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Thursday, November 11, 2010


Design Diary: Piecing Together a Game - Part 2

Welcome back to my somewhat amazing story about making a flash game. As you remember from part 1, I'm making a game inspired by my wife's patchwork quilt. On day one I created some art and made a working prototype. Now the hard work begins.

What's wrong?
The problem with the game as it stands now is that it doesn't do enough to hold the player's interest. To tackle that problem, I intend to do two things. First of all, I'm going to build in a system to make the game end sooner. I will also work in some bonuses that the player must actively seek in order to prevent that from happening. Both of these should increase player involvement so that they feel they have a more active role in the progress of the game. Will this work? There's only one way to find out.

Trying not to break it
This game is using an engine that I built when teaching myself Actionscript 3. Which means there are parts of it that are there because the book told me to put them there. To be fair, the book tried very hard to explain to me why it was important for these pieces to be there, but I'm not really the ideal student for that form of instruction. So here I am with code that works and now I have to pinpoint what's happening where so I can insert the parts I need to improve the game while keeping the whole thing working. The plus side of this is maybe I'll finally figure out what that book has been trying to teach me all this time.

The best way to do this is to use the Trace command. It's a function of Actionscript purely for debugging. The trace command simply sends your message to the output window exactly when you tell it to. This can tell you the value of a variable or even if the program is reaching that part of the code at all. In my case, I put in trace commands to tell me when it began processing matches and when it was done. I moved them around several times until I got the results I wanted and then I replaced those traces with commands that would increase bonuses for subsequent matches (combos).

A trickier part was to make the score display more exciting. Sure, you're earning points, but since it's getting added to the score in one large chunk, it's a bit anti-climatic. Far better to increment the score like old pinball machines used to do. This turned out to be far more difficult than I anticipated simply because I had little understanding of how Flash keeps track of time. I eventually had to scrap my initial plan for one that (fortunately) turned out to be far more efficient.

That took me most of the morning and while I still haven't addressed the improvements I wish to incorporate into the game, I now have a good idea on where they're going to go.

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