Dev Diary #25 – Health and Wealth

Note: Pictures from our launch party last weekend are now online.
Also, our Pai Gow Poker is now in the App Store!

Unfortunately, some bugs were introduced in the iPhone version update of Office Attacks (C’est la vie), but we’re working on them, and adding some holiday cheer to the game. A few new features will also make it in, but I wanted to talk about some design decisions first.

Adam Vian's neat health/mana bar concept.  Click for animated version.

Adam Vian’s neat health/mana bar concept.
Click for animated version.

tim25-001Like many other tower defence games, we wanted to show the current health of the enemies. A standard “health bar” seemed very cliche, so I tried to think of something that wouldn’t be as obtrusive. After doing some research (read: Google image search) into health bars, I found an awesome concept by Adam Vian that you can see to the right. It looks cool, but isn’t appropriate for our game.

I stared at the enemies and thought about where we could display this information. After noticing that they all have a semitransparent oval shadow, I thought maybe we could display it there. So I made a green oval the same size as the shadow and placed it underneath, since it also had to go below the feet and legs. Then as the enemies take damage, the oval shrinks and changes colour in the standard green-yellow-red fashion. Some might find it a bit subtle, but I think it’s neat.

Aaaaaah which badge goes with which tower?

Aaaaaah which badge goes with which tower?

tim25-003Another item state that we wanted to show is the tower upgrade level. Again, like other tower defence games, you can spend coins to increase your tower’s stats, but since our towers are so customizable, we can’t easily do some of the visual improvements that other games do for this feature.

At first we had an “upgrade badge”, which can still be seen in the tower upgrade screen. We placed it to the upper left of the tower, so as not to obscure it, but it was difficult to see which badge went with which tower. When Steve originally created our OATowerViews, he placed a semitransparent square below the tower. I wasn’t sure what this was for, but it turned out to be useful, since I started changing its colour to show the tower’s upgrade level.

tim25-004I was reading an article called Mastering Free2Play: The Titanic Effect by Ramin Shokrizade recently. Since technology now allows for payment in the middle of an experience, such as via in-app purchases, he proposes the scenario of asking the audience for money during the emotional moments near the end of Titanic. He talks about Distressed Monetization, where games put the player into distress, then offer to sell relief. Admittedly we have something like this, with the pay-to-skip tower building time, but I wanted to add something along the lines of his next point.

tim25-005He also talked about Elated Monetization, where you basically make the player happy, then “pass the hat”. In the case of a movie, the viewer is happy at the end, but since it’s over, some may feel no incentive to pay. Given our design, however, we could put it in between levels, but which levels? After thinking about it, I decided to do it after the first time the player beats a level with a new enemy. (interns not included) In that case, the player’s happy about beating the level, but also about seeing something new. Also, rather than only driving people to the store, I made it so that an hour-long sale begins, for added incentive.

Another minor change I made this week was to the character bios screen. I figured that since I already have a shader that turns every pixel black, I could show silhouettes for characters you haven’t encountered instead of a question mark.


Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to the board game Castle Panic. The “Drive Him Back!” card is what inspired the “Paper Portal” power in Office Attacks. You can see Wil Wheaton and friends play Castle Panic in TableTop. (DHB card is at around 14:30)

tim25-008Link of the week: The Trenches – This webcomic about game testers has been running for a couple of years now, but I think I prefer the “Tales From the Trenches” — reader-submitted stories about QA departments. (scroll down)

Git commit message of the week: “Fixed number of starting workshop slots.

Chat message of the week: “An Office Attacks purchase has just gone through!” (Steve made it so this notification is posted to our chat. It’s neat)

Glitch of the week: Wow. After selling a tower, you could click on the empty space, then sell it again. D’oh!