Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. Our seventh game, currently in development, is Pig Eat Ball on which we started working in 2013. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.

Nathan

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Multi-Use Mechanics: Soda Pop

We've spent the last two months polishing up world 4. World 4 is called "Kitchen Chaos" and I'll try not to spoil too much, but I'd like to share some of the development with you.

In the kitchen world, there are lots of different "ball types". Many different things to eat with different effects--more so than any other world in the game. One of those things to eat is the "soda can". You can't carry it, you simply eat it (or I guess drink it!) Once you do, you grow quickly in size as though you've just eaten 5 balls. This is a big deal! It grows your body up to the size that will cause you go get stuck in areas that are 1-block wide. So if you eat one of these in a small corridor, you'll get stuck. 
There's some yummy soda pop to the left!
Now that you've drunk a soda pop, how do you get unstuck? Well the same as usual, except instead of barfing, you burp out bubbles. As you burp, you'll shrink back down to size. This is additive, and the burps are always "on top". If you have 7 balls inside you, and drink a soda pop, you'll grow up to the 12 size. (7 balls + 5 burps). You still only have 7 balls, but you now have 5 burps in you. To shrink back down to your 7 balls size, you simply burp 5 times.  But try to burp again, once too many, and you'll actually barf out one of the 7 balls. If you don't press a button to burp, you will "auto-burp" back down to size after a time.
Oh no! You've ballooned in size! Time to burp back down.
For a long time we only used this as a penalty or trap for the player. We'd put it in spots to cause you to get stuck, or to grow so big you'd have problems getting away from spike balls. But we came up with a benefit to the soda pop!
In the lower right are some green super crates.
They are dark since they are "off" and you are too small to break them.
Because the soda pop grows you artificially fatter, it means you can break super-crates! Super-crates are breakable crates, but you must have at least 5 balls to break them. And the past month we've spent time combing over various nooks and crannies in world 4 levels and hiding some secrets here and there. Imagine powerups hidden behind a wall of super-crates, but no balls to eat to get big enough to break the super-crates! So occasionally there will be spots where it seems impossible to break them, but if you can find the hidden cache of soda pops, drink them down, then dash over to the super crates before you burp back down to size, the secret goodies are all yours!
Got the soda pop out of the side area. The crates are "on"!
Zip over and break the crates and gobble that powerup!

We've tried to do that as much as possible--ensure as many objects or balls have a pro and a con. Some objects may seem "obviously bad" but a lot of them have a benefit (possibly hidden at first). We've worked hard to increase the depth for players to explore the puzzles and possibilities. Not to mention to add more fun options and depth for when players make their own levels!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Are Long Convention Lines Good?

Hey everyone, back this week from our grand trip to Anaheim California. We saw smoke on the freeway! That was eye opening.. and lung-distressing. We didn't see the fires but it was in the back of everyone's minds.
For some milder, less fiery news...let's talk about games!



PSX

Sony invited us to show our next big action-puzzle game, Pig Eat Ball, at their Playstation Experience (read 'Sony-only game convention'). It was a great show! Wonderful space, lots of very eager gamers. We had a great time. Sony did a good job getting us everything we needed, including a PS4 devkit, booth, and nice TV.

Sony also sent all devs a "press list" of who was coming. And there was some press there! It wasn't amazing, but we had about 6 different small sites come by and play. I also managed to snag Greg Miller from Kinda Funny because I recognized him, and talked up the game to him. 



We augmented the PS4 with a laptop to create two "demo stations". This was good because we literally got double the players during the show. But honestly, if I knew better (or was thinking more clearly) I would have rented/bought a second TV and put that in the back of the booth. It just would have looked a lot more professional. Sony did require all game demos to use PS4 controllers but that was easy to change from Xbox controllers to PS4 controllers with our PC build of the game.
Look past the big TV to some people in the back of the booth. That was our second demo station.

Our booth included our custom "two-hole cut-out" in which you could be a barfing pillbug from the game, who spews chunks onto the player character Bow. Couples loved to come and take a picture in it. It was a big hit!

This is 3 different shots. Yeah, that's Greg Miller (from Kinda Funny) on the bottom right!


The show ran two days. The first day was definitely long. It ran from 10AM to 10PM, 12 hours of expo. But we had people playing the entire time and though the crowd did dip after 6pm, it never slowed down enough that we didn't have players. The second day, Sunday, it was 10AM-6PM which is pretty easy to do.
Two days of an expo... I can do any time. Three days is tough. Four days (I'm looking at you PAX) is murder.

How to Get Long Lines



Sony organized a promotion where devs could offer digital PS4 goods in a real-life meta-game in which players visited booths to play the digital games on display, then scan codes, and then collect the goods. I think over half the devs participated (or more?). Players were lining up at booths in a BIG way for these giveaways.

Here at Mommy's Best Games, we've been discussing if we should have done this. First: we didn't have any digital goods made yet (avatars, themes, free past PS games), so this would have been new work. But should we have pushed to do it?
We did have people playing both stations *almost* constantly throughout the show (both days). This is good. Occasionally we had crowds of 3-5 people standing around watching, some waiting to play. This is better.
But we never had lines of 20 people waiting. The important distinction is the crowds and people playing our game were entirely organically driven to play our game. They had full interest in Pig Eat Ball. They didn't care about a meta-game promotion.

On the flip-side, if you participate in an expo meta-game, and you have lines of 20+people waiting to play, it's very possible some of those people waiting to play *would not* have made it a priority to visit your booth but are NOW interested in playing your game. So basically the meta-game allowed them to learn about your game, when they may have missed it before.

