We have a few things going on at Kahoot Studios right now, but our main project is Milkyway Meow Meow! We’ve been working on the game for about three months now, and as I mentioned before, our focus has been getting a vertical slice as polished and complete as possible. With the vertical slice complete we’re now working on designing and prototyping other parts of the larger game, but we’ll have more information on that side of things to talk about soon. I recently wrote a blog post about the the core mechanics of the vertical slice and how they work. I went into detail on some of the choices we made during the design and the reasons we made those choices. Today I’m going to continue on from there and talk about the main “Actions” you can perform in the game. If you haven’t read my first Game Design post on the game, you can check it out here.
So far I’ve described how the player moves the character left and right with the mouse, aiming for objects to bounce themselves upwards. They gain momentum by bouncing on objects and the goal of the game is to keep bouncing up and travel as far as they can, while earning as many points as possible along the way. Objects disappear when bounced on and new objects only appear above the character. This means that once the player starts falling down the screen and falls below the lowest object, they won’t be able to recover and will lose.
Today I’m going to talk about the main “Actions” that the player can perform in Milkyway Meow Meow. These are basically the Skills or Abilities available to the player in order to help them travel further and add some more variety to the gameplay. When we finished the most basic prototype for the game and had made the adjustments I discussed in the last blog post, we were full of ideas of things to add to the game. The core mechanic was working really well and was a lot of fun, so we wanted to add some extra functionality to the character. We knew that, down the line, we wanted to add enemies and hazards to the game so giving the player more tools to maneuver their way through space would help them stand a chance. We decided fairly quickly that we wanted to have two Actions, one for each mouse button. Since all movement was done with the mouse already, this allowed the player to completely interact with the game using just the mouse. After we had decided that we wanted two Actions, we started coming up with ideas for what they should be. As I’ve mentioned before, the key to game design is iteration and we did quite a bit of iteration on these new Actions! We decided that we didn’t want the character to shoot projectiles as it didn’t fit the theme we were going for, and it’s also a very overdone way of killing enemies. Instead we started with what I’ll refer to as our Version 1 Actions – Extra Jump and Slow Motion.
Version 1 Actions
Extra Jump is a simple enough concept for an Action. Sometimes the player might not be able to reach an object in time to keep bouncing upwards and being able to bounce off “nothing” can save them. This basically allows them to have an “extra” jump by clicking to bounce off thin air. This action proved to be useful, fun and once we started testing it out it was hard to imagine the game without it! We added a cooldown to this action for balance because without one the player can keep bouncing off air and will never be able to lose. This added more skill to the use of the Extra Jump too because the player is encouraged to save it for when they really need it, and then has to be extra careful while it’s recharging. All in all, this was a great addition to the game and complemented the core mechanic and skill based gameplay really nicely.
Our concept for Slow Motion was to slow the game down for a certain amount of time to allow the player to be more accurate in their movement and be able to take it easy for a little while. The game can be quite frantic and reflex based so this felt like it would be a cool and enjoyable Action. We were entirely wrong! We tried a few different versions of Slow Motion and none of them really felt right or even fun. They all slowed the action down too much and some versions felt like they made the game laggy rather than slowed down due to an Action being used. We could have spent more time making this look and feel better with polish but in game design, if something isn’t fun in its most basic form it’s almost never good when polished. We decided to drop this mechanic completely.
So we went on the hunt for a new action and while continuing to playtest, we also ended up tweaking and improving our design of the Extra Jump. This is when we ended up with our Version 2 Actions – Super Jump and Shield, which are the current actions in the vertical slice.
Version 2(current) Actions
We had a small issue with the Extra Jump which was that due to how fast the game plays, often the player would be falling too fast or have already fallen too far by the time they used it. This would mean they can’t reach a new object to bounce on with it, due to our Average Jump Height(mentioned in our last blog post). We decided the best way to adjust this was to turn the Extra Jump into a Super Jump instead. Mechanically what this changed was that instead of acting as if the player just bounced off an object, instead they would be launched upwards with a good bit of momentum. This made the Action a lot stronger, a lot easier to save yourself with and also still a lot of fun! We did some more balancing and increased the cooldown for this Action considerably as it almost always saves the player when they’re in a tight spot. This is the current version of this Action, but as we continue with development we may well end up iterating on the concept again. As more and more elements get added to a game, the existing elements need to be revisited in case they’re impacted.
Our search for a new second Action ended when we started putting some more thought into the enemies and hazards we wanted to add to the game. I mentioned we didn’t want a “projectile shooting” Action, but we wanted some way to fight the enemies we were adding. This is when the Shield got added. It seemed really simple at first, holding down the right mouse button would turn your Shield on, releasing it would turn it off. We tested it out and it worked really well, but needed some balancing. We tried a few versions of cooldowns and we finally landed on a “power gauge” style of restricting it’s use. You have a power gauge for the Shield that lets you turn the Shield on for 5 seconds total. If you turn it on for 3 seconds, then you’ll be able to turn it for another 2 seconds before your gauge is fully drained. The power gauge will then recharge if you haven’t used your Shield in the past 10 seconds. This turned out to be really skill testing as the player needs to find the balance in turning their Shield on for long enough to survive an encounter with an enemy, but also for a short enough time to conserve their power gauge. On top of that they also need to try and avoid using their Shield all the time, even for short periods, or it won’t recharge.
I’ll be explaining what the different enemies and hazards in the game are in the next blog post, so that’ll give you guys more of an idea on how useful the Shield can be! I hope you’re enjoying our series of Game Design posts and we’d love any and all feedback. We’ve got a bunch of exciting things going on with Milkyway Meow Meow at the moment so we’ll have a bunch more of these posts coming!