Thursday, January 23, 2014

Two For The Price Of One

Version 0.7 Released:

GumBall Fall v0.7: Web Player | Android | Google Play BETA | Google+

Two! Yes two, two, two build milestones in one (blog post). After releasing GumBall Fall v0.5 a few weeks ago, documenting my coding exploits took a bit of a downturn due to a variety of reasons. Since then, two pre-releases of GumBall Fall have been released into the wild.

With each release comes a more polished product. Release v0.6 saw the first push of the game into the Google Play Store BETA program. If you’re interested in joining the public BETA follow these directions and join the fun!

Major Changes in v0.6 (Jan 16, 2014):
  • Graphics:
    • New Desktop & Android Icon 
    • Selected gumballs now highlight their ‘closeness’ radius. If another gumball of the same color falls in this radius, it can be added to the chain 
  • Game Play and Internal Logic: 
    • Gameboard now resets if no valid chains are detected for the player to select 
    • After not finding a valid chain for ‘a bit’ the game will suggest a chain for the user 
  • Brand new Intro Tutorial. Still needs polishing, but, it’s a BIG improvement over what used to be there 
  • Various UI tweaks 
  • First build to be signed and pushed to the Google Play Store in BETA form

Major Changes in v0.7 (Jan 23, 2014):
  • [BUG FIX] Corrected regression in v0.6 where player data wouldn’t save properly when run in WebPlayer (C# Dictionaries don’t serialize in Unity)
  • Gumballs ‘reflection’ now (hopefully) look more realistic 
  • Revamped internal save data layout 
    • New game modes/types should be able to be added without the need to completely reset player stats 
  • Setting screen created 
    • Music and SFX volume control 
    • Gumball color scheme options ( aid in color blindness )

This Period's Highlights:

More than anything, these last two updates focused on providing the player with a better user experience. First and foremost, if you want to keep players, you have to have a fun game… hopefully, I do. And, hopefully, it’ll only get more fun as I continue to add more features.

But, it’s the little details that really make the game. First up…

Refining the Tutorial

If the user doesn’t know how to play your game, (s)he simply won’t play it! The old tutorial was nothing more than a single screen filled with a wall of text giving the user a vague idea of how the game works. Creating it, I knew it was destined to be replaced with something far more robust. Ideally, I’d create an interactive tutorial system that integrated directly into normal gameplay. That didn’t happen (though, perhaps it’ll make its way into a future build). What has happened is the creation of an interactive tutorial when the player first starts the game. The tutorial walks the player through the basic gameplay mechanics and requires the player to complete simply tasks before it’ll let him/her play the game proper.

Removing The Noise

Most people would say your game isn’t complete unless your game has sound. Ironically, though, for mobile apps, one of the first things people do is disable all audio. After all, a silent game can more easily be played in class or meetings.

Well, GumBall Fall has been pumping out music and sound effects for a few releases now. But, up until this point, the player had no way to disable this ‘noise.’ Well, audio control can now be knocked off my TODO list. The player can now independently control music and sound effects volume from the Settings screen

Aiding The (color) Blind

One of the general no-nos in UI design is to rely on color as the only indicator of an object’s purpose. Think of a traffic light: Green means GO, red means STOP, yellow means SPEED UP AND MAKE IT THROUGH THE LIGHT BEFORE IT TURNS RED. But, what happens if you’re color blind? Well, you then have to rely on light positions. Green is always going to be on the bottom or right, red on the top or left, and yellow always in the middle. You might not know what color is actually showing, but, you can still determine the proper action to take.

So, what did I do with GumBall Fall? Ignored all of those color rules and created a game with perfect spheres whose only discernible difference is color… BRILLIANT!

When conceptualizing the game, It’s a problem I knew I’d run into, but, I kept pushing it to the back burner. Ideally, I’d make different shaped gumballs or brand an unique symbol on each gumball type. But, that’ll be for future release considerations. For now, what we have are alternate gumball color schemes available in the Setting screen. Currently there are 3 schemes to choose from. The first scheme is basically what I’ve been using for the past several releases. The second and third schemes were created mostly based off of the website. With just a few drags and clicks of a mouse, you can explore all sorts of color schemes and, best of all, they have options you can enable to simulate what your schemes will look like to folks with various types of color blindness.

Ultimately, creating non-color dependent visual cues for each gumball type will be the ideal solution. But, for now, the alternate color schemes ought to give folks a higher probability to play GumBall Fall successfully.

Welcome to the BETA

Version v0.6 saw the light of day in the Google Play Store. While sideloading an app on an Android device is all well and good, it still requires some non-standard Android skills. Mostly, folks need to know how to enable Android to allow non-Google Play Store apps to be installed.

Pushing the app to the Play Store means that anyone who is interested in testing it out can simply download it just like any other app… well, almost. Since I don’t want to actually publish the game to the world, I’m placing the game in a public BETA. Anyone can download the game, but, first they need to become a tester. Follow these directions to become a BETA tester. What it boils down to is simply joining the GumBall Fall Google+ community and following a couple links.

Besides easy of download, being in the Play Store also eases the burden of asking folks to reinstall newer versions of the game. Now, new versions will simply get pushed to them just like any other app they’ve downloaded from the store.

Oh, and one more thing…

Pushing to the Play Store inspired me to actually create a more legitimate-looking app icon. I’m far from being an artist, but, this is what I came up with. Let me know what you think!

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