June 27, 2012

Category Icons

Another problem that I noticed during the playtest session was that there was not a clear correlation to the player between what they were doing in the level and the rank grades after the level was completed.  Therefore, I added three icons to the lower right portion of the screen, and numbers signifying the values for those categories which update in real time.  I thought that adding this would make the screen have “too much going on”, but I will leave it in for now.  I also put those icons next to the textual descriptions on the level complete screen, so that there is a direction connection between the icons on the game level screen and the categories on the level complete screen.

I also tried coloring the icons in real time based on the current rank value for each category.  However, this was confusing because pieces and time would start out yellow (S-rank) and luminosity would start out red (C-rank).  This is because the player raises their luminosity rank over time, and the player can only lower their  piece and time rank over time.  Plus, the colors would sometimes change and flicker too quickly between grade colors at times.  Therefore, I left all of the icons and numeric values white.

“The Level 2-6 Problem”

There is a visual connection problem that only occurs when placing a resistor next to two objects, where one of the objects in another resistor.  This is apparent on level 2-6, where you have to put a 1 resistor next to both a wire and a level 2 resistor to get the maximum luminosity of 2, as shown in the screenshot below.  Notice the connection between the 2 and 1 resistors, which really doesn’t exist when looking at the flow values, but it is incorrectly drawn.


Displaying the flow values shows that the resistor’s value is automatically deducted from the flow value.


I rewrote most of the code in the  method which returns the wire image used for a specified cell.  This code is used for both the wire and the resistors, since the resistor is overlayed on top of a wire image.  First I load four variables containing references to each of the four adjacent pieces (or null if one doesn’t exist).  Then I start assigning null to those variables if a connection to that adjacent cell should not be made.  Finally, I have an if/then statement which looks at those values and then returns an integer ID representing the wire image to use to make the appropriate connections.

I started seeing the one frame flicker problem again, when a new piece was placed  next to more than one adjacent pieces.  I found that the line of code that placed a new piece on the board was located after the code which updated all of the pieces.  Therefore, the first frame of a new piece was always incorrect.  I moved the line of code which adds the new piece above the piece array update check, and now the flicker problem is no more.

For each piece, if it is not filled or filling, then it should make all possible connections because there is no way to tell which direction the flow will be coming from.  If there is an adjacent cell, it should make a connection to that cell if the flow direction (stored as an instance variable of the GamePiece) is coming from that direction.  Conversely, a connection should be made to any adjacent cells which have flow coming from the current cell.  Otherwise, a connection should not be made to the adjacent cell, because it could possibly have a different flow value.  One continuous wire should not have two different flow values, which I explained in an earlier post.

Below is what the corrected display looks like now.  A lot of work to fix a small graphical anomaly which nobody would have probably ever noticed anyway.


Additionally, I updated the code so that the luminosity icon value only increments after the LED fills (not as it starts filling).

Playtesting at KGD Meeting

June 25, 2012

Attended the Knoxville Game Design meeting at The Technology Cooperative and received a lot of good feedback from fellow developers.  The guys at Chaosoft were particularly helpful with their suggestions to improve controls and gameplay.  It was my first time seeing other people play the game, and served as a good informal cognitive walkthrough.

A couple of gamers tried out my game, and it was quickly obvious that the game wasn’t clear about which buttons perform which actions.  In the old days we had instruction manuals that told us the controls, but it was usually faster to figure out the controls than looking it up in the manual.  With digital distribution, we no longer have the luxury of providing the player with a hard copy manual, so all of the control explanations have to be built into the game.  Also, back in the NES days we only had 4 buttons and a D-pad, so figuring out the controls was a lot simpler back then.

One helpful suggestion was to put the wire on its own button.  This was an obvious control improvement, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t implemented that earlier.  The wire is used much more often than the resistors, so it clearly warrants having its own button.  Separating this functionality took a little bit of time, but it was worth it.

A graphical “A” button has been added below the wire selector, and a graphical “X” button has been added below the currently selected resistor.  The animated arrow which previously pointed to the selected component has been removed.  This makes it clear which buttons perform which actions.  I also added “LB” and “RB” labels next to the “X” graphic.  “LB” only displays if the selected resistor is greater than one, and “RB” only displays if the selected resistor is less than the maximum (however you can still press those buttons to make the selection loop around).

There was still some confusion about hooking up a resistor with a lower flow value than the LED, so I may have to add some more explanation about the rankings, especially the “luminosity” ranking.

Another suggestion was to display a timer on the game level screen, so there was an indication of how well you are doing  in respect to the time rank.  I’ll see if I can work that in, but I think it may make it appear as “too much stuff going on” in the game screen.

The screenshots below show the new button displays, as well as the new blue color if the LED wasn’t connected with it’s maximum flow value.  I chose blue because it is a cold color, and it was different than the default “off” gray color of the LED.



