Dearest reader,
Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is a small, private game developer founded in 2007. Our current game in development is Pig Eat Ball. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.

More game titles are on the right, from Serious Sam Double D XXL to our first, award-winning title Weapon of Choice. Enjoy!

Feel free to contact me if you need more game information!
Nathan

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

GDC and Arcade Expo 2015



The Louisville Arcade Expo will be March 6th-8th and will feature tons of classic arcade games and pinball machines! It's really a great show and well worth taking the whole family too. There's even lots of classic console games set up for play in different rooms around the convention.


Also we'll be there, showing off the new and improved changes to Pig Eat Ball! And we'll be debuting our secret, brand new mobile game at the show! 


What is this crazy, 4-player mess they're playing?

Get your tickets before the show for a good discount. Kids 10 and under are free with an adult!
http://www.arcaderx.com/


GDC 2015

I'll be at the Game Developers Conference next week for a few days, catching up with other developers, and listening to some talks. If you see me around and wanna chat, come up and say 'hi'!
I look something like this:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tampon Run is Good Art


Tampon Run is a game designed by two young women who met at a 'Girls Who Code' workshop. The game is good art because it challenges the player to reconsider a normally taboo topic, and because it reflects real events for the viewer to ponder anew.
The gameplay has players running and throwing tampons at people coming at them. The tampons are used as weapons. This may seem silly or forced, but it was motivated by real-life political events. 

In 2013, during a vote for an anti-abortion bill, women that were allowed into the Texas State Capitol were having their tampons and maxi-pads confiscated, for fear of them being used as weapons, that is, being thrown. Ironically guns were still allowed into the Capitol.
Let's think about that--actual weapons were allowed in, but tampons were not. The tampons were confiscated so as not to have them thrown and maintain the 'rules of decorum' but it sends a mixed message, that in a way, the tampons are more dangerous.


Tampon Run plays with that concept, by having the player throwing the tampons as real weapons and stopping people coming at the player. It's also funny to consider the title as a 'tampon run' (going to get tampons from the store) and a play on title 'Temple Run' the hugely popular, infinite runner series.


Putting a game on the AppStore that talks about menstruation and tampons is a bold move, because, while there are tampon timer apps for women, this puts the game in front of a bigger audience. It has the potential to help younger men and women consider the topic of menstruation and hopefully demystify it (through explanations at the start of the game) and remove some of the stigma.



Friday, January 23, 2015

Reward Systems in Crossy Road, Skyward, and Jetpack Joyride

Our next game, Pig Eat Ball, is a grand adventure in the vein of the Mario Galaxy series. But we are also making a new, secret mobile game about which we're very excited! With that in mind, we examine some other mobile game design choices.

A new game called Skyward was released a few days ago. It heavily borrows its aesthetics and Escher-like geometry from another game, Monument Valley, but the gameplay is different. It's an infinite-runner style design, in which you have to climb as high as possible. You control two dots, and each step is scored.


Similarly, Crossy Road is another infinite-runner game in which each forward step is scored as well. And an older, auto-scrolling runner game Jetpack Joyride has you trying to fly as far as possible for the best score.


These games all have different reward systems and I've been considering their differences to look for things I liked.
And while we're at it, Flappy Bird will come up too. It is another infinite-runner. Its score system is based on distance too, but it has no content reward system.

Content Unlocks

Jetpack Joyride is on the content-heavy end of the spectrum. In the game you can collect small coins which you continue to accrue across plays. These are stored and you are able to spend them to  unlock many different pieces of content including: new head art, new body art, new jetpack gameplay, new one-time powerups, and more.

Crossy Road features a coin system also, and you accrue coins across plays. However, there is only one type of content to unlock, which is new characters to use. There are dozens of characters, such as a wizard, a dog, a basketball player and more. While none of the characters modify gameplay, some make different sounds, and some do ancillary things while you progress (for instance the wizard can zap and burn trees and cars around him). For every 100 coins, you get the chance to possibly unlock a new character.


