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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Making TriGrid - Part 2

   TriGrid is just weeks away from release and it's gameplay has been polished all summer. After getting relatives to playtest the game I had to make the game easier t play and understand. I also had to make players care and want to keep playing. I also needed a way to boost it's popularity so people can find it on the app store. How do I make money from a free app? That PlayStation 4 isn't going to buy itself. Read on to see how the project turned out.

TriGrid Gameplay  

Each enemy has a unique behavior
    The arcade maze game code-named Piercion has grown into a mobile game with 4 gameplay modes, unlockables, clear & simple instructions, and 5 enemy types. Each enemy reacts differently to hitting walls. Red ones can turn left or right, Blue guys can turn around, Yellow triangles have a 25% chance make turns if there is a gap nearby, Purple ones have a 50% chance to turn and can turn around if they hit a wall, and the Orange enemies will follow the player around. Chasing these guys down requires a bit of strategy switching depending on which you are after and players will quickly get a good sense of each enemy's movement patterns and weaknesses.

   The four modes are Challenge, Evolution, Survival, and Shooter. In Challenge you play 60 challenge stages and collect power cells which are used to unlock the other game modes. You collect them by beating all the enemies on the level, beating them all within a time limit, and coloring all the blank panels white by moving over them. Each objective earns you one power cell. After getting a certain amount you unlock more challenge levels, allowing you to pick which power cells to go after. That let's you go back and try to get the more difficult ones later.

"Playing on Oatmeal? Are you Crazy!?"
   Evolution mode is an endless mode where enemies respawn instantly at death and the level itself changes randomly between 6 presets every minute. You choose a difficulty to play and the difficulty determines which enemies you face. Easy features Red & Blue, Normal adds Yellow, Hard has only Yellow, Purple, and Orange, and Oatmeal is just Orange. There is also a Whatever difficulty that has all enemy types.


   In Survival mode you have 3 lives and try to last as long on a level you select as possible. If you don't keep eliminating enemies random ones will keep spawning (reaching a maximum of 15), making it more difficult to avoid them. You may even try strategies like only leaving the predictable red ones alive and eliminating the rest. If the enemy population is less than 3, the last few will trigger instant respawns so there will always be at least 3 enemies at a time.

  Shooter mode was a last minute addition to the game, it's basically a stress reliever after beating all the "I ALMOST had it!" levels in challenge mode where you can just go around and shoot the enemies instead of backstabbing them. The "Pew" button shoots up to 4 active shots at once, enough to blast at all sides. Each shot continues to travel (even through victims) until it hits a wall. This ended up being the most rewarding mode so I made it only available by collecting all 180 power cells

   I recently took the game on a trip with me to New York to let my extended family play it and give me feedback. Since none of them play video games regularly they make for great playtesters who will prove whether the game is easy to pick-up-and-play or not. After I got all the feedback I needed, I started fixing problems with accessibility.

  For starters, the box kept making players' eyes focus inside, making people instinctively assume the entire game takes place and is controlled within there. The first things new players asked when the game starts were: "Which one am I?" and "How do I move?". I thought the giant blue buttons where obvious, but 13 different people can't all be wrong. So I used the simplest and quickest solution: text & arrows. The appear at the start of every game until a movement button is pressed, confirming the player's understanding of where they are and how to move.

   I changed the retry screen so it was more clear that challenge mode levels were beaten by getting the hidden cell, hunting down all enemies, and hunting them all within a time limit.

  I also finally decided firmly on a pricing model. TriGrid will be a free game where you can either buy the extra modes, or earn them by beating the challenges, which I needed to beat to make sure they were all possible. there would also be ads on all the menus and retry screens, filling up that chunk of empty space along the bottom.

  I'm very excited to see TriGrid finished and available on the iOS and Android markets for everyone to play. All I need to do now is add Game Center support and enable the In-app Purchases. So keep an eye out for it in September!

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