always try to come up with something distinctly different or innovative from games I’ve played. It just has to be something interesting to me as a game designer but it is usually the hook for the game as well. These kind of prototypes always teach me something as a game designer and spark my interest when revisiting them.

Getting a new perspective

When designing games I get pretty caught up in the current design direction and it is sometimes difficult to see the game from an objective point of view. By shelving the game idea for enough time it becomes much easier to look at it objectively; just don’t forget to look at it again. If you decide to shelve the prototype, make sure you do not analyse it in detail until you have a more objective perspective. That analysis stays in your mind and may give you a false conclusion that there is nothing more you can do with it. What if you don’t want to wait that long? Show your game to your designer friends and get their perspective on it.

Start by focusing on what you liked the most

Rather than starting with the negatives, try to find that germ of an idea you worked so tirelessly to create in the first place. It may not work yet but you should at least be able to see the potential of it. Sometimes there is just one missing ingredient that would turn the idea from mediocre to great.

What bugged you the most?

Usually the difference between an okay prototype and one that has a lot of potential is fixing that one thing you couldn’t figure out. Sometimes this requires significantly changing the game but almost never does it require changing the thing you liked the most.