BIS Weekly April 17th

So many placeholders...

So many placeholders…

As I mentioned last week, this week was all about adding the Block Inventory feature.

This turned out fairly straightforward, albeit a bit tedious. Mostly this was because when I built the way blocks are handled/spawned/scored in the first place, I wasn’t intending there to be an arbitrary number of unique blocks. So I had to refactor a fair bit of code to create a way to hook it up to the player’s new inventory.

The UI/panels didn’t cause me much pain this week, which is a good sign. They’re still kind of ugly, using the same old boundary artwork as everywhere else, but it’s a start.

I did have some trouble with gesture controls, though. Normally it’s pretty easy to set up a chunk of content to scroll using Unity’s ScrollRect component, as I have in the shop menu. This time I had two large-ish problems:

  1. Scrolling doesn’t naturally snap to units. With “full-screen” horizontal scrolling (one block visible at a time), it really needs to snap appropriately. This is a bit involved, and I’ve delayed it for a future sprint.
  2. My block rendering prefab is not a UI element, but an in-world SpriteRenderer element. I did this for various reasons that may no longer apply, but it remains nevertheless. The problem with this is that SpriteRenderers are not affected by normal masking, so as you swipe left/right, you see the blocks just sort of scooting into the screen without the panels behind them. There are ways to fix this, but again, a tiny bit too involved to fit in this sprint.

Since the scrolling didn’t work out, I added a couple of left/right buttons that provide the functionality for now. Like other parts of the UI that don’t show any sort of visual movement/tweening, this feels a bit too abrupt, but it will have to do for now.

All in all I’m pretty happy with this new chunk of gameplay, though it will need more support elsewhere in the game before it feels particularly meaningful.

Next up: “Pips” and Coloration

As preparation for mechanics planned for future sprints, I’ve decided to shift how planets in mining mode generate and render tiles. Currently, they’re a somewhat 2D-Minecraft-esque approximation of actual planetary soil, minerals, etc.

The change will be to partially remove the concept of real-world materials from the mining gameplay. You’ll still find gold in them thar hills, but now it’ll appear in any given generated tile as a small gold-colored circle, what I’m calling a ‘pip’. This dissociation between the material found in the tile and the color of the tile allows for future strategic gameplay around coloration.

This will also provide additional differentiation between planets – you’ll be able to tell from the starmap what sort of coloration a planet is likely to have, and eventually, tailor the set of blocks you bring with you to increase your effectiveness on that planet.

Posted in BAWD, Developer Blog Posts, Games, News

BIS Weekly April 10th

Sorting still a bit screwy

Sorting still a bit screwy

xxBlazeGuy420xx is a fine name - what could go wrong?

xxBlazeGuy420xx is a fine name – what could go wrong?

Switching these weekly posts to Sunday, rather than try to squeeze them in when I’m trying to close out the sprint on Saturday.

So this week marks a new milestone, one I’ve been looking forward to for quite awhile:

The BIS MVP is done!

Which means what? Well, “minimum viable product” (MVP) means different things to different folks, depending on what it is that’s being developed. In this case, the ‘folk’ is me, an indie game developer working towards shipping his first product.

For that guy, the single most important thing is to have a game that is on my phone and playable. This serves two purposes:

  1. I can start the critical process of gathering feedback from people around me, and
  2. It serves as tangible proof of progress

The first is self-explanatory. The second is a consequence of how I’m building this: as a side-project while I work a full-time job. Significant sacrifices are being made each week to move this project forward, and I need to feel I have something to show for it.

Finalizing what I’ve been calling “the phone demo” meant spending most of this week working on cleaning up the UI for phone use. I think I’ve finally got a handle on how to build a proper resolution-agnostic app in Unity, so yay for that.

It also meant fixing some critical bugs and adding a few important “I’m a real game!” UX/quality of life aspects. I’ll just bullet list these:

  • You can enter a name for your character.
  • You can change the active character without forcing the game to close.
  • You now earn a little bit of money for clearing your own blocks, a sort of “recycling” bonus.
  • When exiting mining mode, you now get a more complete list of results, including “grassy dirt” and your own blocks.

I decided towards the end of the sprint that finishing the tutorial is really not that critical, just yet. The game right now is fairly straightforward, except for how multi-clear leaves blocks behind. I expect that will become more intuitive with additional visual cues.

OK, enough about last week. What does the future hold?

This week, I’ll be spending a fair bit of time nailing down which high-impact, high-fun features I want to get in place for the F&FA (Friends and Family Alpha). I have two main goals, here:

  1. Try to capture the first real “spark of fun”, and
  2. Start getting some feedback on whether I’m on the right path

New Feature: Block Inventory
“Spark of Fun” work this week will primarily be the “block inventory”.

Right now, each round, you get a random piece from a list of 1- to 7-square blocks. I will replace this with something similar to deck building in a CCG.

The high-level explanation is roughly as so: You start with a set of blocks in your inventory. While on your ship, you create/customize a set of blocks. Then while mining, each round your next block is selected from that set. Each block has its own traits, for now Color and Power. You can tweak the frequencies of each block a little bit (the big 7-square ‘U’ shape is brutal), but for the most part you have to make do with what luck hands you.

As you play, you can acquire new blocks, using them to change your set of blocks, and make gameplay fit your style more.

For the time being, there’s little reason to use the larger blocks – they’re mostly a pain in the ass, a hurdle to overcome. In a later sprint, I hope to introduce some sweeping changes to the core gameplay that will give the large, opinionated blocks a place in some players’ arsenal.

Posted in BAWD, Developer Blog Posts, Games, News