Capstone Game Postmortem: Scoundrel Squirrels
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Scoundrel Squirrels will initially be released as free to play, supported by interstitial ads.
Scoundrel Squirrels was developed using the Untiy 3D and MonoDevelop, using the C# programming language. Advertisements are provided by the Unity Ads API. Multiplayer and social features will be implemented with the Combu API. Artwork was created using Inkscape and GIMP. Audio files were created and edited using Audacity.
The intended audience for this game is casual game players who would enjoy quick adventures but enjoy the aspect of developing a character over time. This game would appeal to younger and older players who enjoy silly experiences. I would estimate that it would appeal particularly to girls and women, but not exclusively so. This game would have the most appeal for achievers and explorers, as described by Bartle (1996). I do not anticipate that this game would appeal to killers
Tim Bradrick: game, artwork, and many sound files.
Additional sound files were acquired from Internet download.
Scoundrel Squirrels is copyright Timothy J. Bradrick / FungiMuncher Interactive.
Bradrick, T. (2015). Scoundrel Squirrels [Android game]. Dublin, OH, USA: FungiMuncher Interactive.
You’re a squirrel. Be a scoundrel! Accept the challenge and dominate in your dapper derby!
In Scoundrel Squirrels, you role-play a daring squirrel adventurer. You can explore the world causing mayhem, taking on the challenge of wild adventures. When the chaos is done, relax to your tree-high home to enjoy your winnings and try out new outfits to show off in your next adventure.
I have always been an avid player of role playing games, both table-top and video games. However, I know the genre can be intimidating or overwhelming for many people. So I started wondering if a more casual take on it could be successful. Additionally, I wanted to explore something other than the typical science fiction/fantasy themes. The idea of using squirrels as a theme literally came to me when I was driving to work one day, and saw a squirrel crossing the street on a telephone wire. I thought was rather adventuresome, and my mind just started taking off from there.
The game as presented for the capstone requirements is a subset of the overall game I hope to further develop. The capstone game includes three primary features: dressing up your squirrel, exploring an area of the game world, and a race against the clock.
The dress-up features include being able to choose your squirrel model, its attributes and clothing it wears. There are fifteen unique articles of clothing, with some variations for attribute boosts. There is also a store and a prize box to get additional clothing. The exploration area includes random placement of objects and three different types of non-player characters. This area required the development of character controls, animations and sound effects. There is also a mini-game within the environment. The race area adds character jumping and climbing. A timer is implemented, as well as a set of awards based on one’s performance in the race. And of course, all of these features include a tutorial system to guide the player, and a means to save the squirrel for later play.
There were many features I had to trim back from the initial planning stages. I had several additional adventure area ideas, which need to be postponed until later. I also wanted to implement multiplayer functions, with the ability to message other players asynchronously. I had hoped this would help facilitate the players making wagers on competitive races. There are also many ideas for an in-app store which were not implemented. All of these are still hopes of mine to implement in the future.
The Critique: What went right…
For the most part, I liked much of the art that I created for the game. This is a personal interest of mine, and it’s reassuring that, given time, I can do a decent job. I especially like the fruit and doughnut objects in the game. Overall, I like the cartoon like feel of the game.
I am happy with many of the mechanics in the game. I like how the dress-up aspects developed, though there is certainly a lot of areas in which this could be expanded. In the adventure area, I like how the jumping and climbing perform, and how the player and non-player characters interact. Sometimes, there are some wild or silly results of all the actions, and this fits the theme of the game.
|Screenshot of a knocked out character|
I really enjoyed working in Unity. I found most of the development process to be very intuitive, and in some instances, rather elegant in how solutions can be implemented. I enjoyed the process of working in an agile framework, and the sub-division of tasks into sprints. These processes provided a quick response to evaluate progress, and the ability to change things early if needed. The early planning was also a great aide when things didn’t go as planned, which happened a few times. I was able to refer back to the plan, and evaluate what to do in the future based on my previously determined priorities.
Another aspect of the project management that I appreciated was the bug and feature database. This helped outline the various parts which needed work, and provided a convenient point of reference between myself and my instructors.
Early in the project, I know my development process was sloppy and haphazard. However, as I learned more about Untiy, and reacquainted myself with good programming techniques, things improved and became more elegant. Towards the end of the process, I was more easily able to create code which was more flexible and adaptive. This is most evident with the system I developed for presenting the tutorials. The same system is used for all of the scenes, and it is very easy to make changes.
The usability testing I performed throughout the project was invaluable. The players provided some very useful insights, and brought a variety of experiences when making suggestions. I consider this type of testing to be essential for my future efforts. The other players see or don’t see so many things differently than me. Related to this, another event that was very valuable at the very beginning of the project was the focus group. This provided some very interesting ideas to launch the project.
|An early character model from a user.|
I am planning the initial release of Scoundrel Squirrels to be free-to-play, supported by interstitial ads, and perhaps a very simple in-app store. For a first time effort, I believe it’s important to get something “out there” quickly, without sacrificing quality. This will begin the process of getting my name, company and efforts known to others. In the future, I am hoping to expand upon the game, including additional adventures, multiplayer features, and a more developed in-app store. I also hope to eventually release the game for iOS and Windows Phone.
