Monthly Archives: December 2013

Published Game!

1470289_564199813661742_929255943_n

Tesla’s Touch has been published!  Check it out on the Windows 8 app store here:

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/37cb612d-4f6a-4a02-b296-9b6ad0a69561

The team was able to put together a publishable game in 4 weeks!

But even though it was publishable, there are definitely some things that need to be improved.  But as we learned throughout this prototype, the point of an app is not to be perfect at the beginning, but to work toward that perfection over time using updates.  All you need at first is a game fun enough for people to keep it on their phone long enough to make it to the next update.  We definitely have that.  Some things that we will put in future updates are multi-touch capabilities.  I think I explained this in an earlier post, but I’ll restate for ease of reading.  The multi-touch feature was intended to make the game into a game of finger twister.  Instead of creating a node that stays where you put it, you have to continually hold your finger on the touch surface in order to keep the node there.  In our tests we found that this feature not only makes the game far more challenging, but far more fun as well.  We are excited to include it in future updates.  Also, I know most people don’t have a Windows 8.1 computer or tablet or phone, so we are also planning builds for iOS and Android to maximize our potential audience base.  And of course we have many more objects to include in the game and more levels to keep the customer playing as long as possible.  Let us know if you have any other suggestions on how we can improve the game for future builds.

Electricity and Sound Design

One thing I forgot to mention last week.  I made a paper version of the game that shows it to have some great potential for fun on a touch device.  Especially one big enough to fit all the player’s fingers.  As a team, we played with the paper game for a while, designing the first several levels together and solidifying exactly what the vision of the game was.  This was a very important step for the group to make.  With this new unified vision of the game, we were able to focus our efforts and move forward with a game that we were all on board with.  The engineers put together an amazing playable version of the game for a special guest from Microsoft, Tobiah Marks.  He is the designer behind a game that gave Angry Birds a run for its money for a while, “Blast Monkeys.”  On Tuesday we had the chance to show him our prototype in its current condition and he seemed impressed.  He only had good things to say about the idea and the progress we have made so far.  That gave us the drive as a group to finish a good chunk of the game this week.  Along with a working prototype, we now have 5 levels designed and implemented, the art assets are almost done, and the sound and music are finished (but not yet implemented).

I loved creating the sound design and music for this game.  The theme we chose (Teslapunk for those of you who don’t remember) is fertile ground for some creative sound design and composition.  Real electricity has a decently narrow range of sounds that it makes.  Crackles, zaps, pops, and buzzes start to sound very similar after listening to hundreds of them.  But as it turns out, the audience doesn’t much care about reality when it comes to electrical sounds, giving me the freedom to do all sorts of sounds that feel electrical, but aren’t actually anything like what electricity actually sounds like.  For example, electric motors are generally almost silent when working.  I couldn’t use any gas motor sounds because they sound too much like what they are.  So I found a great feedback pulse that I made on a Doepfer modular synthesizer and looped it with some sweeteners to make the sound.  It’s a great mellow sounding motor that doesn’t get in the way of the music or the rest of the sound design, but gives the motor the right kind of presence to be effective when running.  Actually, it kind of reminds me of an electric cat purring.

 

As for the music, I wanted to capture the electrical elements of the sound design along with the industrial feel of the visuals.  Since the synths worked so well for the sound design, I used them a lot to create a fuzzy electrical sound that was still musical.  For the rhythm, I used a sound effects to emphasize the metal and industrial look of the game.  With the sounds I created a rhythm that was designed to draw you in but not be so repetitive that you get sick of it after a while.  I also used a zap sound from a Jacob’s ladder to create the rhythm as well to emphasize the electricity a little more.

Tesla’s Touch

Goal_lit

We finally thought of a name for the game.  This wasn’t as important in other projects because the goal was to get a viable prototype to find the fun for future iterations.  Our goal this time is to publish the game.  So we needed to nail down a name as soon as possible in order to prepare marketing materials and hopefully get a few downloads before Christmas.  The website isn’t up yet, but we did reserve the domain name teslastouch.com for when the website is finished.

The theme for our game is based on the Teslapunk style.  For those of you not familiar with Teslapunk, it’s like steampunk, but instead of everything in the world running on steam, it runs on electricity and the visual style is based on the inventions of Tesla instead of trains and steam powered cars.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with steampunk…well…you should be familiar with steampunk.  So, working from that point we were able to put together some tools and obstacles to help and hinder the player in their goal of guiding the arc of electricity from one side of the screen to the other.  We tried to keep the objects grounded in the culture of electricity, using things that were invented before the 1900’s.  We can then make modern versions of these objects in the Teslapunk style.  Here is a list of the objects we thought of with a brief description of each one.

1. Leyden Jar — It was the predecessor to the capacitor.  It can store a charge to be released at another time.

2. Electric Motor — The electric motor can use a chain system to move platforms and obstacles in the game.  Won’t work without electricity (obvious, I know, but I thought I’d mention it anyway).

3. Electromagnet — When powered, it can pull things to it from a distance.  It can be used with the Inductor to perform tasks across a distance.

4.  Inductor — Imagine one coil of wire on one side of the screen and another on the other side of the screen connected by 2 wires.  When a magnet is passed over the coils on one side, it moves magnetically charged items (like a compass) on the other side.  This could be used to flip switches or something else that I haven’t thought of.  Also, if the wires are somehow cut, the connection would need to be re-established for the inductor to work.

5.  Cement Block or Faraday Cage — These would block the arcs of electricity so you would have to either go around or move these objects to make it to the goal.  They can be moved using the electric motor with chains and gears across the screen.  For those who don’t know, a Faraday Cage is explained here.

6. Jacob’s Ladder — I’m not sure how useful this would be, but it is pretty iconic.

 

Final Prototype

This week we had a special visitor from Microsoft.  He told us all about how easy it was to publish a game to the Windows App Store and gave us all the details about how to do it.  Guess what we’re doing for this prototype.  We are going to make a published prototype.  This assignment goes somewhat into the culture of apps versus the traditional AAA model of game making.  In the app world, it is expected that a company release a game and then continually improve and add features to that game over time through updates.  So while we need to have an essentially finished game by the end of this 4 weeks, we also don’t need to add all the features to the game that we want to include yet.  That can wait for some of the updates.

So after meeting our new team we were tasked with trying to figure out an interesting, marketable game that is also simple enough to finish in 4 weeks.  Our engineer, Mark, came up with a game that would work most effectively on a tablet, but could also work very well on anything with a touch screen which includes phones and some laptops as well.  That may be limiting our audience somewhat, but we wanted to design for touch in order to learn from it.  As a student, marketing is not our only concern.  His idea was to have a starting point on one side of the screen and a goal on the other side of the screen.  I know it’s pretty complex so far, so pay attention.  The player would then use her fingers to guide arcs of electricity from one side of the screen to the other.  The arcs would obviously have a limited range so she would need to use multiple fingers to span the distance.  There can also be objects in the way like a cement wall that you would need to lift with one finger and then guide the arc underneath the wall with your other fingers.  We’re hoping to have several fingers on the screen at once.  One might say this game is comparable to Twister with fingers instead of whole bodies.  We think that would add some great challenges to the game.

As for the new team, I’m very excited to work with them.  I’ve heard only great things about all of them and I’m sure that this idea can become an excellent game that is easily within scope for such talented people.