Sep/11

9

Agent Henrik

Slingshot Prototype – Postmortem

We’ve prototyped a lot of games over the last few months, some of them were made and discarded within 2-3 days, others had a much longer development process and Slingshot was one of those games. Since I previously posted a concept video of the game here on our blog I thought I do a Postmortem on the project.

Slingshot was based on the idea that we could make a game by focusing completely on player input. The idea was to build the foundation by designing something that feels good to play, where the motions make sense and are designed for a touch device from day one.

At the time I had been looking at game such as Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope, Flight Control and Tiny Wings; all games with fantastic and quite revolutionary input mechanics for gaming on a mobile touchscreen device. Besides that, there were also endless amounts of evidence that porting the old and familiar gaming controls to the touch screen had with few exceptions all been ill-fated.

The concept video I showed in the previous post got the Voxel team excited, and after a few short days we had a playable prototype. This first version was a puzzle game set on a bulletin board with an elastic string wound around pins. The player had to remove the pins in the correct order so the elastic string did not overlap with the sharp razors that would cut the string and end the game.

Slingshot stood out against our other concepts because it was satisfying to solve. It was fun to release the pins that held the elastic rope and watch the cause and effect. The puzzles worked quite nicely and proved a fun challenge to our play-testers.

However the early iteration of Slingshot had problems: The game board was difficult to analyse and mixing “sequence puzzles” with the addition of “angle projection” became too overwhelming for many player. As it turns out predicting a projectile’s angle on any analogue angle (i.e. anything other than 45 or 90) is almost impossible to pick up. Because noticing the discrete angles is hard, the puzzles were also difficult to produce, and that’s usually not a good indicator.

Instead of lingering in a “puzzle mode” we moved the game towards a more fast paced “arcade mode”. So we went ahead and removed the depth in the puzzle elements, made it more about analyzing the game-field quickly on a snap decision. Tian also had some time to make work on more interesting art concepts:

This updated version of Slingshot contained a sequence of levels designed to introduce new players to the game with minimal instructions needed. This version we’ve made available for you to play here on our blog.

Playable version

(Hit R to restart a level)

The game should then hopefully explain itself pretty well. But just in case, here are some notes:

  • Clear a level by releasing the pins so the rope does not overlap or pass over any mines
  • You remove a pin by clicking on it.
  • If you release a pin and the rope hits a red ball, the red ball becomes a projectile.
  • If a projectile hit a mine, the mine is removed from the game-board.

With the feedback we got from this version we continued to iterate and develop a “Time Attack” version. In this new version slingshot began to look much more like a full-fledged arcade game.

[playableArcade.swf] (COMING SOON!)

Keep in mind that this was a rushed prototype and this is where we decided to drop the game, so the game has quite a few bugs, but regardless it’s still fully playable. I recommend you play through the version without a timer first. If you can rank a score above 20 that’s quite impressive and if you can get close to 30 that’s really impressive!

In the end Slingshot was a satisfying game to play but when compared to our other prototypes the base gameplay did not feel as strong and secure, so we had to let it go. In the end we learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed working on it. Today we have learnt even more about transforming puzzle mechanics into arcade gameplay and I hope we can make a longer post about it at a later stage.

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2 Comments for Slingshot Prototype – Postmortem

Logan | September 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Thanks for the insight. The idea I think is really cool, especially with the frogs, but I understand your need to move on.

Cam Rogers | September 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

An interesting read. Great to see how throughly you think through a particular concept.

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