Category Archives: Design

Game design.

Virtual joysticks – use them or not?

I always thought, that implementing virtual joysticks for iOS games is a mistake. They try to emulate the real thing (big console’s pad) and as such, they will always be worse. There must be something better to use the full potential of a touchscreen. And indeed in most iPhone games I tried, I didn’t like them. They were not precise enough and, even worse obscured large portions of screen, which was pretty infuriating, especially when something interesting (like a new enemy) appeared just there. I always preferred a touch & slide approach. Touch the map where you want your character to go and slide to move the map.

This was the case until I happened to spend some time with this tiny little game called Solomon’s Keep. Way too much time actually. My iPhone was getting hot from playing it. I had to recharge 3 times a day sometimes. My son played it. Even my wife tried. This is simply a great action RPG game. Little Diablo in your pocket. Various character development paths (fire mage, lighting, cone of cold, magic missile), very well thought out, randomly generated levels, some interesting bosses and more.

But most importantly (for this article at least) it has virtual joysticks implemented right. The left one for walking, the right one for shooting (err… sorry… casting spells). Most of spells are directional, so aiming does matter. These joysticks are precise enough to make complex maneuvering among enemies (which is a must at later stages of the game) and shooting at them at the same time a purely joyful experience. And I know what I’m talking about, I’ve spent like more than 30 hours in this damn game…

On the other hand, recently I tried Emissary of War, another action RPG created by some Bioware employees as a side project. It uses the touch & slide control scheme and was praised in reviews just for that (among other things of course). But you know what? It felt incredibly clumsy to me, compared to Solomon’s Keep. Maybe it’s just because I used so much to these joysticks? I don’t know. But now I have a little dilemma designing my own game…

So what do you think is the best controlling scheme for an iOS action RPG? Virtual joysticks or touch & slide? Or maybe something else entirely?

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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Design, Gameplay


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IAP model not worth effort in offline games?

I researched the whole freemium vs lite/paid matter a bit more (basically looking for experiences of developers, who already released games with IAP) and now I have even more doubts if selling level/adventure packs as IAP really makes sense in case of my game.

Here is an article, which got me thinking.

And here are the conclusions:

Free to play gamers will pay for power-ups and self-expression, but not for new content.

…and more:

When building your micro-transaction game, you should put equal weighting on creating virtual goods that make players more powerful and on those that offer them the chance for self-expression. But if you were thinking about selling extra levels (a standard model for puzzle/casual games), forget it. The market just isn’t there.

This is not the only evidence supporting this statement. Just the most clearly and logically written one, so I quote it here.

Back to my game. There is no way I can make it an online game as a one man team with pretty tight budget. So offline it will be. The plan is simply to create a game, which I, as a gamer would enjoy most. Which means classical offline RPG / dungeon crawler. There is no place for IAP in such game, except additional content (levels/adventures). I don’t think power-ups, like potions or more powerful weapons or armor would work. Items used only to improve looks of your avatar – without any actual meaning for gameplay – obviously won’t.ble

So, tell me what you think.

  1. Does it make sense to publish a free RPG offline game with extra levels sold in app? Or is the lite/paid model a better option?
  2. What about paid in app items to make game easier and faster (more powerful weapons, consumables etc.)?

There is no place for growing frogs/crops or anything like that in an RPG game after all. And IAP seems to be best suited for speeding up such kind of activity, right? 😉

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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Design, Gameplay, Marketing


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Forest map

Here is another map I was doing recently with Tiled editor, this time in rock/forest setting. It was a bit harder to work with such irregular shapes (the Dungeon map was more rectangular, hence easier), but when you figure out which tiles are outer and inner corners, it’s going much smoother. Look here if you don’t know, what I’m talking about. What I still have to figure out is how to use shadows from this free tiles from Lost Garden. On my TODO list.

So… here is the map. It just another prototype, but looks very nice on an iPhone screen nevertheless.

Click the image for the full size version.


Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Art, Design, Screenshots


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First screenshot

This is actually no real screenshot, but a prototype dungeon tilemap created with Tiled using the free assets from Lost Garden. I wrote more about them in my previous post. You know Tiled Map Editor, right? You can create such maps incredibly fast and easy in Tiled. And it is supported by cocos2d out of the box.

I do already have working code showing this on an actual device (my iPhone 3GS) with scrolling, zooming etc. It looks even better, than on a PC or Mac monitor. Everything works fast and smooth. And it took about 10 lines of code. Cocos2d is really powerful!

So… what do you think?

Be sure to watch this in the original size (1:1), not downsized (click the image). It looks best this way. On an iPhone screen you can see a 640×480 window, which means about 1/4 of bigger rooms.

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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Art, Design, Screenshots


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Why “Infinity”? Why “Dungeon”?

