Approach for creating game mechanics in early development phase of Fear of Floating was a kind of “sandbox/playground approach”. We would make all kind of basic game elements (collectables, powerups, motion modifiers, etc) and experiment by arranging them in all kinds of systems. Then we would play those levels and try to figure what was fun and what wasn’t. You can see some of those elements in the picture below (wind -motion modifier, circular saw –damage dealing obstacle, mask - powerup):
This was the methodology used for the first basic goal-reward system as well (a short reminder - that would be collecting stars on levels – in case you didn’t read the part 1 of this article (can’t really blame you much for that since it is quite long and has no fancy pictures :) ) or forgot ).
After creating a basic goal-reward system in Fear of Floating we wanted to see how it worked in ‘real life’. It was still very basic, but we needed to see what its potentials were and what interesting mechanics could emerge from it. So, I created a bunch of levels of different length and difficulty and the time of testing has started. We played match after match, and after numerous matches we started forming opinions, likes and dislikes. For example, we found that shorter levels are much enjoyable than long ones. Long levels with only collecting stars tended to be real boring and pointless after a while, so we left consideration of them for the time when we added more mechanics to gameplay. We focused on short levels. One thing that turned out to be particularly fun on these levels was breaking somebody else’s record. It was a quick and fun task, since those levels lasted only 10-20 seconds, and many matches could be played quickly one after another without even noticing how many matches one has played. The game had a little debug timer that gave us info how long the level lasted, and soon breaking the record became an obsession (in the meantime we replaced the debug timer with proper “level statistics timer”). Our lead artist Uros and I were playing dozens of matches one after another in real hot seat manner, trying to beat each other’s time. At first the difference was a couple of seconds, but with perfecting our control skills we brought the difference down to a fraction of the second and that’s when it became even more interesting. From that point on it was obvious that this kind of challenge must be included in our game in some form. We stopped there and analyzed what to do next and what is the best way to incorporate it.
The very first (and natural) idea that came across our mind was that dreaded word that makes programmers shiver in fear – multiplayer network. Why wouldn’t we allow people to compete at the same time, without need to be in the same room? This thought was rejected as quickly as it emerged. There was not enough time and resources (is there ever?) to go as wild as that. That is why we turned to a much simpler solution. The essence of this mode was beating other player’s time. No one said that it had to be simultaneously. Since we already had a “replay” feature (game records the mach so that player can review it latter), we decided to take advantage of it, and shaped the “challenge mode” with following set of rules:
1. Player1 selects an opponent (player2) from high scores table that he wants to challenge
2. Player 1 plays the game, and his time and replay are saved and sent to the server
3. Player2 gets a notification that he has been challenged
4a player responds to challenge and plays versus player1’s replay (the two players avatars compete in the same level, so the player is having a feeling that he is really competing other player in real time)
4b or -player2 refuses to accept challenge (he is given a warning that only woosies don’t accept challenges)
5 Players are given appropriate amounts of points for win/loss/quit and the high score lists are being updated
This mini PvP mode works charmingly well and its fun. Ranking system is still very basic, and we need to work a bit more on interaction between the players (so that players can leave each other messages, tease each other, etc), but it looks really promising. Here is a wip screen that show the current scoring and rules:
In the following article I will cover some other ways that can help developing some other elements of fun in your game. Until then – avoid scary long articles….I know I do :)