In which lack of inspiration led to the same situation as week 4, except the resulting game didn't suck this time...

 

Doodle Platforms

 

Doodle Platforms is essentially the reversal of Doodle Jump. This time, instead of maneuvering the character to reach platforms you place platforms in order to keep the character alive.

Click here to play Doodle Platforms

  

 

The Good

Unlike week 4 which ended up with an amateur-hour mess, I kind of like the result of this one. I don't know why I was thinking about Doodle Jump, but for whatever reason I just thought it would be neat to explore the idea of placing the platforms rather than moving the doodle guy. In fact right up until Sunday at 22:00 I was using the Doodle Jump character and background as placeholders.

It became apparent within minutes that the platforms would have to push the character left or right, hence the angled platforms. I experimented with different platform angles, but discovered that the higher the angle approached 90, the more likely it was to fling the character straight across, leading to an almost instant death. No fun. So the platforms are at 15, and 30 degrees, which struck a pretty good balance between moving the character upward, and still moving across. I put in a queue of the next 3 pieces, which was directly stolen by Tetris. I also debated letting the players place more than 1 platform at a time. There are pros and cons to both approaches but I ultimately decided to allow 2 platforms at once. If you can only make a single platform there is no way to recover from the tiniest mistake which had a huge negative impact on the game.

A mechanic emerged that I hadn't even intended. Basically, the lower the player creates the platform, the higher the smiley guy launches upward. Since upward is how you get a higher score, it's to your advantage to place platforms as low as possible, which is harder to judge the proper placement. This of course necessitated putting in a high score.

The spikes were placed almost as an afterthought, but were necessary so that there was some gameplay variety. The game loads backgrounds pieces in chunks, (since there is so much horizontal movement a single upward background won't cut it), so I made each background chunk randomly place spikes, with the formula score / 50 + 1, so that as the player's score increases, the spikes also increase. I obviously didn't do exhaustive game balance testing, but it seemed to have a decent curve for short-term play.

This game prototype turned out well, and like with last week's Gridiron, I'd like to return to this game again and shiny it up. Releasing on mobile would be ideal, since I had pretty much designed it with mobile in mind.

The Bad

Just like with the previous 2 weeks, I started late, giving myself only the weekend. I should change this whole thing to 'Game each Weekend' and be done with it.

Actually the toughest system to implement was the constant background. Having a single piece tracking the camera didn't work because it moved relative to the player, making it look like the player was completely static. A skybox had the same problem. Instead the backgrounds spawn more backgrounds outward as the player climbs, which technically gets the job done, but there is no optimization whatsoever on this front. The first background piece will still be in the world no matter how many additional pieces spawn.

The scoring system is technically incomplete. The in game scoring tracks the upward height and platforms spawned (so two identically high scores can be tie-broken by fewest platforms used), but the high score only records height, not platforms. This would be the first thing I'd address if I am ever to return to this game.

Also the title "Doodle Platforms" is horrendous.

The Lesson

I've been really shirking on this 'Thing A Week' exercise. For almost a month now I've put off all work until the weekend. While it's cool I can get a game out in less time than a standard game jam, I think this is a worrying sign that this might crash and burn soon, so I probably need to institute a work regimen where I work X minutes a day or something, to keep from burning out like last time I did a game a week. At least I'm done with week 6, so I'm further than before!