June 21, 2012

The game got a lot of good feeback on the AppHub playtest forum.  I’ve resolved most of the issues that other developers found.

Device Selection Issue

There was one report that the game wouldn’t play on any controller index, even though I tested that case multiple times.  After doing some more testing with all four controllers, I found that if one of the controllers was not signed into an account, then it would stay on the storage device selection screen if a storage device is not already selected.  Therefore, on the load screen the “Select Device” button didn’t appear to do anything, because there was no profile to select the storage device.  The screen was misleading, because what the user really needs to do is sign-in (however it did say “must be signed in to use storage device”), but it didn’t automatically take the player to the XBox profile login screen.  After doing some research, I found that the PlayerIndex is not a mandatory parameter for the DeviceSelection control.  Therefore, I just removed that parameter, so now all players (signed-in or not signed-in) can select a storage device.  The only downside is that now all players on the system share the same save data, but I doubt there will be any complaints about that.

Component Selection

Another developer reported that it was difficult to tell which component is currently selected.  This is simple to see in later levels with many selectable components, but I can understand that it is difficult on the early levels with only two selectable components.  I went ahead and added a simple animated arrow which points to the currently selected component, which should remove any doubt on which component is selected.  I also created a frame sprite to display around the selected item, but it didn’t look good so I just stuck with the arrow.

Tutorial Tips

Since this is an unconventional game, some players didn’t fully understand the game mechanics.  I’ve always thought that part of the fun was learning the game, but I don’t want anyone to get frustrated at the start of the game.  Therefore, I’ve added tips that display to the left of the game board for the starting levels.  I wanted to have these tips scroll across the bottom like a television news feed, but I didn’t have enough vertical screen real estate in the title safe area.

I ended up putting the tips off to the left side, since there was a lot of unused space there.  At first, I only had the tips display if the amount of time for the S-rank had elapsed, so that expert players wouldn’t see the tips.  However, this resulted in the tip flashing at the last second if the level is completed slightly after the time required for the S-rank.  Therefore, I decided just to have the tip fade in and let all players see them.  Trying to figure out how to get text to fade-in was a lengthly process.  At first I thought all I had to do was pass a color object with the fourth parameter set to the alpha, but this does not work when specifying the first three RGB parameters as well. (good grief!)  Fortunately, I found an article which explained that you have to multiply the color by the alpha value for it to work right, such as Color.White * 0.5f.  It’s mind boggling why just new Color(255, 255, 255, 128) won’t work.

Activating LEDs with  Lower Flow Value

Another suggestion was to remove the ability to activate LEDs with flow lower than the LED value.  I think that would make the game too difficult for a casual audience.  The game appropriately penalizes the player in the “luminosity” rank if the LEDs are not using the maximum values.  However, I did modify the colors of the activated LEDs if those are not using the maximum value.  Now those are colored light blue.  I will probably also add a different sound effect as well.

Submitted for Playtest

June 13, 2012

I haven’t done any development for Resistor since I submitted it to the Dream Build Play competition on May 30th.  Therefore, I went ahead and submitted for Playtest on the AppHub website.  I guess this is what it feels like to send your first child to school.  However, I’m sure that any feedback that I do get will be helpful, which will make the game better.

There must be some tough critics out there, because the Resistor trailer video instantly received a negative vote after it was posted on the DBP website.  Therefore, I went ahead and disabled voting on the video until the competition is over.  On the other hand, the video has been getting a lot of traffic, and it is now over 125 views  just for being posted for a little over a week.  I went ahead and made the video public, because it was previously unlisted where a link was required to view the video.  I also made a YouTube playlist containing the complete series of development videos.

After taking a break from looking at the game, I did play it again for a few minutes and noticed new ways to complete some of the levels.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed this if I had not stepped away from the game for a while.  These new ways allow some of the levels to be completed with fewer pieces, so I may need to tweak the requirement for the S-rank on those levels.

Not that I’m trying to overly promote the game, but I went ahead and made pages on Facebook and Twitter for the game.  I did this more as a precaution to keep someone from taking the “resistorgame” brand name on those social media outlets.

I also created new box art for the game, and got rid of the image that I rendered in Blender.  I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that the game uses 3D graphics.  The background is an interconnected mesh of battery, LED, and resistor objects.  I also used some of the trailer quotes on the box image, but I changed “fun for the entire family” to “fun for all ages”.  The former wording could possibly sound like it is a multiplayer game, which it isn’t.

Hopefully, the playtesting goes well and it will be out on the XBox Marketplace soon.  There are some changes I may want to make before putting out the final version, such as fade-in/fade-out transitions between screens.  I also have to jump through a few other hoops before I can actually sell the software.