My name is Steve and I am very happy that you are here! First of all, this is the first article out of many and is meant to be an introduction, so there will be little about the game design as such. If you are short on time because you design after work and after you have made sure your family is happy then feel free to skip to the 2nd episode(that is when it is ready :). But I think you should stick around. We touch on some fundamentals here. The aim of this series of articles is to share the experience of our studio creating mobile games in Unity. You probably think now: ”Great, why would I read another article about game design, pfffff”, and you would be right in thinking so because there is many blogs and videos about it, BUT there is a little difference between this article and others that cover this popular topic. All the other ones are written by people who have been around, who have been in the industry for long and created “few” titles at least, probably worked for a medium sized studio or two, or maybe even for some AAA* giant or at least graduated from a school relevant to the gaming industry. This one is not! For better or worse to this publication, my adventure with game design is very fresh, my view on the matter is very innocent and probably naive as well. What I want to do is to share with everyone what I have learned as I am learning it, not 5 or 10 years later when the memories of my humble beginnings are twisted by the years of experience and the time itself. I want to write about it as I progress, as I learn. When things are fresh, I can point out problems that I have encountered at the time and hopefully solutions that I have come up with to overcome those issues. Issues that someone else will most likely encounter down the road, problems that are so trivial for more savvy developers that they will not even consider it a problem or anything even worth mentioning in their publications.
Now a little bit about myself so you know what my background is. I am relatively new to the Unity (I will explain later on why I have chosen it over Unreal or other engines) and the game design itself. I am the founder of LoOnar Forge. At the time of writing this article (December 2017) we are getting ready to launch our second game called The Watch – Midnight Bronx, it is coming out of Alpha soon and it will be released at the beginning of 2018(hopefully). It is really our first proper game but more on that soon. I am a youngish person(at least I like to think like that), enthusiast of games, digital art and pretty much everything that is related to tech and digital field. I have been around the games since very long time, be it computer games, board games or RPG. I still remember my first computer: ATARI 65 XE(Out of the window goes the illusion of me being young). I still remember playing all the games on it: River Raid, Boulder Dash, Zorro and many many more. Of course, I have tried to program some things myself back then. On Atari it was very simple: you spend 2 hours or more typing meaningless commands, zig-zags and brackets and if you were lucky and didn’t make any typo after copying 2-3 A4 pages of code you would get a rainbow cascade effect on your screen for about 10 seconds. Easy! Back then it seemed amazing. One game on Atari that blew my mind was called Bruce Lee. Not because it was crazy graphics(relatively speaking of course!) or story. Sometime into the game me and my older brother have discovered that this game had a Co-Op*!!! That was pure ecstasy. No more waiting for the other person to finish! No more wishing that your own brother would fall into the spiky pit beneath him, finish his turn and pass you the joystick! I am not too sure whether this was my first encounter with multiplayer but it was with Co-Op for sure. It was a game changer. We have played for hours without stopping. After we have gotten into so much trouble with our father for not doing homework or chores, but that was irrelevant, it was well worth it! Ever since that first console games were present in my life. Mainly on the PC platform, little bit on PS and now increasingly more on the mobile platform for obvious reasons of popularity and accessibility. I can’t say that I am a strictly competitive type of a player, I enjoy hours spent on perfecting my gameplay just by myself. But certainly, any type of interaction with other players through a game makes it so much more interesting. The replayability increases greatly.
This is where I want to see LoOnar Forge studio in few years time as it grows. Making games that engage people together in a Co-Op, in a struggle against each other in groups of 2, groups of 5, groups of 20, every man for himself or free for all! You name it. I see infinite possibilities in mixing competitive type of games with noncompetitive/cooperative mechanics. Especially now with the internet being ever-present, connecting people has never been easier.
So as I have mentioned before, we are getting slowly ready to release our second game which is really our first proper production. Our first title Electronoid was more of a test what Unity is capable of and how easy it is to learn. Of course, most importantly we had to find out what are we capable of. Electronoid was created in around 3 months just by myself, still working at my day job full time while maintaining normal family and social life. Yes, yes, I know that such a basic game can be done probably in 24 hours by an intermediate Unity user. It still felt incredibly satisfying to see it show for the first time on Google Play. It got over 20 downloads! Apart from setting up around 30 different accounts on forums, websites, chat groups and services to learn about the game design and find free legal resources, the majority of that time I have spent on learning C#. I had dabbled with programming a little in the past but for the sake of this article, we can assume that I knew nothing. That was my biggest concern, I am no math brain and I was not sure if I can handle coding part of the designing process. Electronoid showed me that I can learn it. I think it was around 4 hours after Electronoid was published online when I had first cubes on the plain with some poor textures resembling buildings of New York and a controller working to walk around “the streets” for The Watch – Midnight Bronx (I will talk about the titles in another episode and explain why this one is so long and why it is too long). Halfway through Electronoid, I have started to think more and more about the next idea, collecting materials and examples to visualize it for myself and others. The same thing is happening now to me with our current project. Since the first game, I can’t stop. Every spare hour I can find I dedicate to improve the product, efficiency and to learn more and more. And I think you are similar if you are still reading this article.
I want it to become a collaboration of people that create software and want to consciously improve the way they design. I am open to all suggestions, improvements, comments, constructive criticism and cooperation. This is only the beginning!
So the way I will structure this series is to write about each section/stage of design from the very beginning, when the idea is born, through the planning and execution to the publishing and beyond. I want to devote at least one article to each element of the game design process, be it sound, menu, leaderboards, graphics style, marketing or optimisation to name the few. Of Course, some of the topics will require more than one article, but that’s a good thing. As our current project is in the late phase I won’t start proper series until this one is finished and released. I will focus on more generic topics, build up with game theory and get myself accustomed to writing online content until we are ready to start our next challenge. At the moment depending on how our current project will be accepted on release, our third game will be either spin-off from The Watch or a completely new idea. It has very cool mechanics for interacting with the interface. I am very proud of it! But no spoilers, it is too early for that. One thing I can say for sure is that regardless which game we will choose to be next it will be done in a low poly style. You can check our Pinterest profile, I have been collecting some ideas for low poly art for a while now. I think it is a great choice for mobile games for many reasons. Especially for young studios like ours.
That is all for this episode. Thank you sooo much for your time. Next episode will be about the start(makes sense doesn’t it?). A little bit where to start but most importantly how to start as I think this is a problem for many. If you have questions or you want to add something to the subject please leave a comment below, write an email or simply visit our page on one of the social media platforms listed below. Have a good day and dev on!
Steve, December 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHzW7T-bwBc – Bruce Lee gameplay on Atari
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AAA_(video_game_industry) – AAA games, wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_gameplay – Co-Op games, wikipedia
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Check out our first game, ya be warned, this might blow your mind!
Electronoid – The Breakout