The purpose of this blog is to outline all learnings I had at each phase hoping it will be helpful to me and others in the future.

Note: I have linked to all the documents created during the development of this game.

If you are interested in checking out the game, here is the app store link. Feedback welcome!!

The beginning and the end

I have spent quite some time of my career in game development. However being a software engineer, I have never experienced or learned anything besides writing code and making things work. 

Goal

  • Learn about the releasing game from ideation to release 30 days without compromising on fun aspect of the game.

30 days  gave me enough time to learn unity, develop on mobile platform without burning out in the first week. However, I was not willing to build a game that I would not find fun or I would not play.

Ideation

It is hard to keep the scope of the game limited. I had some really cool ideas like retries, different types of dots. Had I not limited the scope, I would not have finished the game.

I started ideating the game by selecting the drag mechanic as the core mechanic. I looked at various games which used similar mechanic. This document outlines the selection process and has a couple of ideas that I wanted to move forward with. 

One of the most useful things I find to do is to write the user stories which are basically details of your product from the user’s perspective. This process helps to simplify the ideas since complex brain ideas are hard to convey in words. Here is my user stories and market research document. This document laid the foundation for the game design document (GDD).The GDD, which details the game mechanics, scoring and leveling was the holy grail for defining the scope of development. One of the success criteria for me was to not add anything to this document once finalized. 

Development

Build your game iteratively at every phase/checkpoint. This will make sure you are not going off track and building something that users find fun, not what an engineer’s mind says is “cool”

Prototype #1

Most of the time here was spent researching other games or throwing away ideas which either did not seem to be fun or seemed complicated to develop in 30 days.

This was the first basic experiment I ran with pencil and paper. The rules were simple

  • User is shown the Shape for 4 seconds
  • User has to redraw the shape in 4 seconds.
Goal

The goal of this prototype was to gauge the “fun” part and validate the idea.

Feedback

User really enjoyed the game and asked me to play one more time. This validated the idea (Although the sample size was extremely small but that deserves another post)

Number of users: 1

Prototype #2

To make development simple, I experimented with mouse clicks or tap, bare bones UX designed with my awesome design skills.

Goals
  • Develop a working prototype within the first week.
Feedback
  • Frustrated with taps/clicks
  • Not challenging
  • UI is garbage
  • Scoring did not make sense
  • Gave up after 12 levels.
Number of users: 3

Prototype #3

UX should not be an after-thought. Users expect UX to be polished and pretty, especially for games.

I wanted to get rid of the frustration of tap and ugly UX as users were unable to focus on anything else with those two being around. Hence I hired a UX designer I worked with previously and started with UX mocks.

Goal
  • make the game challenging
  • get rid of input frustration by replacing tap with drag
  • improve upon the UX
Feedback
  • Not fast enough
  • Scoring does not make sense
  • Good increase in difficulty
  • No feedback. Device handed back to me in 15 seconds – Speaks for itself
  • UI looks much better
Number of users: 4

Version 1.0

Game differs significantly from paper to final product. There are different assumptions made by developer and the user. For instance, in my case, the paper prototype followed the blitz model from my user’s perspective but it was leveling from my perspective.

Keep testing your games. I wish I would be able to test with more users. I would love to hear how others get more users to test them without paying $$$.

I was unable to make users stick to the game for more than 4 shapes. The idea was to have levels like 1Line which users can complete. However, the previous feedback made me rethink if leveling was that important to my game. It added a lot of work (level design is a great amount of work, which I did not clearly appreciate enough) & I was not sure what benefit it was providing to the game. Hence I replaced leveling with blitz

Feedback
  • Game feels polished
  • Like the blitz. 1 minute seems too long
  • Shapes are really hard
Number of users: 4

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