Archives for posts with tag: puzzle game

Hey all, This week we are going to do a review of the Ice Kana mechanic. We’ve done one of these reviews before for the One Direction Kana. Basically what we are going to do is discuss how the mechanic works, how difficult it was to implement, how it plays, and how much design space it has.

So how do Ice Kana work? Ice Kana can be moved in any direction freely but will keep moving the direction they were moved until they hit a non-moving Kana, a blank space, or the end of the level.IceTileDemo2.gif

Ice Kana cannot be moved with each other as if they could there would be situations where tiles would move forever. Also whenever an Ice Kana is moved, regardless of how far they move it is counted as only one move.

 

So how hard was it to implement Ice Kana into the game? The initial implementing wasn’t too bad. The debugging was the killer for this one. They way the game handles Ice Kana is by checking if either of the two moved Kana are Ice Kana, then if there is an Ice Kana it iterates the “move Kana” script until the Ice Kana makes an invalid move. This was pretty easy to do as it relied on preexisting logic that was solid. The hard part was managing the undo function.  The undo button will log each step of an Ice Kana’s movement as individual moves so I have to tell script at what points an Ice Kana is moved so It can group each of those moves together and undo them all at once. This part of implementation was a nightmare. The last point that was a hassle was the animations. See because I have the Kana faces animated, whenever I want a different set of images for a different mechanic I am forced to make new animations for them. But I hear you saying “Isn’t that a LOT of individual animations?”. Why yes it is. There are 46 base Hiragana, but I have to double that number for each Katakana. Okay so there are 92 animations? Nope, because I have that many animations for EACH mechanic that uses the animation system. So far that is normal kana, stone kana, ice kana, paralysis kana and slime kana. Now slime kana only actually has 16 animations because it is only applies to あ、い、う、え、お、や、ゆ、and よ (I’ll go into why when we review slime kana). But even if we take that into account we still have 384 individual animations. And let me tell you Unity is NOT DESIGNED to have that many animations going on at once. TryingToAddNewAnimations

See this clip is how you add a new animation into Unity. You have to scroll down the list of existing animations until you get to the bottom where you can select the “Create New Animation” button. It is one of the most infuriating experiences I have as a game developer.

 

Anyway, but I don’t have to worry about implementing it anymore! How does it play? Actually pretty good, it can make some really interesting levels. However Ice Kana are certainly the hardest mechanic in the game for the player. Which I’m fine with. The first three worlds are pretty easy and its good to have a mechanic that can really challenge the player. Personally I enjoy solving these puzzles but what I enjoy and players enjoy are often two different things. So I will still have to do a bunch of testing to make sure the world 4 levels aren’t too difficult. I know for sure that the last two levels of world 4 are by far the hardest in the game.

IceTileDemo3.gif

But I think if I can get the difficulty correct I think players will really like Ice Kana. It will just take a bit of tweaking and balancing to get there.

Finally, how much design space does the mechanic have? Well, LOADS this was one of the first times I finished making a world’s levels and thought “I could probably make another ten interesting levels here”. They interact with One Direction Kana wonderfully, and I am certain they will work really well with future mechanics yet to come. So I am really happy with how they’ve turned out. My one biggest concern is just how difficult players find them.

Wrapping up. I think Ice Kana are a great mechanic that I will probably end up using liberally in future levels, but I do need to be careful of the difficulty. Having some levels be a challenge is fine, but not if players find their brains melting. And while debugging them was a royal pain, I am very happy with where they have ended up.

What do you think of the Ice Tiles? Let me know in the comments! But until next time, have a great week!

Advertisements

The devblog is back! Sorry for such a long hiatus, but we are here and a lot has happened!

But today we are talking about World 3. Just before Christmas I finished making the background art and the one direction tiles so I would be ready to make some levels!

World3Level1

All the levels for World 3 are now complete! Something I might do every time I finish making the levels for a world I might “review” the mechanic deployed therein. I’m going to judge a mechanic on a few different criteria. Most of these are normal things to consider for all game design, but the last is relevant specifically to Kana Quest.

