Pure Rush, a game we are producing with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, features a teenager running to a music festival and aims to show players the effects drugs can have on those who choose to take them. Throughout this design process, there have been some interesting challenges we have faced and decisions we’ve had to make – a few of which we’d like to share with you here today.
First, when it comes to judging difficulty in a game, the creator is the last person you can trust. After all, it’s impossible not to master your own game when you literally know it inside-out. Many developers worry their game is too easy, only to then show it to their friends and realise that none of them can even beat the first stage (“fine, I guess I’ll dumb it down for you noobs…”). Some adjustments are made, but now people lose interest because the game has become too easy. In other words, it’s a delicate balancing act.
In a book titled Designing Games (guess what it’s about), Tynan Sylvester brought up the concept of flow in games. A player feels the most immersed when a game presents worthwhile challenges, but without going so far that players become lost or stuck for long periods. Then, as the player’s skill improves, the game must raise its difficulty to maintain this flow. The best way to discover a game’s ideal flow is to conduct lots of testing. That’s why we’ve shown Pure Rush to multiple player groups throughout development to make sure this balance was just right.
Performance is another thing that must be considered from day one. If the wrong programming framework is chosen from the start, no amount of effort can salvage the disaster. We chose one particular framework during Pure Rush‘s prototype; however, its performance was unacceptable on smartphones. In the end, we decided to rebuild the game from scratch using another framework. Though nobody likes having to backtrack, sometimes it must be done, and it’s best to make that choice early before the hole grows too deep.
Visually, when a player observes the game screen, it must be easy to distinguish interactive objects from the background. In Pure Rush, we avoided this potential issue by giving the background and foreground contrasting colour tones.
Screen size is another an important factor, and during Pure Rush‘s development, we’ve had to abandon several in-game obstacles because they were too small to be visible on a smartphone. Also, when a death occurs, players must always know why it took place and this is also demonstrated visually. Games are about meaningful decisions, and those can only be made when players have knowledge and understanding of what is occurring in-game.
When it comes to game narrative, a story is ruined when something out of place decides to jump out and the same thing applies for game audio. During Pure Rush‘s prototype stage, we used retro, stereotypical video game sound effects to fit the music festival theme. However, with that earlier thought in mind, we later updated our audio to express a musical theme. When a game’s elements are inconsistent, the project will feel like it’s uncertain of itself so it’s important to maintain a consistent theme so players will know they’re interacting with a quality piece of work.
Not only do these challenges and ideas provide a glimpse into the world of game development, but hopefully they will benefit other creators working on game projects. And of course, don’t forget to check out Pure Rush when the game is released!