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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lessons Learned From Feed The Plant

     Taking the detour of quickly making my spin on Flappy Bird was a very refreshing and fun experience. It's rewarding having a fun and simple game out there. It's a favorite among the people who normally playtest my games. I've proven to myself that if I were to make another arcade style game, simplification is the way to go. Feed The Plant was my chance to limit myself to a small game with no progression features or plug-in integration I wasn't comfortable with.

      It's pick-up and play nature has given me further insight into the bite-sized nature I have in mind for my future RPGs. Alongside that I learned a thing or two about shrinking my game file sizes, I practiced spriting to the point were I feel like I can draw anything, and I figured out an interesting bit about making app icons.

Have a postmortem-ish breakdown below.

     One of the first lessons that comes to mind is how I finally figured out how to stop the app icon from appearing twice on Android phones. Never click Unity's Overwrite icons check box because even if it's unchecked it will still create two links to your app on any device. I also learned that the app icons for display on the app store can look different from the game's actual icon which is why Feed The Plant's store icon has a bunch of rainbow leaves at the bottom and the regular icon is zoomed in.

     This was also the first time were I made promotional art that looked completely different from the gameplay graphics. An interesting trick I plan to use for Unicorn Quest when I have some more art ready.

     I really liked testing my sprite making ability in Feed the Plant. All the graphics for the game were made on the first day of development and turned out better than I predicted. It was just a matter of looking at the thing closest to what was in my head, then drawing rough outlines with pixels and chipping away at the mess until the sprite resembles what I want. Like sculpting subjects with clay.

I based Piper the Predator Plant on Mario's Piranha Plant sprites.
      Making these sprites boosted my confidence to the point were the immense amount of pixel art that needs to be done for my next 3 games isn't so intimidating. I'm even thinking about editing the plant sprite a bit to be used in Unicorn Quest just because I like it so much.

     I even got to practice coding a bit when making this. You never know when an old program will come in handy. I know I reuse stuff from my games all the time. The Tweet button code for instance came from TriGrid and it was pretty messy. I cleaned it up for Feed The Plant and now looks friendly and modable for any future plans I have.

The code playing when a Tweet button is pressed. It simply posts a message.
     Crafting a simple game also made me change the way I want losing in Unicorn Quest to feel. I knew I wanted the bosses to be hard, but before I wanted there to be penalties. Now I think there should be a simple retry button when you lose that instantly resets the battle so you can try again (reset items and all). With that, I could make fights a bit harder, but feel more possible.

     I want to simplify combat in Unicorn Quest even further to make its shooter aspect more shooter-like in order to distance itself from the style of my future dragon RPG based on melee & magic combat. We'll see how the combat feels in the coming months. Now that all the versions of Feed The Plant are out there, it's time to put the idea out of my head and get back to making Unicorn Quest as awesome as possible.

     Expect some actual progress this week.

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