  1. Complexity of the mechanic. (How long does it take for the player to figure out how it works? How much mental strain does it cause the player?)
  2. Design Space of the mechanic. (This is another way of saying how deep is the mechanic? How many interesting scenario’s can it be used in? Does it interact in interesting ways with other mechanics?)
  3. Fun Factor of the mechanic. (Just simply, how fun is it)
  4. Ability to help teach Hiragana. (Does the mechanic play help the player to remember what a Kana is or learn new Kana?)

So how did one direction tiles do? Very very well, they have a very low complexity so much so that a tutorial is often not needed for play testers, and it has a large design space! The fun factor is a bit subjective, but personally I find it quite fun. The only strike against one direction tiles; they don’t really teach Hiragana very well. They don’t work against that goal, but they aren’t any more useful than a normal Kana tile.

The only other problem with one directional tiles is they require a large level to be interesting. World3Level20.jpg

Due to a bunch of mistakes that I made when setting the game’s camera up, I have a hard upper limit to how big a level can be. On the whole this isn’t too bad as it forces me to keep the complexity down but it does mean that for mechanics like the one direction tile, I can’t use it to its fullest extent.

But on the whole I give one direction tiles a B+. Its a good mechanic that can be used to make interesting levels.

Before I leave you today, I just want to share my personal favorite level from World 3.

World3Level16.jpg

This what the first of a series of levels that I made where the player has to figure out the correct place to start matching the Kana. In each row there is usually only one Kana that will match with the row above or below it. Thus making the physical size of the level and the positioning of the tiles crucial to being able to complete the level.

World3Level16Complete.jpg

Anyway, I hope you all have a great week, and I will be back posting regular devblogs again from here on out! I will try for once a week, but if I’ve just been squashing bugs that are not very interesting then it will probably get pushed back.

Imagine the following conversation. You’re 16, at a gathering with family members you haven’t seen in years and uncomfortable. Inevitably the topic of your interests come up. You gingerly mention that you enjoy to partake in what is colloquially known as “video games”. Your now slightly sloshed uncle proceeds to say one or more of the following lines; “video games are just murder simulators” “video games are incapable of being art” “A video game will never be able to make you CRY“.

To like video games, you have to be insecure about liking video games. Conversations like the one above have made sure of that. And if you weren’t aware, your drunken uncle’s arguments made to belittle became  a “to do list”.

Things to do in order to legitimize games.

  • Make a non violent game
  • Make a game that is #ART
  • Make a game that will people CRY
  • Make the Citizen Kane of games.

Non-violent games have existed for as long as there have been games so *pfff* who actually cares? #ART is subjective, but according to a very ugly toilet in an art gallery: As long as I say my game is #ART it is… Soooo DADAAAAA… *Jazz Hands*. “The Citizen Kane of Games” this is the Holy Grail of this list. But how does one achieve it? It’s such a nebulous concept. If ONLY there was some tangible goalpost one could use to figure out if a game was eligible for the title of “The Citizen Kane of Games”. Oh wait look at the third item. All a game has to do in order to be considered as “The Citizen Kane of Games” is make people cry.

And so to this day Game Developers will subconsciously use this list as their Game Design Documents. There is nothing wrong with artistic, non-violent and tear jerking games. Papers Please, To the Moon, Firewatch fit this mold but are genuine masterpieces. But we need to burn the list. Or at least we need to feed the list to RUMU.

RUMU is the reason this essay exists as these are the RUMUnations that were inspired by playing the game. Its a well made point and click adventure game made in Sydney (#goAussieGameDevs) about a sentient robotic vacuum that can only feel love. RUMU cleans the house for their humans David and Cecily (even though they always seem to be out whenever RUMU is cleaning), but spends most of their time talking to Sabrina the sentient house management AI.

Before the criticism comes, if you are interested in it, go get RUMU and support Indie Devs (Link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/723270/Rumu/ ). And if you care about spoilers, stop reading now.

RUMU is a game that ignored the most interesting aspects of its own premise because it was too busy looking at the damn list. It doesn’t take long for you to know something is up. Sabrina always talks as if she is hiding something e.g. “David and Cecily are… out again today RUMU…”.

