Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Any game of appreciable size needs a mini-game, and this one is ours!

We're calling it the "Treasure Mushroom".  Use the multi-touch to knock the piƱata, then collect the treasures that are hidden inside!

It's a great way to give the player a random reward without resorting to a gambling metaphor like a roulette wheel or slot machine.

What makes a good mini-game?

I'm a big believer in the so called "Rational Game Design" approach.  In particular, the variety matrix. It suggests you can break down your game into a number of axes, such as time-pressure, activity, space modifier, etc.

It then provides a recipe for combining those axes into novel variations.  This aids the game designer's evaluation process and helps find the combinations which work the best.

Under this framework, the mini-game is part of "exotic gameplay".  It changes the pace of the game by  giving the player a new challenge, or a much needed break.

The mini-game must also be very easy to learn, and never punish the player, only reward.

Lastly, your mini-game must remain thematically similar to your main game.  In "ScooterBoy", both the main-game and the mini-game have 'collecting' as a central theme.

What's your favourite/least-favourite mini games? Why not let me know in the comments below?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Easy Mode Unlocked

One of the hardest thing to do when making a game, is to balance the difficulty.

Of course, at the start, you want your game to be as accessible as possible.  Then, over time, as the player progresses, you smoothly ramp up the difficulty to keep the player engaged.

Today I wanted to focus on the beginning of that : Just how easy is easy?

Easy for Me

The natural instinct of the indie developer is to make the first level really easy for themselves.  It turns out that's not a fair test.  You've been playing the game for a while now and you know all the controls and every obstacle.  You need to look elsewhere, to someone who's never played the game before.

Easy for You

The next step is to focus test.  Find everyone you know, especially your friends, who don't play games that much.  And then make it easy for them.  As you go through this process you'll find your game becomes more and more accessible and the learning curve becomes more and more navigable.

Easy for Everyone

But can we do even better than that?

If you watch young kids playing games on a tablet, you'll know how engaging they can be.  And frustrating too, with the constant restarts, and the accidental taps on adverts and in-game consumables.

Zen Arcade

In keeping with this spirit, this morning I added a special "Zen Arcade" mode to my next game:

There's no enemies or time pressure.  There's no way to lose.  It's just a calming, peaceful experience that anyone can play and enjoy.

I even made the pause button a little smaller to avoid accidental clicks, and removed the options to use the power ups.

What tips and tricks do you use to increase accessibility of your game?  Why not let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Wihoo! Our new project has a logo!

 (By now you can probably guess the name!)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Background Test

Here's a screengrab of the backgrounds from one of the first levels in the new game.  You can see some of the UI starting to take shape as well!

And a video capture too - click through for 720p!

Sunday, 13 January 2013


I'm doing some more work on the terrain today.

It's another great mix of traditional and procedural artwork.

I've taken this screenshot from in the editor mode, and if you look closely, you'll notice the green circles which mark out the knots in the splines.

You can move the knots around by left click'n'drag with the mouse, or change the slope at that point with right click'n'drag.

I've even set up the physics so the player is actually riding over the splines directly without requiring a separate collision mesh.

This mix of hand drawn and procedural content is a great combo we're using throughout the game : The original artwork sets the overall tone, while the procedural content optimizes for your specific tablet.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Marmot Recipes

Today I'm working on the "FrameBaker".  It's a tool we're using to put the characters and animations into the game.

You can see here a work-in-progress of the "Pink Marmot".  It's just one of the many characters you'll be able to unlock in the game as you progress.


The FrameBaker starts with all the individual elements that make up the animation.

This is the Primary Animation, and makes the biggest emotional impact for the player.

You can see the familiar Squash and Stretch in the last four frames on the right.

Next we add in the Procedural Animation.  I'm using a technique called Inverse Kinematics to keep the arm locked onto the handlebars and the shoulder.

In a video game, it's the procedural animation which links the character to their environment.

In the screenshot, you can see the green tick marks which show the anchors and pivots for the inverse kinematics solver.

Lastly we mix in the Secondary Animation.  This is the spinning beany or the waving antenna.  It creates the believability and makes the character seem real without affecting their overall movement.

    ...and that's how you bake a Pink Marmot.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A new project?

Something pretty awesome is taking shape on my development computer at the moment.

These are the first public pics.

More updates coming soon!