Are Long Lines Good?

And once more, on the flip-flip side, (a 3-sided coin?), does the new long line dissuade organic interest? If I had an interest in the game, but didn't care about the meta-game would I stand in line?

I think if you balance out the entire show--in which many booths were participating in a meta-game, and players know this and are accustomed to long lines, it is okay to do the meta-game. You'll probably get a few more authentic players at your booth, who enjoy your game and remember it.
If we get to show another game again at PSX we'll probably try to do the meta-game.

Going Forward

People being made happy, by playing our game. This feels good!
In any case, the show was a blast, we had hundreds of players very happy with the game, lots of new mailing list sign ups, so we're pumped! We are still busily working to finish up Pig Eat Ball for Spring of 2018 for PS4, Steam, and Xbox One!

Have a great holiday break people, and make sure to wish-list Pig Eat Ball if you've not already!
Playstation store: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/pig-eat-ball-ps4/
Steam store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/339090

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Controller Prompts and Lots of Achievements

The past few weeks of work on Pig Eat Ball has been dedicated to coding in dozens of achievements and to getting controller-specific button prompts to show up.

Oh, and we released a snazzy trailer for the PS4 announcement!
Check it out:



This may change, but currently we have around 50 achievements possible in the game! Programmer Matthew Barnes has been working for weeks coding them in, and while some of them are mundane like "eat 1,000 balls", some are going to be tricky like "shoot yourself with your own dart"!

Now you may be wondering: why include mundane achievements? I like a few of those "stat-based" achievements. And in Pig Eat Ball you will definitely be eating lots of balls! We do have a few stat- based achievements. And I think we'll all get a fun, little smirk when we see the achievement pop for "Barf 10,000 Balls".

As for "will there be any *actual* achievements?", of course! There are definitely some designed to be tough to do, and impressive to have actually achieved them.
I like to include different achievement types in my games: Tutorial-Style (they help teach you something unique or tricky about the game), Stat-Based (satisfying to watch your numbers increase), Skill-Based (these are tough to do).

In other news I've been adding button prompt art to the game for the Xbox version, but also for the PS4 version. It feels amazing to see the two controller styles working! I think it makes it feel all-the-more real that the game will release on both platforms.
Xbox controller!

Playstation controller!

And for even more controller fun, you can see them pop up, in action, in this short little video:


That's all for now.
If you're in the States, make sure to enjoy some good pie during Thanksgiving!
I made some apple pie on Tuesday, and I plan on making several pumpkin pies next week.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Optimizing the Fun: 'Pig Eat Ball' October Update

Pig Eat Ball is getting better and better almost every day! (I say almost, because there are definitely *some* days where things go backwards and you feel like just going to bed and starting over the next day :). But seriously, things are moving along and little bits and pieces keep improving.

We are in the middle of polishing up world 4 (out of 5 total). I've done a second pass on the world boss, and he's fun and playable now.

We are now balancing the 30+ levels, adjusting their placement, their order, and their difficulty. It's tricky because at this point, when playing, the player is 3/4th of the way through the game. So we can expect them to know most of the basic tricks, but there's still new gameplay being introduced! Making sure the game is fair, challenging, but also not babying the player is a fine balance.

Sneak peak of "Pie Dodge" level from world 4.  Note the balls being sucked through.
My lead level designer Andrew Curry has done a fine job whipping up dozens of inspired levels. And we keep smoothing out each level, playing it dozens of times, and then looking for slight object placement adjustments to make. I really like that part, sort of "optimizing the fun" in each level.

Lots of little fixes are being made, for instance, I made a change recently in which the striped straws now pulse quickly in size, if you are sucking balls through them. It makes it much easier, in the labyrinthine layouts of straws, to see which exact straw you're using and where it's connected.

I've been working on making the Royal Clams more expressive and visually interesting. Silly me, early on I made their eye-stalks green, but the background floor is sometimes green too!
I've not changed their eye-stalks to purple. And I gave them one larger eye!
I really like the new design as it focuses your attention and, again, makes them more expressive.
He can also blink now!
Notice the new color on the clam, and the larger middle eye.

And one more big thing, Matthew Barnes, our programmer, is hard at work coding in all the Achievements/Trophies into the game! It's a pretty sizeable list. Some of them are easy to add (eat 1000 balls, etc). Some are really tricky to do and take longer to code, but those are the most fun ones to find as a player.

Okay, back to more world 4 work, and more bug fixes!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Easy Editor

I've spent the summer making the level editor for Pig Eat Ball great!
And the team from Super Soul in nearby Lexington have been working on improving the framerate for Xbox One so that's feeling good too.

Our 'Mario Maker' style level editor has had most of the tough programming and UI accomplished. We are now still fixing small bugs and making sure all the objects are usable in the new UI system. The 'advanced' editor is still available, and usable since there are some objects that are too complicated to work in the Easy Editor, at least currently. But the Easy Editor is ready to go in general and we've already made some fun levels using the new editor.

Ready for some screens?

Check 'em out!
This level is from World 2, you can see the arrows for the butane torches.

Here is a World 3 level complete with bowling pins.

And this is the drop down "object palette" which lets you pick a new swathe of things to place.

 And here's a cool animated gif of the level editor in action!

Use the "eye-dropper" tool to quickly copy an object in your level and place it.

Work continues now on Worlds 4 and 5 and working to increase the framerate and improving menus.