And sure enough it turns out David and Cecily are dead. And their death was written to inflict the maximum amount of emotional trauma to Sabrina (and by proxy the player).  David ordered Sabrina not to watch him work in his lab because it made him uncomfortable (and that he was planning on editing her program without Sabrina’s consent) and then accidentally spilled some highly toxic chemicals, forcing the lab into lock down. But Cecily was on the outside of the lab. So she emotionally blackmails Sabrina into letting her into the lab to die with David (“Sabrina if you love me you will let me in” – Cecily). Thus causing Sabrina to deal with PTSD and crippling guilt ALONE for eight years before she chooses to finish construction of RUMU.

The reveal of this moment is teased and built to the entire game. So RUMU does earn the emotional pay off. But at what cost? The core concepts of RUMU are the ethical questions that will arise when we are capable of making sentient AI. What are the ethics of changing/bug-fixing a sentient AI? Is it okay to create an AI simulacrum of people who are no longer in your life? If a sentient AI is suffering do you have a duty of care for them? But the biggest question for me is what do we owe our creations? If we make a sentient being knowing that they will be flawed (and they will suffer for those flaws), is it ethical to make that being to begin with?

Because all the time and energy of game is dedicated to building to that one tear jerk moment at the end, there is little energy left to dig into the rest of the questions that RUMU asks. Because of coarse all #artistic games need to make people cry. This idea prevented RUMU from whole heatedly and confidently tackling the ideas that would have made it something extraordinary and not just good.

And that’s ultimately what this comes down to: moving from insecurity to confidence. The confidence to make games that are earnest, silly, sad, life affirming, funny, horrifying and challenging. And the confidence that items off a check list do not determine the artistic value of our art.

 

And here we are, the end of 2017. In March this year I decided that I should be devoting all my time and effort into finishing Kana Quest. So much has changed over the course of these months and I decided as a way to wrap up this year we would look at how Kana Quest has evolved.

Just a heads up I will likely not get every detail in the chronology perfect. This is just a chance for me to look back and see how much I’ve achieved this year.

March-April 2017:

So here is where we began the year. Kana Quest was something I had worked on every now and again since 2015. And to be honest not much was happening with it. But after taking a long hard think about where I wanted to be professionally in the next 3-4 years I realized Kana Quest was the best way for me to get there.

Below is the closest I have to footage of what the game looked like at the point I started work.

But the big push that got me to work on Kana Quest was AVCon. I had seen a post in the Melbourne IGDA page for devs who were interested in showing off in Adelaide. And I decided, I should do it. So the first thing I started work on was the Sakura background of the first world. I didn’t need to have the whole game done, I just needed the first world or two done so that folk could get an idea of what the game is like.

March was also a big milestone for me as it was the first time I took Kana Quest to the Melbourne IGDA meetup. Where I learned that my puzzles were hard to see, the matching effect was hard to see, and my tutorial was terrible (I’m *never* gonna hear that last piece of feedback *ever* again 😛 ).

About mid April I decided that Kana Quest had very little in the way of character, so I decided to try experimenting with anthropomorphized Kana tiles in an attempt to fix this.

The last thing I started working on before the end of April was a backdrop for each puzzle so that the player could see the important information more easily.

 

May – June:

After making the design for backdrop in late April, May involved me actually implementing it. This meant sectioning each part up so that Unity could create a different sized background based on each level, this honestly proved to be much easier than I thought it was going to be.

Then came the implementation of the Cute Kana. Following a positive response to the experiment I did in May, decided to make all the Kana have cute little faces to give them character.

Of coarse the hard part was managing all these new animations attached to the same prefab. Which led to this nonsense. Actually the current animation tree is even more messed up. Here I only have the normal Kana animations hooked up, not the stone kana, none of the Katakana variants, and none of the other mechanics. Sooooo yeah navigating my animator panel is hell now :/

Late May and early June was where I started putting more effort into my tutorial, rather than just explaining to every person who played it what one earth was going on.

Another massive change in this time period was changing how tiles moved so that they would move with the mouse when they were dragged. This improved the feel and user experience of the game massively.

And I also added a medal system so that players could kind of choose their own difficulty setting. This meant players weren’t punished so harshly for not being able to finish the level in the minimum number of moves.

July – August:

This is the point in time where I knew that I had been accepted into AVCon, and the countdown to that was coming. So I buckled down on making everything look as pretty as I possibly could, by reworking old bits of UI to make them work with Kana Quest’s new look.

