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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Final Boss, Final World

We are starting on the final stretch to finish up Pig Eat Ball!
There are five giant worlds in the game.

Here's what's left to finish, in broad strokes:
  • Final-FINAL boss: of course I can't just be content with 10 bosses (5 end + 5 mid)... there has to be more! And don't pretend that was a spoiler.. you have played my games before, right? There's always lots of nasty bosses.
  • World 5 levels: The last world itself has about 20+ levels currently, but needs about 20 more. Those are getting created by Andrew Curry and myself. 
  • Cutscenes: We have some of the basics in place telling the story, but now that the game is finally all together, we can go back through and add more flourishes to each cutscene like extra NPC animations and more. That's getting programmed by Matthew Barnes.
  • Trophies, Achievements, localization integration: That's getting worked on by the team at Super Soul.
  • Bugs: All hands on deck! Programmers like myself, Matthew, and the Super Soul team are constantly squashing bugs along the way. 
I'm finishing up the final fights, and making sure the end of the game is as exciting as the beginning, and doesn't taper off into a let down.

The goal is to wrap all this up in the next few weeks! That's a lot of work. But I think it's possible as we're very excited to get the game to the point that we could play it through from start to finish. That will be a big milestone!



If you haven't already, give the free DEMO a shot, and please make sure to
WISHLIST THE GAME ON STEAM.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/339090/Pig_Eat_Ball/

This is a big help to us, as it shows Valve how popular the game is, plus it reminds you when the game is out! Thanks!

(And yes, it will also be on Xbox One and PS4, not just Steam!)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Demo and Crowd-funding

The crowd-funding campaign for our latest game, Pig Eat Ball, will end today at 6pm EST.
Already backed it? Thank you!

Curious about the game? That's what the demo is for!

Try the Demo

Download the demo here:
https://mommysbestgames.itch.io/pig-eat-ball-demo
It works with keyboard/mouse or with an Xbox 360 controller.


There's a lot of content in the demo too.
18 levels of single-player action, 3 overworlds, mid-bosses... not to mention a taste of the 4-player party mode!

Back us on Fig

After you played the demo, head over to that crowd-funding campaign. It's with a group called Fig--they're like Kickstarter, but only for games.
https://www.fig.co/campaigns/pig-eat-ball

There's some great backer rewards as well like this swell Ms. Pac-Man style shirt!

Check out the campaign and pick a reward. The money we raise now helps us finish up the game nice-like, with proper QA, localization, and an excellent soundtrack.
Thanks for the boost!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Level Design Talk: GDC 2018

Hi, welcome to a special edition of the MBG blog. During the Game Developer's Conference this year, I've had one of my talk proposals selected for the show! This is very exciting.
The talk is called "Set This Game in Order".
It provides lots of details on how methods and tools for organizing games with lots of levels and mechanics.
Games like Super Mario Galaxy, Ape Escape, Candy Crush Saga, or even Pig Eat Ball!

Here are some of the concepts I covered in the talk, along with lots of details referenced.

The Problem

Lots of levels and lots of mechanics! How to organize them all?

Difficulty Balancing:

good difficulty across lots of levels.

Mechanics Introductions:

Managing when ideas are introduced in a hours-long game.

Mechanics Changes:

Manage a giant list of levels and be able to shift them around based on enemy or gameplay changes.

If the code changes, or a bug is fixed, how do we know what levels to test?

 

Before all that, let's cover some fundamentals...

Level Design "Mind-sets"

These are different ways to approach level design. (This is not an exhaustive list.)
  • Environmental Story-telling: Bioshock, Hyper Light Drifter, etc.
  • Set Pieces: Call of Duty series
  • Transcendant: Bullet hell shmups, Rez, Thumper, Wipeout Fusion 'zone' mode
  • Mechanics-Driven: Super Mario Galaxy, Marble Saga: Kororinpa, Ape Escape 2, and our own Pig Eat Ball!

 Difficulty Curves

Most games have a "difficulty curve" which is a plot of how hard the game is based on how far you are into the game. A traditional curve has it going steadily up. The further you are into the game, the harder the game gets.
I propose my own "Heart-beat curve".

A curve that does not go up much, but is based on introducing new mechanics frequently. The mechanic is introduced, then twisted, then the player is challenged a with a boss! The game gets tougher! Then the game gets much easier as the next level is an introduction for a new mechanic. This method lends itself well to "mechanics-driven" designs.

There was also a talk on the game Jelly Splash that is free on the GDC Vault. They used a different difficulty curve.
You can find it here:
http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020001/Jelly-Splash-Puzzling-Your-Way


How to Organize Your Levels: Solutions

Paper


Write down level names, mechanics, layouts on paper.

