I first started SPACE COLORS as part of the Space Cowboy Game Jam three-four weeks ago. Since then, I've been working on the game every free moment I have outside of work in order to expand the game into a proper game that I could release on the iOS App Store at the end of July/early August. The final game that I submitted for the SCGJ is still up and playable on the excellent itch.io over on the SPACE COLORS page. That build is now pretty outlandishly out of date, but the core principles of the game remain roughly the same. Somehow, amongst all of the supremely excellent submissions to the Space Cowboy Game Jam, SPACE COLORS got #3 for Shootouts, #7 for Visuals, and #10 Overall.
If you play the build on the itch.io page, you can pretty instantly tell that my goal was to make this game a mobile game from the get-go given the resolution/aspect ratio of the web player, but the controls are very PC-centric. Even in the current codebase, I have to maintain two separate input paths: one for PC (testing) and one for mobile (actual testing). While testing the Jam entry, I would frequently distribute Testflight builds for people to test on mobile as well as constantly updating the version on the itch.io site for anyone else to test whenever the mood struck them. The impressions, overall, were very positive, so I wanted to keep the game going. I established a few design/development tenets to guide my development process:
So, I started by making a simple galaxy. Each galaxy consists of 6-10 systems and each system has any number of planets, with each planet being a "level."
Each planet is a level, with the intention being that players progress from planet to planet, each planet consisting of a single mission that the player has to complete. I had a couple of missions for the Jam build of the game, but I ended up with really basic mission templates to flesh out the full game:
None of these mission types are particularly involved, and that's my favorite part of their integration into the game: each mission just gives you a goal for a level. It's a goal and nothing more. You get some extra experience and you can progress throughout the galaxy for completing these missions, but their real intent is to just get you out into the level and battling increasingly difficult and increasingly more complex combinations of enemies/enemy buildings. So, say you were to tap Scott I, the first planet in the pictured Scott system. You'd be taken to a zoomed-up view of the planet with some color text and basic information, as well as have access to the shop:
And if you click the Shop, you'll see a little pop-up that looks something (but not entirely, since it's still a bit of a work-in-progress) like this:
That's really all there is to the "metagame." Just traveling from planet-to-planet and system-to-system and occasionally earning enough credits to purchase long-term power-ups. It's nothing particularly complicated, but that's exactly what I wanted. It has nothing to do with any kind of thinking that mobile gamers need a streamlined game, either, I just think SPACE COLORS is a simple game with the goal of blowing things up, getting blown up, and repeating. That's the player experience I want each player to have, and the less I get in the way of that, the better the game will be.
The biggest challenge was figuring out a good one-handed control scheme for mobile devices. I chose portrait mode by default (though the game supports landscape and game controllers) because I'm personally a huge fan of games that I can play easily in one hand using just my thumb or a single finger. And mobile games tend to be very bad at doing this. Every game tries to emulate the experience you'd have if you were using a controller but, thing is, most of your players aren't going to have controllers. So games resort to virtual joysticks and buttons and all of that nonsense. That's silly, I think. That's not to say that designing a good, responsive interface for controlling your spaceship in SPACE COLORS was easy, of course. I went through about a dozen possible options, and I settled on one primary control scheme: tapping does everything.
And, really, I think that's all it takes. I can play the game on my phone in the way that I want with a surprisingly degree of movement/aiming fidelity. And I can do it with one hand! My dream has been realized.
Then, of course, there are the explosions. I would be remiss to include those in this post, so instead of static screen shots, I made a video.
SPACE COLORS will be launching in about a month or so at the low, low price of $0.99. I'll probably post about it again then, but in the mean time, I hope you dig the game and some of the details about its creation.