But the most important part of July was AVCon, and it was amazing.

It was the first time I got to see non friends and non game dev people playing my game and it was such a cool experience. And I got to meet Carmine the developer of Icebox: Speed Gunner and quite a few people from Team Cherry; the makers of Hollow Knight.

Shortly after I got back after AVCon I finished implementing Katakana into the game.

Its always been the plan to include Katakana in the final game free of extra charge. Most of Kana Quest’s direct competition all include it as additional DLC or as a sequel and I wanted to offer my players greater value for their money.

But once I had my Katakana in, my count down to PAX truly began. There were three things I needed to get into the game before PAX. A better tutorial, world 2 being implemented, getting it working on Android and sound. As I had been working on world 2 in the lead up to AVCon I decided to get that done first.

And by the end of August I had basically all but finished making world 2. Leaving me two months to work out the sound and tutorial.

September – October

So these were the last months before I would take Kana Quest to the biggest stage it had ever seen. I was stressed beyond belief. Originally I planned on making the music for Kana Quest myself, but a quickly realized that it would take me way too long for me to do. So I decided to employ the amazing Nicole Marie T (https://twitter.com/musicvsartstuff) for the music. Not only did she manage to compose me three different pieces of music within a very tight time window, but she also produced a product of much higher quality than what I could have produced if I did it.

Since I had Nicole on music and I’d managed to get World 2 done pretty quickly I was able to work on porting the game to Android. And let me tell you, there is a reason every indie dev and their dog seems to use Unity. That reason is porting your game is obnoxiously easy. I had it ported within the first week of September.

With three out of four things basically taken care of so early I was thinking, maybe PAX will be fine. After all I just have to fix up the tutorial and I’ll be perfect.

Rule one of game design: never ever think “oh this will be easy”. Because if you do, it wont be.

First thing I changed to make learning the game easier was the completion gauge. The idea being that if the player could see the how close they were to completing the level visually it would help them learn the goal faster.

Even once the gauge was added I didn’t finish reworking the tutorial until the end of September.

Then I made one laaaast minute change that I probably shouldn’t have.

See I have a game reset function in Kana Quest if I want to reset the memory. Thing is I forgot to factor that in with the hint screen so the hint screen would never go away once the memory was reset. This was a problem at PAX as we had to restart the application every time this happened. Fortunately this was the worst bug I encountered during PAX.

November – December:

Honestly not much got done over these last two months. About the only major thing I achieved was finishing the art for world three. The main reason I didn’t get a lot done was I was just burnt out from doing PAX.

Anyway. I look forward to writing for you all in the new year until then take care.

 

Hey. Welcome to this week’s Kana Quest DevBlog.

So what have I been doing this past week? I’ve been trying to implement some the changes to the tutorial that I talked about last week. NewTutorial.gif

So above is a new tutorial level that I made this week. There are a few new things here. First is the friendship gauge has been changed to show the size of the largest friendship group. This way it conveys information a bit better. Second I’ve changed the click image to a hand. In play tests with tablets and phones people have been confused by the old mouse. Thirdly is the English text bubbles above the Kana.  I’m doing this so that the player can see the connection between the Kana. Hopefully it will convey the idea that they game is about matching sounds.

21930808_10155250650068541_2091640450_o

The most exciting addition to Kana Quest this week is that of SOUND!!! I recorded my voice actress Aki Nemoto to perform all the Kana tiles this week.  Here is a photo of my dad (a sound engineer) setting up the microphone with Aki. She did a great job, I got the exact quality to the voice that I wanted. Of coarse I do want to say a big thank you to Dad here for helping me record!

Once the recording was done, I downloaded all the files and implemented them into the game. As of the most recent build, if you double click a Kana it will say its name.

 

KanaQuestMusicManagerBut that’s not all the sound work that got done this week! I also commissioned Nicole Marie T to compose some music for Kana Quest. So far she has finished work on the Kana Quest Theme Song and has done a great job! She is now currently working on the background theme for world one and world two. But in preparation for those assets I have made a music manager. This script will fade the music in and out when changing between worlds and the title screen.

