|Posted by Rowan Powell on September 15, 2016 at 4:25 AM|
I worked on a small mobile game called Sun & Sky from mid July to the end of August over the summer, based off an old tactics based idea for a game that had been bouncing around my head for quite a long time now - reclaim the worlds from.
The core concept is inspired from a webgame I played as a teenager called Creeper World, essentially a never-ending flood of 'creep' pours from certain areas of the map and you need to hold it back while you push towards certain objectives located on each world, managing your infrastructure and energy consumption. I modified this idea somewhat, removing the pylons that you needed to move the energy around and instead focus on a smaller scale of engagement - dealing with a small handful of turrets and combating terrain issues as much as the enemy itself.
This means that the game ultimately is more of a puzzle game than a tactical one, despite my original designs and motivations. The 'enemy' is a fungal that spreads across the map from hives and the edges of it's domain, which means that it's 'attack' is fairly unsurprising and you don't need to react in most scenarios, given that you've planned properly - with the exception of more advanced management of power toggling your buildings. This means that for the most part the 'challenge' is finding how to lay out your buildings in a way that they don't get overwhelmed and can make the most efficient progress.
The enemy types then help to cement this idea of careful placement over all else; the rapidly growing clusters will quickly reclaim ground where any mistakes leave an opening in your lines, long-range spores will cause issues behind you if you don't have the ground appropriately covered, clusters will punish you for leaving a flank exposed by launching attacks that can quickly pick off nearby solar panels (The core resource generator in the game). I'm very happy with how these 'enemies' worked out to play against as I didn't design them to 'do' anything strategy-wise except provide a new set of challenges and the level design allowed me to capitalise on where those mechanics were the most interesting. The reason this makes me happy, rather than simply having designed a good mechanic, is that I often see people theory-craft new concepts and roles far too extensively, thinking about how each little scenario plays out. Not to say this is purely wrong, I theory craft all of my designs to some extent, it's important to think about *why* you're adding something to the game, but people often get caught up in details that don't matter or mechanics end up interacting in ways they don't expect.
The turrets and terrain are where the puzzle elements of the game really start to show through though. The game starts the player off with a basic Flamethrower (Short range but quickly clears any nearby tiles) which serves the player well until they meet water tiles. Water tiles cannot be built on and Flamethrowers are too short range to shoot across them, so the tutorial quickly offers a new solution - the longer range AntimatterBioCannon (ABC for short). The second level allows quick-thinking players to take advantage of the longer range to tackle the level much more efficiently, but the Flamethrower still has it's strengths available here. The third level really pushes home the play between the two buildings available to the player, some parts of the level are simply inaccessible to the player without grasping that ABCs can get you over gaps and Flamethrowers can quickly clear a 'landing' area.
My favourite mechanic by far actually crops up a little later into the game (Level 7, the first map on the third planet) which is the Dehydrator. This building has absolutely no combat functionality and drains energy alarmingly fast, but offers a solution to a problem posed from here on out - two or more water tiles are between you and the next island of dry land. ABCs can't shoot that far, but Dedhydrators can turn water tiles into dirt, allowing for buildings to be placed in range of the tiles you want to shoot. But by doing this, you create even more terrain for you to defend (A dehydrated tile is often quickly met with an incoming barrage of spores trying to infest it!).
The game also features a simple set of achievements for each level (Lose no buildings, use less than X resources, use less than Y buildings) which helps reinforce to the player the goals needed for playing the game well as well as provide a nice set of shiny gold medals for those who like to hunt down 100% completion of a game. They also unlock extra bonuses for the player if they get all the medals on a planet.
Categories: Autumn 2016