Having some fun with retro and government contracting

I've worked for a number of companies over the years as a programmer. My time at government contractor was particularly interesting. It was like working in a different parallel universe where everything looked the same but was strange. Unlike the commercial sector, we didn't worry much about deadlines or being first to market with an idea. Our struggles revolved around protecting the funding for our contracts. We had fought against bad Project Managers that would mismanage team resources. We fought to keep bad programmers from ruining code. At the end of the day, there was the threat of the government swooping in to take away our funding. No funding meant no job.

We joked that all of this sounded like a old video game. Something like Missile Command for the Atari 2600. The evils of the world trying to destroy our project while the lowly employee fought to defend it.

It sounded like a good idea but my skills as a video game developer were lacking and Unity hadn't become the giant it is today for indies. Fast forward 10+ years and I decided why not try to see what I can do in a week. I busted out my notebook and sketched a rough idea of what I envisioned.

 Design notes for game. This was my first time really trying to make pixel art so I tried to keep it simple. I also kept track of issue discovered during play testing.

Design notes for game. This was my first time really trying to make pixel art so I tried to keep it simple. I also kept track of issue discovered during play testing.

I faced some interested challenges along the way but after a week, I had something that was pretty fun.

 Final screenshot of Project Defender. Bad Programmers and the Gov weren't originally in the game but I added them to solve issues that came up during play testing.

Final screenshot of Project Defender. Bad Programmers and the Gov weren't originally in the game but I added them to solve issues that came up during play testing.

I really enjoyed taking a break from working on big projects to make this game. It was very helpful showing me some holes in my game design knowledge. Give the game a try and let me know what you think.

Next Game Pre-Production

As development on Wordsum winds down for its June 1st 2015 release, Pixelshot Games has been working with the talented artisit Ink By Jeng on pre-production work for our next game. 

Concept Art For The Main Character

The game will be a 2D platformer that centers around a young girl who has discovered she can talk to the bears of the forest while wearing her bear suit. The game will focus on recreating the feel of playing inside of a children's picture book. Stay tuned to learn more!

Circle Colliders For Better 2D Game Touch Controlls

Making Wordsum was a great learning experience for me. I had never done a 2D game before and found the challenges much different than working in 3D. One of the most important issues I ran into was the feel of the game in regards to selecting the letter blocks. At first, I only supported tapping each letter to create a word. I found through much play testing that people expected to be able to slide their finger to select multiple letters.

It was easy enough to add slide selection to the game but something was not right. People were having a really hard time selecting letter blocks diagonally. The problem ended up being my use of colliders. Each letter block had a 2D Box Collider which handled both collision with other letter blocks and the player's touch input.

 The green boxes are the Box Colliders. Notice how there is no room in between each collider. 

The green boxes are the Box Colliders. Notice how there is no room in between each collider. 

The problem with this approach is when the player tries to slide their finger in between two letter blocks to make a diagonally selection. For example, in the picture above this would be word C-A-T. Most of the time, the player would end up selecting C-L-A or C-T-A instead of what they wanted. This was due to the box colliders being so close together. Player's got easily frustrated during play sessions and only used tap selection instead.

I was able to fix this by doing two things. The first was using a collider for collision detection between letter blocks and another collider for the player's touch input. The second thing was creating a child Game Object of the letter block prefab and using a Circle Collider instead of the 2D Box Collider. This allowed the player's finger to slide in between two letter blocks much easier.

 The Circle Colliders allow for more space in between letter blocks

The Circle Colliders allow for more space in between letter blocks

The results were very positive. After more play testing, there was less irritation with selecting letters. Players said the game “felt” better. The best part was this fix didn't take long to implement. Moral of the story, don’t use 2D Box Colliders for everything. A simple concept which seems so obvious to me now.