That’s about all I can show you for this week. I’m hoping to get some more play tests done on the new tutorial asap so I can further refine it. Anyway, hope you have a good week and I’ll see you next week.

Hi Welcome to the Dev Blog for Kana Quest. If you’re new here and have never seen or heard of Kana Quest, read this blog post for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Kana Quest. –> https://kipentheodor.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/kana-quest-primer/

Otherwise read on to hear about what’s been done over the last week!

So I have one and a half months till PAX Aus hits. And I am officially freaking out. There is so much to do and so little time for me to do it. I still have to get Kana Quest onto Steam so I can take preorders at PAX. I still have to implement some sound into the game. I still have to organize my booth’s set up. There are still some bugs that need to be ironed out. I need to make an awesome trailer to show off my game. And finally the one thing that has me worried most of all, my tutorial is still awful.

The tutorial has always Kana Quest’s biggest weakness. I tried to sit down this week and think about all the common misconceptions people have when they sit down and play.

  • They think they are writing words.
  • They think Hiragana is Kanji and start freaking out they don’t know the meaning of each letter.
  • They don’t understand they are trying to match sounds.
  • They don’t understand the win state.

So how am I going to prevent the player from thinking these things?

I

Don’t

Know

That’s it. The reality is I’m just not sure. But I cannot afford to give up. So here are some ideas I have that hopefully will help fix the problem.

Idea 1. Completion Gauge: So most people when playing are not sure what their goal is. If I give a visual representation of how close the level is to being completed it will better communicate the goal. I think it will help players know how close they are to completing a level, but not necessarily understand why they are completing the level.  CompletionGauge2.gif

As you can see I have already started work on this idea, mainly because I think this is my best one. To get this working though I have had to change how I handle checking whether or not the level is complete. Now the game will find the largest group of Kana in the level. Before the game would only actually check the group size starting from one location. I had to change this as if that starting location was the last to be connected it would be very easy to have a situation where the gauge goes from zero to full which would only confuse player further.

Idea 2. Show the Player the Hiragana Table: So the idea here is to show the player the whole Hiragana table after they learn their first three Kana. Hopefully this will demonstrate to the player that Kana are phonetic letters and not Kanji (which are pictorial). The other great advantage of doing this is I prepare the player for all the characters that they will learn. That way they don’t freak out that they are going to have HUNDREDS of Kana to memorize. HiraganaTableGif.gif

Idea 3. Show the English Sounds Matching in Tutorial Levels: The idea behind this one is that the player doesn’t get to see where things are matching. While this is a core part of the gameplay later on, for the tutorial the most important thing is that the player understands the core mechanic. If showing the English for a little bit will achieve this I’ll try it!

Idea 4. Change the Structure of Tutorial Levels: So the idea here is that I increase the size of the early levels but not increase the difficulty. What I’m thinking is a really long level with the same Kana repeating but with stone Kana to limit movement. Coupled with the completion gauge hopefully this will communicate the idea that creating matches is the goal.

So those are my ideas on how to improve the tutorial. They aren’t perfect so if you have any ideas, PLEASE TELL MEEEE! I’ll see you all in a week’s time where hopefully I haven’t turned into a stressed out wreck.

Hey, so you’ve stumbled onto my blog somehow. And probably you landed on a page about my game project Kana Quest. This is because for as long as I’m making Kana Quest I will be uploading a devblog of my process. However most of the devblogs are not great for anyone who doesn’t know what Kana Quest is…. which is you know…. most people.

SO! This is a quick primer on what Kana Quest is, and how it works.

KanaQuestTitleScreen.gif

So what is Kana Quest? Kana Quest is a puzzle game that’s a cross between dominoes and a match-3 game that teaches the Japanese Alphabet (Both Hiragana and Katakana). It will be released on Mac, PC, Linux, Android and iOS.

