As the final for Code Play gets closer, I’ve been doing work on Word Cave, my collaborative spelling game for two iOS devices. Most of the new work consisted of adding some art to the damn thing (a non-trivial task given that I can’t even draw a straight line). There were some minor changes to the game play as well.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Word Cave is a spelling game played by two players, each on their own iOS device (either iPhone or iPad). The speller must spell words from the stalactites at the top of the screen, dropping them onto the enemies below. The shooter must run around on the bottom avoiding the enemies and collecting the coins that appear when the speller spells a word or makes a kill. The shooter also has the ability to shoot stalactites and cause them to drop either to help the speller or just to defend themselves. When the speller spells larger words, they create more coins and earn more ammo or even extra lives for the shooter.
The shooter getting ready to grab for some of the coins garnered for spelling "oak" and killing some enemies.
I thought about the art for a while since visuals really aren’t my forte. Eventually, though, I decided to embrace my total inability to draw and go for a very sketchy, notebook feel for the graphics. I essentially planned each image out as a vector shape and traced it with the pencil tool in Flash. I went with Flash because the pencil tool in that particular wing of the Adobe suite smooths itself in a way that I happen to like, and I used to use Flash a lot so I already have a flow for doing animation in it.
The shooter character's (very short) new walk cycle
The end result is not the prettiest art in the world, but it is consistent, and has the right vibe for the game. One issue I did encounter was with the font used for the stalactites. Right now, the font inside the stalactites is the only part of the game that does not have the same sketchy vibe. This is because the font I used for the rest of the game (Noteworthy) was hard enough to read that it really impacted player’s ability to play the game. This was obviously no good, so I setled on a much more readable font but one that still had an analog feel by choosing a typewriter font.
At this point, the game is getting close enough to being done, that it really needed instructions to be able to test it properly. I tried to boil the game down in as few slides as possible, but decided to combine both roles instead of having players just look at instructions for “their” role. Since both roles are important, both players should have an understanding of what’s going on. I also took this chance to point out that people playing this game should be talking to each other. I designed the game with the two players speaking (and hopefully shouting) to one another as they spot words that could be used. Noting this in the instructions feels a bit prescriptive, but I wanted to dissuade the players from the assumption that this was a network game that they just happened to be playing in the same room.
One larger gameplay change since my last post is that the game now punished three letter words. A common piece of feedback that I received was that the game should do something to discourage small words. Just receiving more points really wasn’t enough since most players are primarily concerned with killing the foes. To counteract this, any foes on screen when a three letter word is spelled receive a permanent speed boost. Any foes spawned after the fact are unaffected to prevent it from being too punishing, and the penalty is negated if all of the on screen foes are killed, but it still gives players pause before hammering out a small word.
A small plus sign appears above the enemy to show that it received a bonus
Before I present on Friday I also want to set certain letters (such as Q and X) to give more coins for being used as a way to reward players for using tricky letters in much the same way that nearly every spelling game does.
Although the game is fairly locked in for Friday, if I decide to continue with the project, I may remove the shooting mechanic. The shooter still isn’t as involved as I’d like them to be, and still exist primarily as a subordinate to the speller. I may try having their movement more directly affect the available letters, possibly having the jump cause the stalactite above it to fall. Hopefully this will make it so that both players will have to be mindful of the shooter’s position. Even if this is not the solution, I’d like to find some way to further engage the player on the ground.
But for Friday, I am pleased with the game. It has been consistently testing well, and now it has a distinct look. And after a few hours work, a bizarre-o load image that I’m pretty pleased with: