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Magnetic Butterfly

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Magnetic Butterfly is now finished.

After a development period of about a month and a half spread over the last six-seven months, I'm finally cool with "launching" it. I started working on the game on January 25th/26th while sitting on a couch at my parent's place in Northern Michigan while visiting for a weekend. Further development was done at random spots near Detroit, Michigan. And I'm finishing it while sitting on a bed in my hotel room in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The launch is purely symbolic, of course, as the game has been completely open to anyone to try at any point in it's development. This reduces the effectiveness of saying: hey, everyone, here's a game, play it! It did, however, greatly aid in the design and iteration on the primary control scheme, among other mechanics. For a game design that revolved around a very frustration-prone method of controlling the player's character, this iterative development was pretty invaluable. I didn't quite get to the level of input ease as I was hoping for, but it came pretty close to my expectations. I'm still not sure whether messing around with the player's primary control mechanism for a game is a smart design decision or not -- a lot of what I take from this project will be based on post-release feedback -- but it was a fun experiment (even if I don't do something like it again).

This was my first project with Unity 3D and, all things considered, I absolutely loved working with it. It's the best rapid prototyping toolset I've ever come across, the support is superb, it is constantly being updated, and the web plug-in is fantastic. The ability to work on some features in script, alt+tab into the editor, drag-and-drop appropriate objects to link them to the script, and instantly test everything out within a matter of seconds is one of the most astounding development work-flows I have ever come across. I had the basic gameplay for Magnetic Butterfly setup within a matter of days; everything after that was tuning and the addition of some small features here and there. It was great to be able to sit down with my MacBook and make some progress on the game in a matter of minutes; the number of features I developed sitting at waiting rooms across Michigan is actually kind of astounding (almost all GUI features were done at a local Discount Tire).

Despite being an arena-based game design (much like Asplode!), Magnetic Butterfly was my first step to a different approach to game design: a primary idea and mood established from singular concepts and emotions. Rather than the fairly blatant Geometry Wars vibe that established Asplode!, Magnetic Butterfly sprung out of a goal to experiment with a somewhat unique control style (not directly controlling a character capable of doing or taking damage) and a tonal focus on life and death. Forcing myself to adhere to these two criteria made the actual development decisions and the general style direction far easier than I would have ever expected it to be. Whether or not either of these concepts comes through in the gameplay -- and my pointing this out already taints the ability for anyone to judge that "effectiveness" -- is unknown, but for me it was a great aid.

Also, huge thanks to my buddy Josh Jersild for his work on the sound effects and music tracks for the game; these weren't added until very late in the game's development (earlier this week) and their addition really helped the project come together. Also thanks to Goran Grce who, upon hearing me lament my own attempts at modeling a butterfly (and being unable to animate one with my current tools) took it upon himself to hook me up with the perfect model based on some of my provided references.

One decision I made early on was to not bother with multiple graphics settings. I didn't feel this game was large enough to really deal with numerous graphical settings and a bunch of performance tweaks, so I got the game looking and running how I envisioned it and if it didn't bog down my MacBook at any point in the duration of a given game then I gave it the thumbs up. I'd be interested to hear how many people (if any?) have any issues with the technical presentation of the game, as that feedback will impact how I utilize Unity going forward. If a browser game has to deal with settings then, in my book, something is wrong.

All things considered, this has been a super fun project. I never really got tired of working on it and playing it here and there has always been fun for me. The super casual approach to development that I was able to take with Magnetic Butterfly is a testament to the usefulness and power of the Unity feature-set, and although I won't be using it for my next project, I'll definitely be coming back to the engine in the near future.

Going forward I'm going to try out far more focused game projects (using Flixel for the appropriately lower player install overhead) that can be taken from concept to completion in a matter of weeks, but Unity is going to remain my go-to solution for any 3D projects.
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Well, I did play it before I read your pseudo-esque postmortem. It took me a minute or two to figure out exactly what to do (as that's what happens when you don't read directions). Having the directions appear on the main game menu might have been a good idea. The sound really does add a lot to it. When I first started it, I thought it looked and acted a lot like a Wii game. I did find the game itself to be fairly challenging. I would think having the chain/spring between the butterfly and the ball to be springier would help. That, and the control scheme was a bit tricky. I would lean more towards something with the mouse - move the mouse in the direction you want the butterfly to fly, and click to make it hold in place. As you've said you've played with this a bit, maybe I'm wrong.

I think designing from an emotional perspective shows through - when I first started it up it seemed quite... calm.

Also, I didn't have any technical issues with having it run in a fixed sized browser window with the size that it was - on a Pentium 4 3.4 Ghz machine (in the Chrome browser).

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Original post by Moe
Having the directions appear on the main game menu might have been a good idea.


The controls pop up in-game for a few seconds, did you see those?

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Original post by mittens
Quote:
Original post by Moe
Having the directions appear on the main game menu might have been a good idea.


The controls pop up in-game for a few seconds, did you see those?


I guess I was too impatient and saw something telling me to press enter to play.

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