It is an educational game, but it is being designed to be a fun puzzle game first. This way, people who already know Japanese can still play and enjoy the game. Another key feature of Kana Quest is that there are no pop quizzes. A lot of educational games lean heavily on game-ified versions of school tests in the hopes that no one will notice.
KatakanaDemoThe main gameplay of Kana Quest revolves around Kana. The word Kana comes from the names of the two Japanese Alphabet; Hiragana and Katakana and basically means letter. In Kana Quest, the Kana have been brought to life and want to make friends. Its the player’s job to help them find their friends. Two kana that are next to each other will be friends if their names/pronunciation share a sound. So for example か (Ka) and な (Na) will be friends because they both have an “a” sound. The same is true for か (Ka) and く(Ku) because of the “k” sound. Once you know which Kana can be friends, you need to make a friendship group that includes all Kana in the level.
LevelDemo2For example. This level starts off with every Kana having at least one friend. But because these friendships don’t connect all the Kana into one group the level is not complete.

This gif also shows a couple of other important details. The flashing lines between Kana show that they are friends, and a sound matches between them.

 

Finally a quick description of the different mechanics currently in the game.

Blank Tiles: These can be seen in the above gif. These cannot match, but can be moved freely.

Stone Kana: Stone kana will match with other kana and must be included in the final friendship group but can not be moved. They have been turned to stone, you see.

MysteryTileDemo2Mystery Kana: These enigmatic Kana are hiding their true face. But their true identity is given away by who they become friends with. Unfortunately Kana who are hiding their true identity are not truly happy and must be unmasked before the level can be complete.

Slime Kana: Slime Kana do not have any consonants in their names. Slime tiles cannot move.But they can merge with other Kana. When they merge they change the vowel of any Kana they merge with. Slime Kana cannot match, but they are happy to help other Kana find their friends.SlimeTiles

And that about covers it. This primer will likely but updated over time as new content is added. If you have any questions please feel free to comment, and I’ll get back to you asap!

 

This week was a big week for Kana Quest because as of writing, all the levels in the second world are complete. So for this week’s devblog we are going to look at how I go about making levels.

Before getting into it I just want to include a quick intro to some of the terms that I will use in this devblog.

Kana: The individual game pieces in Kana Quest. They are also letters of the Japanese alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana).

Match: When two adjacent Kana share a matching sound. Eg. KA N–> Matching “A”. Matches are important as they are how you complete levels in Kana Quest. When every Kana is connected by one chain of matches the level is complete.

Mystery Kana: The main mechanic of the second world in Kana Quest. They are represented with question marks both in game and in hand drawn notes. The player must pay attention to what the Mystery Kana matches with to find out the sound of that Kana.

Ok that’s that. Onward!

 

So what is step one? The first thing I will do before I make a level is to make a mental note of a couple of things. For example: What kana has the player seen before? What kana have been introduced very recently? How many moves did the last level need to complete? How many different possible configurations did the last level have?

That last one is really important. As it is the biggest determining factor of a level’s difficulty. For example look at the following mock levels.20170902_161642.jpg

Both levels have the exact same Kana, and require the same amount of moves to complete but A is significantly easier to complete than B. And it comes down entirely to the amount of possible configurations of the Kana. One of the first levels I ever made for Kana Quest was a 3×3 level with a Kana in every spot. It only took 2 moves to complete but no one could ever complete it.
20170902_163949.jpg

So once I’ve made a note of how difficult I want the level to be, using a pen and paper I start drawing down the idea of what the level should be like.

You can see this happening here. I start out with an idea for a level where you get two normal Kana to try and figure out lots of different Mystery Kana in the level. (Top part)

Once I realize the limitations of the level concept I rearrange things to ensure the level plays well (Middle part).

Finally I write down the solution to the level and the number of moves needed to get there. (Bottom part).

Once I’m happy with my first draft of a level its time to get it into the game!

To do this I have to give unity (the game engine I’m using) the following things. 1. The dimensions of the level (In this case 3×6). 2. Make a numerical list representing each of the Kana starting from the bottom left of the level.  (In this case the list is 12,47,20,47,47,310,47,307,47,322,47,105,-1,106,-1,108,323). 3. Tell unity how many Kana there are in the level. This allows unity to know when the level is actually complete. Once you do all of this you get…LevelDemo

One level, ready for play-testing! I will usually play the level once or twice to make sure that it is possible and I know the minimum number of moves needed to complete. Then I will give it to play-testers who let me know if the level is too hard or too easy. Then I will adjust accordingly.

If you have any questions about the level making process feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.

That’s me for this week. Have a great weekend all.