If you’ve read my last post you will know I’ve been working on using my Launchpad as a games controller. This post is going to be about how I’ve started creating a game to go with it. I’m using Unity and an xbox controller for the second player.
As soon as I’d got a character walking around a world that was changing due to interactions with the Launchpad I knew that should be the focus of the game. With two different game controllers interacting in different ways it became obvious too that the game should be a local two player experience. It terms of what that experience would be, I really like the idea that, while playing the same game, each player is getting a completely different experience. This is possible with the Launchpad as the Launchpad player can have a completely self contained experience of input and feedback based around the pads and lights of the Launchpad. While the controller player has a different input and feedback loop using the controller and screen. Paraphrased, I like to think of it as one person playing a board game while the other plays a video game.
But what is the game actually like? Well as usual, It simply grew out of an iterative process of changing things and seeing what works. As the controller player it was fun to try and stay on top of the blocks before they vanished, trying to jump from block to block without falling off. This lead to creating a sea like world, as seen above. The idea then is for the controller player to stay out of the water. At this point the game had no real objective for either player, other than survive for the controller player and get them in the water for the Launchpad player, so the first thing was too add was an objective for both. I thought the best and simplest goal was for the controller player to get from one corner of the grid to the other, while the other player tries to stop them. Thus turning the game into a head to head situation.
There were now two problems to focus on. One, increasing the engagement of the controller player. Two, deciding on the mechanics the Launchpad player has. Until now the blocks could either be placed or removed with a simple toggle on the Launchpad or, if the option was selected, by following the rules of the Game Of Life.
Both of these problems could be tackled in the same way. A system of rules deciding where blocks could be placed and removed was needed. The controller player can then place blocks down, if allowed by the chosen rules, to advance towards the goal and the Launchpad player can place and delete blocks to disrupt him. Deciding on these rules, however, has been tricky as each change affects the balance of the game.
I want the rules to be simple enough so you can start playing without thinking too hard but also have enough depth so that gameplay strategies can emerge. I’m also undecided as to whether these rules should be the same for both players. For now I’ve decided on the rules that blocks can be placed next to any existing block, by either player, but can only be deleted, by the Launchpad player, if they are in the middle of two other blocks or have no adjacent blocks. This gives the nice feature that the Launchpad player must add blocks in order to delete others which makes things more interesting for the controller player and opens up options.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at now. The next step is to get some people playing it to see what works and what doesn’t so I can tweak and improve the balance, gameplay speed, information feedback etc… Maybe at some point I should take it to London Indies!