Skwyard measures steps to unlock new content, but the steps do not accrue across plays. Once you hit a new high score, such as 20 steps, 30, 40, etc, a new pattern of gameplay is unlocked. This new pattern will then show up in the gameplay.



Scrolling Content Release System

All of the games use systems in which level/environment content is randomized with each play. The patterns unlocked in Skwyard begin to show up randomly as you play. Crossy Road has a few segments that it interchanges: grass and trees, roads and rails, and water and logs. Jetpack Joyride has a system in which large environment chunks may possibly show up as you play. Players always start out in the lab, but eventually they can encounter a warehouse, a greenhouse, and even an underwater tube. Players do not control this type of content, except through repeated plays.

Additionally, the coins and enemies in Jetpack Joyride have different patterns in which they can appear, and these patterns are randomized during plays, and intermixed with the different environments. Crossy Road randomizes where it places coins, but since they are singular coins there's no new patterns to notice, though the difficulty of coin placement can change. For instance, sometimes a coin can show up on a log, or around a corner.


Monetization

Because it does impact their structures, let's look at monetization briefly.
For Jetpack Joyride, their current system is only through in-app purchases (IAP) of more in-game coins. Players can spend real money to buy coins or grind to get more coins. In either case, they'll spend their in-game coins on new content.

Crossy Road is a blend of IAP and full-screen ads. The ads however are only shown when the player decides to watch them. Players are rewarded with in-game coins. Players can unlock the new characters with real money (directly) or with in-game coins.
Skyward only uses ads. There are fullscreen ads and banner ads. The banner ads run during gameplay and the fullscreen ads run after you die (though not necessarily after every death).
Suggestion: I'd move the banner ads to the top of the screen, not the bottom as it's possible to accidentally click them.


The Player's Mind

Jetpack Joyride is a very content heavy game, with a large store in which to spend in-game coins. 

Skyward and Crossy Road unlock system are similar but also different.  Both have a single content type to unlock (patterns and characters). The important distinction is in Skyward there is only one thing to consider. How far did the player get? The high score is exactly the goal *and* the path to unlock content.

In Crossy Road, the high score is the assumed goal, but the player also gets to consider in the back of their minds, that if they keep collecting coins, they'll get to unlock a new character. The goal to get the high score is open--players are not required to grind to achieve a high score. The grinding is purely player-driven to get a new character, and fortunately the grinding meshes nicely with trying to get further in the game.

Similar to Flappy Bird, in Skyward the singular goal of getting further can be compelling, but I personally find having some other thing on my mind more interesting. By fusing the presumed goal (get high score) and the reward system (high scores unlock content with no carry-over between games), there is only one thing on the player's mind. Get the high score. Whether this is compelling enough for extended play is a matter of personal taste.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pig Eat Ball Greenlit for Steam!

It's official--Pig Eat Ball has been Greenlit by the community and approved for sale on the Steam digital marketplace!


This is great news, as the 'Steam' store is where around 90% of all PC game sales occur, so it's great to have the game set to be sold there.
The game is still in development and we're targeting a Spring 2015 release. You can pre-order the game, for a early-bird discount, here: www.pigeatball.com.

And to accompany the Greenlight announcement, I've recorded a playthrough of one of the levels in the second world in the game. This is from world 2, the Sushi Gardens, and it's the 8th level, which is named "The Barfopolis".

Usually I cut a much shorter, quicker trailer, but because Pig Eat Ball is so strange, and sometimes tough to understand in a standard trailer, I wanted to show the un-cut gameplay so people can better get a sense of it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"External Power-ups" for All Unity Games

And now something from the blue sky department...

I had a thought the other today, watching two people playing two tablet games. Wouldn't it be great if the players could help each other out, even though they were playing two different games?
Two *completely*, unrelated games?

