Mech Dance has been out for a while now, (Not that it’s been breaking download records.) But I thought it would be a good idea to lay out what the process of making this was and how I want to return to the dancing mech fields in the future.
This was the first project I made using Scirra’s Construct 2. My campus was visited by Microsoft to do a workshop on how to make game apps for the Windows 8 store, they taught us on how to make really simple games that would pass the requirements for getting on the store. (Basically it needed to have value of some sort – this would fall under entertainment – and have touch controls. I’ll get to those in a minute…) I ended up creating this trying to come up with an idea for a game that had multiple endings.
The game is basically a tech demo. I was more concerned with getting a app onto the store than making a fun game. All the player is able to do is move around the map, click on the grey mechs to start attacking and most likely die quickly. It is possible to win with this method, but the game suggests there is a better way – the “bad” ending. Clicking on the player mech makes the player start dancing. Dancing causes the grey mechs to stop attacking if the player attacked them, and after a couple dances all the mechs will dance and you’ll get the “good” game over screen.
Beyond that idea, the focus was on making a functioning app. Since this was for a two-day workshop, I didn’t really have time to put together anything fancier than this. My original plan was to have a sort of rhythm-based shooter where the player would shoot music at the mechs, and make it a simple multidirectional shooter game. The problem with that was accomplishing this would require more development in a program I was still learning to use, I stuck with the low-cost idea to save time and get something out by the end of the workshop. (Didn’t end up happening, because of the touch requirements, still to come…)
Problems with development ranged from getting the music to work properly to making animations play when they were supposed to. (Music still doesn’t work right in some versions of the game, but not really good ways to fix it.) Most of these were easily fixed, just simple errors in the programming. One choice I ended up making to save time was to have the laser be automated instead of user-controlled. Earlier versions had the player use the keyboard to shoot lasers at the enemies. That proved to take more time than needed, plus it made the game a lot harder than needed. I still wanted the player to be able to see the bad ending even if it was difficult to do so. Making a simple 1-click attack made the gameplay easier since the skill now was where to move instead of aiming.
One of the more infuriating requirements of publishing to Windows 8 App store is having touch controls for your app. (Meaning that a user with a surface tablet would be able to use a touchscreen instead of a mouse and keyboard.) In Construct, you can set up clicking and touching to be the same thing. Its really handy in some instances, but for Mech Dance it ended up delaying the launch of the game by a week because I didn’t implement any movement control for touch. The screenshot above doesn’t show it, but I ended up adding huge button controls that the player could tap to get the mech moving. It took a while to get that working, and I think a couple submissions to the store before I sorted it out.
My problem with a touch requirement is that it forced me to add more UI controls than I wanted. The image above shows how the screen looks clean- there is a mute button and a health bar – I added the elements that I thought were the only ones necessary. Putting touch UI in didn’t wreck my design, but it did put a limitation on it for such a small project. I would be more confortable if I was building something to put specifically on the store, this project was just an exercise that wasn’t built with touch in mind.
So what is going to happen with Mech Dance in the future? I don’t think that I’m going to expand or improve this specific game. if I was going to put in actual levels or some such things, I would probably scrap most of what I have here anyway. I think if anything is going to happen, Mech Dance 5 would be the result. I think the concept can be improved upon to make into a full game, but I’d have to take some time to develop it.
What I learned with this project:
- How Construct 2 is a really good program for making games and prototypes without any programming. (I probably will have a post talking about why I like it, but you can see for yourself and download the free version here.)
- Windows 8 Store is still developing, and might need some time to work the kinks out before developing for it proper. (I only got 44 downloads with this anyway, doesn’t seem like I can build a fanbase there.)
- Touchscreens are a pain in the ass to design for.
As a super bonus, I’ve ported Mech Dance 4 to the internet! Let me know if you found anything wrong or broken with it, but now you get to experience it without switching to a new operation system! Cool!