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RaMtiGA - Raising a Middleworld to its Golden Age
RaMtiGA - Raising a Middleworld to its Golden Age: Blog
Feb 17

Written by: Jashan Chittesh

Smoking sucks. Seriously. If you ever went into a location in which hundreds of people were smoking and the air was soaked with smoke - and you had healthy lungs - … then it won't surprise you that iPad and iPhone are also choking on smoke. It's just way too many particles for anyone to take ;-)

Sometimes one has to let go of stuff that just doesn't really make sense. Like, when you create a game that's primarily about collaboration and you have introduced one power up that looks cool but its only other use is confusing other players by blurring their vision. I felt that something was wrong with that for a little while … and porting Traces of Illumination to mobile devices now finally forced me to make a decision. Which I think it is a good thing.

Basically, what happened is that using this particular power (Smoke) up would push the framerate on mobile devices down from around 30 FPS down to slideshow mode (around 3 FPS ;-) ). And that's not surprising given that it's simply not recommended to use particles on mobile devices at all for performance reasons. And creating something that looks remotely like smoke requires a lot of particles ;-)

So, with that somewhere on the back of my mind I recently thought about adding some interesting new game mechanics to Traces of Illumination. The first thing I came up with was bonus knowledge points for picking up Apples in specific sequences. Like, when you pick a green one, then a yellow one and finally a red one - this will give you 44 bonus knowledge points. When you pick the greens in a row, 88. Three yellow ones will give you extra 111 … and three red ones will give you extra 222. Finally, picking up three green ones, two yellow ones and finally one red one will give you a 444 bonus.

And picking apples in a longer, secret sequence will still give you the Smoke power up (another secret sequence will give you all power ups and yet another one will give you all power ups 3 times). But if you use it, and you're playing with people using mobile devices, there's likely not gonna be any effect for them (unless I feel inspired to think of something funny ;-) ).

So, the Smoke power up is gone … and while thinking about the sequences and realizing don't really add to the collaborative tone of the game I had this idea that players could let go of the apples they have collected in the current level so that others could pick them up again. Since apples in Traces of Illumination are just bits'n'bytes, letting them go doesn't cost you anything. Actually, what you do is make a "copy" that others can then pick up. Unlike real digital copies (without stupid DRM), apples will change their quality. In other words, when the second person picks them up, they only get about half the original score. But … and here comes the really cool thing about the new Drop Apples power up: The player that dropped the apple also gets about half the original score.

That's the sharing the love bonus. Once an apple is picked up the second time, it's gone for good. And: When a player tries to pick up an apple he already had picked up (and dropped), the apple will simply disappear.

Those two changes in the game mechanics will change some of the awards - namely those that require players to gain the maximum score per level, which is also called mastering a level. First, the sequence bonus knowledge scores add quite a bit of extra score - but they also add quite a bit of challenge because you have to find the best sequence for picking up the apples. Picking them up randomly will just give you the basic score.

And, once you've picked up all apples - you'll have to let them go and have your team-mates pick them up. This is really nice because it makes the awards for helping someone master a level more logical (before, it was basically just about "holding the space" for a player - now there's actually a phase where everyone can get active picking apples ;-) ).

It's quite rewarding when things are falling into place this way. And most of the implementation is already done - what's still missing is some of the logic required for this to work properly in multiplayer, the implementation of the share the love bonus (player picking up gets score, player that dropped apple also gets score) and maybe some polishing. Oh, and changing the tutorials (ouch - that's the heavy price for this kind of late-in-the-process-changes ;-) ).

Speaking of polishing: While designing the Drop Apples power up icon I realized I could polish all the other power up icons as well. They're now a little more creative and colorful and - most important - much easier to distinguish from a distance. There may still be room for more improvement on the visuals here but I feel it's a step in the right direction.


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