The Critique: What went wrong…
Design & Aesthetics
Regarding the artwork, I know all of it is not where I want it to be. The main issue with this is the time available. For example, the bushes in the game are very detailed, while the leafy parts of the trees are extremely low in detail. I would like to bring both of these closer to the level of detail of the pieces that I do like.
As for the mechanics of the game, two big challenges were the climbing functions, and the character movement controls. With the climbing, getting the squirrel to transition from horizontal to vertical smoothly was very difficult. I now know that part of this was how I implemented the running and climbing animations – the figures are in different spots in the individual sprites. This was done simply due to my inexperience. In the future, I will know better. However the problem still exists – I simply created a work-around. Recreating all of the animations is going to be a lot of work.
The character controls for the basic squirrel movement has also been a challenge. I have tried many different solutions, and the work is still on-going. I’m hoping that I now have a good solution.
Finally, regarding the overall design, a big problem was trying to implement climbing and jumping in a 2-1/2D, isometric environment. When starting, I only had a vague idea how these would be accomplished. As I progressed, I was actually able to implement some solutions, but these would introduce new challenges. Ultimately, I had to reevaluate this planned feature. I finally separated these functions into two separate scenes. In the isometric area, there is no jumping or climbing. The other area is presented a simple 2D platformer, where one can climb and jump.
|An early mock up of the game|
The biggest problem with the project management has been the scope of the overall game. Again, I attribute this to my inexperience. There are so many neat ideas I want to include, but not previously having a solid concept of the time required, there was simply too much included. Time and again, I’ve had to pull back on the scope of the project. Towards the end, I simply got to the point of very deliberate decisions of what to include to meet the requirements of the degree program.
|Another early mock up, showing an undeveloped adventure|
The biggest problem with the development process has been my own inexperience. Especially early on, I was conducting a lot of research and experimentation when writing the code. Many times a solution would be discarded for another method. However, I feel that I have learned a great deal in this process, and my confidence has grown.
|An early plan showing several undeveloped features|
If there was any failing with the testing process, it was with my solution for controlling the squirrel character. It was still not acceptable after the faculty review of my game. When I conducted the usability tests, my players did express some frustrations. However, they were happier after the initial tweaks I implemented. I guess the lesson here is try to get some people experienced in the field to test one’s game.
|Screenshot showing the original character controls|
By simply releasing a ‘Lite” version of my game first, I am at risk of people not seeing the full potential for the game or my efforts. I am also risking not taking the game further, possibly allowing myself be distracted by other events in my life. I will need to remain diligent and have confidence with my efforts.
In summary, I am thrilled by what I learned producing this game. I have learned quite a bit about the technical process of writing an app, and the important aspects of making a fun game. Additionally, I learned the importance of planning the project, and developing a schedule for completing the various parts. These helped me stay on course when difficulties arose.
As an initial effort, I am pretty happy with the resulting game. It certainly lacks many features I originally wanted, but I have much more knowledge on how to accomplish such a big project. While the game has yet to have the multiplayer functions, and a wider variety of features (adventures, mini-games, clothing choices, and so on), I know how to implement these, and am excited about what can be produced later. I do indeed hope to publish this game, but I do want rework some of the artwork, implement some of the smaller features suggested by my instructors and users. I’m hoping that this will become a reality in about six months.
A high point of the project was when, about three months into the development cycle (of about five total months), I noticed that this thing I was diligently working on started to feel like an actual game. The parts of the game came together and I could finally see the fun features. I actually started to laugh at the quirky little events in the game.
Audacity Team (2015). Audacity [OS X program]. Open Source Software: Audacity Team. Retrieved from http://audacityteam.org/
Bartles, R. (1996, August 28). Richard A. Bartle: Players Who Suit MUDs. Retrieved from http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm
Bradrick, T. (2015). Scoundrel Squirrels [Android game]. Dublin, OH, USA: FungiMuncher Interactive.
GIMP Team (2015). GIMP [Windows program]. Open Source Software: GIMP Team. Retrieved from http://www.gimp.org/
Inkscape Team (2015). Inkscape [Windows program]. Open Source Software: Inkscape Team. Retrieved from https://inkscape.org/en/
Skared Creations. (2014, March 16). combü [Unity3D API]. Retrieved from http://skaredcreations.com/wp/products/combu/#sthash.pJB4xhxb.dpbs
Unity Technologies. (2014, November 13). Unity Ads [Unity3D API]. Retrieved from https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/21027