Baby wants a tablet too!
Well, here's how I imagine it could work, in very general terms. When players are in close proximity of each other (10 feet, or so), similar to the Nintendo StreetPass/SpotPass system, the mobile devices are made to automatically communicate with each other.
The devices do this in order to trade "external power-ups" or let's say "extra-ups". This would be a form of help from each player, to the other player, in their respective games they are playing. The idea is to have players helping each other, as they sit around playing their games (imagine in the airport, or coffee shop). 

Example

Imagine one player (X) is in Cut the Rope, playing a few levels, and another player (Y) is playing an arena shooter like Inferno Plus (also a single-player game).
Cut the Rope

Both games are designed to handle an "external power-up" or "extra-up" from this system.
In Cut the Rope, for instance, let's say Player X beats a level with 3 stars, then their game would automatically send an "extra-up" to anyone playing *any games* around them.
Player Y, playing Inferno Plus on the bench nearby, could get a message like "Mike sends an extra-up!". And within Inferno Plus, Player Y suddenly has a new shield.
Inferno Plus

Now with Player Y in Inferno Plus, let's say they beat a level, and now send an extra-up back to the Cut the Rope player X, which could be a freeze-style powerup or perhaps their level slows down so as to allow player X more time to react.

Extra-Up Integration

Each game would implement what an 'extra-up' does when received from an outside player. Obviously the game could simply ignore it. Or the game could work within its particular design structure to add a very small, but still noticeable bump to the game, to the benefit of the player.

Of course, it could be much more complicated than all of this; as it could allow for more information to be sent. Perhaps a simple magnitude of help could be sent (such as a number), allowing the game to do more, if gamer X did something great, and to really help out gamer Y.
The key would be to keep it basically invisible on the players, so they don't have to do anything additional, except play their games around someone else.

Real Social Benefits?


Facebook game requests
To me, this could invite actual, positive social benefits. Sitting next to someone playing another game, and having them help you out could naturally lead to talking about the games and potentially making a new friend. Contrast this to the feeling of being nagged by Facebook-style games, in which players are always directly asking for help through their games.


In this new "Extra-ups" situation, by design, players must be in the same physical area to get any benefits. Their games do not request anything from them, they only give positive help. Players are next to each other, able to talk and enjoy their company all the more if they so choose.

Implementation In Unity?

There *currently* are many barriers to this working. Tablets/mobile devices would have to make this an option for apps to tie into--the "always-on, light, background internet connectivity" required to notice each other in close proximity.

Another big issue would be a necessary 'platform', or SDK, or general system to tie into, for all games in the background. I can imagine Unity working well  here, as many mobile games are built in Unity. Here it could be as simple as a behavior function that is overridden, and hooked into.

Nintendo has games that use a similar system, with some games exchanging characters, scores, or even initiating special battles. But the trick to all these exchanges, is both players have to have the same game. In this new system, the gameplay exchanged is very simple, and in some ways less impressive, but it differs in two important ways:
1. An extra-up is sent during active, current play.
2. The extra-up is not tied to the game it's being sent from, but from the game that accepts it.

Cross-Platform

And of course while we're at it, one further amazing attribute would be if this system could be cross-platform. So if player X is on an Android tablet, and player Y is on an iPad, both their games could still exchange extra-ups.
If Unity were used, the game programming wouldn't be an issue. But I could see there being a hurdle in getting iOS devices and Android and WP devices to all 'talk' to each other in the background properly.

UPDATE:
In this article here (thanks to Jerrod Putman), it describes the app FireChat which is using Apple's "Multipeer Connectivity Framework" to have iOS devices see each other without wifi. It's exciting to know at least one small piece is already in place.
http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/16/6981127/firechat-messaging-app-accidental-protest-app-hong-kong



Regardless, I wanted to get this out there as an idea--of separate games that are able to communicate with each other to gamers' benefits. The general idea being: encourage potential socialization through gaming.