Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Making TriGrid - Part 1

   With my first game released and my second on it's way, I think it'd be a good idea to give it an introduction. TriGrid is an arcade style action puzzle game featuring exploding triangles and a "Pew" button. Let that sink in for about four seconds, then read on after the break.
TriGrid Origins  

   TriGrid is the first game I ever made with Unity, my favorite game engine, coupled with it's 2D Toolkit by Unikron Software. Because my last game was made in Cocos2d and I knew I'd be using Unity for classwork in the next semester, I figured I could watch a few YouTube tutorials and learn how to use it. I had heard and read about so many developers using it for their games that I figured this must be a much more professional and powerful engine than the stuff I was used to. But I also didn't want to be overwhelmed since I have even to this day only made 2D sprite based games. I wanted to find a way to make a nice transition from the simple sprite based engines and libraries I was used to and Unity was perfect for the job. 

From Concept to Complete
   What started as a simple maze game I thought of on the last week of school in the spring turned into a summer project for me. I wanted to get a head start with Unity by making a simple game I could make in a few months. First I wanted a random maze generator where you played as a ghost sneaking up behind wanderers and scaring them into a petrified state, all the while avoiding being caught in the ray of their flashlights. There were multiple wanderer types, and unlockable ghost sprites. After playing around with the idea and making paper prototypes, I discovered the different wanderer types were either unbalanced or too similar to matter. I also found that in order to make a large maze that could be seen at all times on the smallest phone screen the sprites had to be 20x20 pixels. When making overhead people sprites, they didn't have the cartoony look I wanted so I started to consider new themes.

   Since I figured I'd be done by Halloween I wanted to keep the spooky theme and try to make the people sprites work. I thought I could put my old zombies sprites for a game I wanted to make to use and make it so you play as a zombie and wander a hedge-maze looking for victims to eat. The enemies were going to have either a wooden bat, a shotgun, a whistle, or nothing at all. You would have to be stealthy and try to take out the more dangerous victims before closing in on the weaker ones. This idea died when I shrank the sprites to 20x20 and saw how difficult it was to tell what was going on.

I charted out each level in MS Paint
   The maze needed to be big so you could maneuver and plan out paths, you also needed to see the whole thing so you could see where all your targets are and where they're going.

   I went with a 16x15 grid of 20x20 squares, leaving plenty of room for big control buttons that are comfortable for even sausage fingers.This game was also inspired by the philosophy of Nameless: The Hackers which was one-handed play with a portrait orientation. Most games are in landscape and I like to be a little different. Plus, I thought it would be a fun challenge making a one handed vertical interface.

   Since the zombies, ghosts, and humans were looking terrible I needed to think up a new theme. I thought abut a spider hunting flies, being a fly with a pointy nose popping spiders from behind like balloons, and finally decided to just have square placeholders until I thought of something better. I changed those squares to triangles so I could see what direction everyone was facing, then those triangles were different colors so I could tell them apart. I changed the player to a green dot, then a multicolored dot, then a triangle. Then I changed the shape of the player triangle so it stood out more. Then those placeholders grew on me.I decided to go with a Geometry Wars style look with
neon colors and basic shapes.

You have to be directly behind them. Can't touch the colored parts.
   Once I had the theme set I changed the enemy behaviors to something simpler to understand and code. They just needed to move forward until they hit a wall, then they would turn. You defeat them by moving into them from behind so I made the back of the triangle a white bar to indicate a weak spot. I like to think of it as lightsaber triangles that can be broken by attacking the hilt.

   Each color has its own behavior. Reds are simple, Purples are hard to predict, Orange ones chase you down, etc. Since touching them anywhere but on their weak spots will kill you, you'll have to predict their movements and position yourself in a way to back-stab them.

With the theme, rules, and artificial intelligence thought out I got to work on making it more fun.
Next post: Part 2 - Gameplay, where I'll go into detail on what the game is like now, 3 months later.

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