August is over: time for show & tell

It’s September already, so it’s time to pony up and show you what I’ve been working on. To be frank, this month’s game, Colorfull, hasn’t turned out as pretty as Petunk. The biggest culprit by far was Starcraft 2. That game is great. (P.S. send me an invite if you want to play, I’m on the US servers as Asterix.) At any rate, I am happy to say that Matthias and I accomplished our main goals. Now we have to decide whether to let the game die or put more time into it. At any rate, let’s have a quick post-mortem to review the month. At the end I’ll even link you to a Silverlight version of the game I cooked up!

What went well

The game architecture
One of the main goals of this project was try to alternative design patterns. Instead of going with a hierarchy of GameObject’s we used a component model. In this model each object in the game was merely an Entity filled with different Components. This and other decisions in the design allowed us to more easily test the game and eventually port it to the desktop and web with only a few changes.
Unit testing
While we failed to practice TDD — which is mostly my fault — we did manage to write a fair amount of tests. By using a component model we were able to easily test each component in isolation. In addition, when it came time to test larger pieces of the system we could oftentimes omit non-essential components, say the rendering component. Overall, I think we learned a fair amount about UI testing. I might conclude that the goal for game engine is to make the view as thin and simple as possible so that even if it goes untested it’s relatively less risky.
Making a game with C# and XNA
This was our first full game with XNA so in addition to testing out design and gameplay ideas we wanted to put the platform through the paces. Now that the game is done I think I have a much better sense for the pros and cons of working in XNA. I really like the language — it’s a big improvement from Flash — and XNA is a great framework, but it’s not without it’s warts either. Too often the developer is left to implement libraries that we take for granted in Flash or Java.

What went poorly

Time management
Honestly, I didn’t work enough this month. The problem really boils down to one thing: on July 27th Starcraft 2 came out. This game could have turned out a lot better. If I had put more time into the project I think some of the game’s faults would have been fixed.
Levels/Features
To be completely frank, the game is missing some important elements. There’s no real end, you just beat the last level and nothing happens. In fact there’s really not enough rewards in place at all. There’s also no sound effects. For a game like this that’s not so bad, but, going back to rewarding the player, it would be nice to have some chimes or something to encourage you to continue. And lastly, there just aren’t enough levels or variety among levels. We have great ideas on how to extend the gameplay but we haven’t implemented most of them.
The art style
I think the game is quite ugly. Unlike with Petunk, I couldn’t come up with a clever way to get around my non-existent art skills. As such the game is sporting obvious programmer art. If we do spend more time on this game we will have to hire an artist to help make things shine.

Final thoughts

So in conclusion, I made a half game this month. It didn’t turn out quite like I wanted but I did learn a lot of important things. Hopefully over the next couple weeks I can find some time to write some of what I learned down. Like, you can target the Windows Phone, Xbox, Windows, and Web with the same code base incredibly easily, or that Kongregate and Newgrounds don’t seem to support Silverlight. For now, I think I’ll go play one more match of Starcraft :-)

Oh, and please try the Silverlight version of Colorfull and let me know what you think.

Comments

5 Responses to “August is over: time for show & tell”
  1. Gornova81 says:

    Starcraft 2 :D really good game, but divide into three parts is a bad choice for me, wait too much to follow story :P (I don’t have time to play online :( )

    For petunk, is released somewhere ? I’ve found it only on Flash License :D I like art style, music, but I’m interested in component framework and TTD on it, can you provide more details about it ?

  2. Hey Gornova, thanks for your feedback on Petunk. Yes, right now it’s up on Flash Game License. Soon I’ll be taking it down and posting it here and in a few other places. As for game architecture and best practices I’m planning on writing some posts on each subject soon. I hope you’ll check back when they’re up.

  3. Gornova81 says:

    do you plan to add these experience on http://updownleftleft.com/wiki/ ?

  4. That’s a good idea. I certainly think my post on the component design pattern would be a good fit.

  5. marcolinx says:

    Just tested out the silverlight version of Colorfull. I think it is a pretty cool game. It has the necessary puzzle aspect and I really dont think it looks bad. However, I think the real market for that game would be in the mobile market. Have you thought about porting it to android or iphone?

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