The second part is really easy, so I’ll start from explaining this. Most RPGs (if not all) has some action happening in dungeons. Exploration, fighting, looking for something or someone. You name it. Of course there are also forests, cities, deserts, mountains and other environments, but these are optional. Dungeons are not. You can have an RPG happening entirely in dungeons, caves and old crypts – only underground basically. But have you ever seen an RPG, which takes place only in forest? Maybe there are some, but they will be only exceptions confirming the rule. My game will also have dungeons, hence the second part of the name. Simple, right?

Now to the hard stuff. Why “Infinity”? To explain that, I have to get back to the excellent “Infinity Blade” iPhone game (see my previous post for more details). There is a gameplay mechanic, which is very compelling for most of gamers and especially for RPG gamers. And this mechanism can be found in it’s very pure and basic form in “Infinity Dungeon”. I think this is the main reason I liked this game so much. Not because of impressive 3D graphics or excellent, climate building sound and music (although these matter too of course). No, gameplay rulez. Always.

So what mechanism do I brag about so much? I mean improving stats. Be it stats of your character, equipment, spells, skills or just plain XP. But every RPG has it in one form or another, right? Otherwise it’s not called “RPG”. So what’s all this fuss about? To understand that, you have to play a few hours of “Infinity Blade” I think. Or read some reviews at least. I’ll try to explain anyways.

The whole game is a series of runs through a castle filled with bad guys. You start with a pretty weak knight (in terms of stats). You can defeat some lesser enemies, but not the final boss. Not a chance. So you die. Then “20 years later…” you start as a son, who came to the castle to avenge his fallen father. You start the second generation run. You are a little stronger, but die again at the final boss. You can buy better weapons, hone your magic and battle skills etc. in the process. Eventually you can hope to defeat the final boss at 20th generation or something like that. But that’s still the RPG’s usual, right? Except the generations maybe – which is probably one of reasons of the “infinity” word in the title.

What is new – to me at least – is maxing out various pieces of equipment. Let’s say you buy a new sword. It’s XP is 0 at the beginning. Every fight boosts this XP a bit. The sword gets better and better. Eventually you max out its XP. All other pieces of your equipment still get XP points, but not the maxed out sword. Time to buy a new sword. You cannot waste this precious XP on a maxed out sword after all right? And there are dozens of various swords, shields, armors, rings and other pieces of equipment to buy and max out in the game. There are even GameCenter achievements for that. I think this is the second reason for “infinity” in the title. The more important one.

This mechanism is incredibly addictive. And I’m going to implement it in one way or another in my game. So this is the explanation of “infinity” in my title.

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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Design, Gameplay


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Infinity Dungeon

Ok, first things first. My blogging here will be a bit unusual at first. Actually I’ve been working on my first iPhone game for about two months already. Just conceptually mostly and in my spare time, so there is not much in terms of finished code or art yet. But still, I’m going to blog about things I did, researched etc. earlier. To catch up with the current state of things. Let’s begin now.

First thing you have to know if you are going to make a game is the genre, right? I love RPGs, so I decided it’s going to be an RPG. Traditional one, with swords, spells, dungeons and lots of statistics you can dig into. Serious, but in pocket format. No cute characters with too big eyes and breasts. But how to achieve that?

At that time I was heavily impressed with an iOS game called “Infinity Blade”. It’s a 3D slasher resembling somewhat a very good PS3 title “Demon’s Souls”. I’ve never seen such a good looking game on iPhone before. My iPhone also never got so hot (literally) while playing a game. Here is a pocketgamer review if somebody is interested.

Anyway, I was aware, there is no chance I could make such impressive 3D graphics myself in reasonable time. So the first question was: “am I going 3D or 2D route?” I always thought iPhone is more suitable for 2D games. True 3D iOS titles like “Aralon HD” or “Chaos Rings” were a royal pain to play for me. Why? Mainly because of cumbersome controls (no dedicated buttons on iDevices, just touchscreen) and not very good-looking  graphics. The first reason being much more important. But Infinity Blade was an exception. Graphics was amazing. But more importantly, controls were easy to use. They did not implement free movement as in most 3D titles. So no virtual joysticks, which cause, that half of the screen is obscured by your thumbs. Movement was solved much more elegant. Every 3D scene has 2-3 glowing points. You can tap one of them to go there or perhaps attack some monster or knight standing there. If you do that, game engine renders the movement scene, which is not interactive. After a few seconds you get control over your character again.

I liked this idea very much. So I decided to use it in my game, to make controls simple and elegant. This lead me to the name of the game: “Infinity Dungeon”. Which is still theoretically subject to change. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

There are other reasons why Infinity and why Dungeon, but this will be subject of my next post.

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Design


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