Easy to rearrange.
Cheap, accessible.
Quick to change.
See
spatial layout that mimics game layout.

No computer search-ability.
No
easy back-up method.
Hard
to share.
While working on his game Semispheres, designer Radu Muresan printed his level screenshots on cards, and reorganized more easily.
Level screenscaps printed on cards to more easily shuffle the difficulty curve.

Inkscape 

Radu also used Inkscape.
It's free and he said it was pretty good.

Windows Search

A Windows Folder search done on an object in the level data, after I set Windows to index the folder.

I tried this on Pig Eat Ball. You must index your folder to search your level files based on keywords for objects in your level files. It can be slow to rebuild.

Google Docs

If you're not using a Doc of Spreadsheet to organize your levels, you should be! They are easy to share, and great to get a quick glance of your game. The bad part is you have to update them manually.
Levels from Pig Eat Ball organized by world.
Another team using it is Rare Sloth. Austin Borden used on their King Rabbit game.

Custom Analytics

You should already know about Unity Analytics and seeing a "funnel" representation of your playthroughs. But designer Stu Denman, while working on Tiny Bubbles, does a custom analytics plot. He stores Quits on levels and Tries until they beat it. He uses this to know if a level is too hard or easy.
Stu Denman's custom analytics plot for Tiny Bubbles

Device Shared-Folder Editing

Tim FitzRandolph for the Where's My Water series used a method to let his designers change things on the fly more easily. Designers worked on iPads to playtest, but the devices were setup to pull data from a shared Dropbox folder.
"The levels themselves were made in-game with a special build of the game that had a level editor. It was entirely custom, with tools for placing the objects in the levels, and quickly toggling between editing and playing in order to easily test the levels. We had a special build that could pull files from Dropbox (instead of the files baked into the app), so that a designer could also change aspects of the level not exposed in the editor (such as the PNG image, or brand new level data features that existed in the XML but not in the editor GUI), by changing them on their computer, saving the files to dropbox, and then refreshing the level on device and seeing those changes."

Level Object Look-Up

Search for objects in your levels in Pig Eat Ball.

For Pig Eat Ball, John Meister worked with me to create a level design look-up tool. It's in-game and 
was built by using object-counts stored from levels, as they were played. The result is an easy to use tool that let's us inspect and filter levels based on objects-included, world-type, goal-type and more.


Google Docs Export


John Meister of Super Soul also worked with me to create a method to export level data directly to google spreadsheets, for easier to use forms. This lets anyone on the team quickly see all sorts of information about the game and levels without playing hours into the game. And it's all up to date, and not prone to error like regular human-entered info.


Grid Arrange Tool


Level re-arranging software for Escape Goat 2

For Escape Goat 2, designer Ian Stocker made a simple but useful tool to rearrange his level. His overworld allowed players to move on a grid and play levels. He made an editing tool that allowed him to drag and drop levels. He could balance the game much more easily this way.

Level Library

Level Library tool used for Candy Crush Saga

Jeremy Kang worked on the Candy Crush Saga game. His team uses Google Docs and also a 
simple, internal software to track levels, but also rearrange them to balance their difficulty curve. Designers there can also rate each others levels to help anticipate level difficulty. 
Kang gave a talk free on the GDC Vault too: 

Level Design Saga: Creating Levels for Casual Games


Game-Design Thinking Tools

Designer Katharine Niel gave a talk devoted entirely too all sorts of software for just thinking about design (not about creation tools, about design tools). 

For When Spreadsheets and Flowcharts Aren't Enough”





 Does My Game Need This?

Can you count your gameplay mechanics and levels on two hands? If you can, you're probably fine. If you *can't* and you have multiple people working remotely on your game, consider some simple things to keep track of things better! Google Docs, Trello, Inkscape and all free and easy to use now. 
Custom software may help you too, even for a small team. 

Remember

“Better Tools
 Can Help You Make Better Games”


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Crowdfunding and Pre-orders!


Wanna hear a secret?
Pig Eat Ball was accepted by Fig to do a crowd-funding campaign!

Yeah, it's launching soon, but I'm allowed to give you (my beloved blog reader) a secret link that lets you see the "back stage pass" version.
Here:
https://www.fig.co/campaigns/pig-eat-ball?r=1&utm_source=dev-website&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=peb-dev-web

This lets you PRE-ORDER the game, where you can get access to cool reward tiers and even some discounts!
You can get a copy on Steam, Beta access, Alpha access, console versions and more.




There's even T-shirts and squishy balls! 





Make sure to tell your cool friends too. Thanks!



Here's that link again.
Enjoy!

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!