Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stupor becomes Stupify

Here's my slightly wordy in-game description of one of Chalo Chalo's power-ups:

On pressing an action button the nearest competitor is targeted. On release their ability to change speed or direction is temporarily removed.
Single use. Hold button to target nearest player, release to activate.

This power-up began life when Richard entered the idea into our mighty power-up-ideas-spreadsheet under the name "Steer Stealer (Tomasz please think of a decent name for this one)".

I did my best, and renamed it Stupor. Since it causes another player to fall into a 'stupor'. It turns out it could be better still.

A seemingly relevant detour: My naming strategy for power-ups has been to choose terms that are short, somehow descriptive of their function, and obscure. In that order of priority. Certainly among my favourite names at the moment is Richard's Remi: the player travels faster in proportion to haw far away he/she is from the other players. The name is a reference to the lonely protagonist from the 1878 novel Sans Famille (Alleen op de wereld in Dutch). In second place for me is Safa, an as-yet unimplemented power-up that, upon activation, causes the goal to slowly move towards the empowered player. Safa is a reference to the mountain that Mohammed commanded to come to him. According to the legend, the mountain didn't come to Mohammed in the end. In Chalo Chalo the goal will be more obliging.

Anyway, Stupor. It turns out it's not ideal. We noticed that everyone ends up calling it Stupify. It makes sense: Stupify is what you do, from the perspective of the user of the power-up, you stupify another player. You don't enter a stupor yourself. And this feels a much more natural way of referring to it.

This is one of the many cases that the iterative approach we've been taking to developing the game has been valuable. These days most of the development decisions happen after playtesting. Recently that's been at the Local Multiplayer Game Picnic events, and at the Indigo 2012 game event.

I think of renaming this power-up as analogous to paving a path that people have already trodden through the grass. I don't think there's any shame in admitting that spontaneous order is smarter than I am. In fact, whether appropriate or not, I feel almost proud of that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Refining the color pallet

Chalo Chalo's color pallet hasn't been getting the most attention so far. Time for some tweaks.

The current pallet functions pretty well, except for color blind people. They are having problems distinguishing the players' colors. Also the pallet looks rather prototypish. Which in a way it is, but it would benefit from some refinement.

The current colors:

The good:
- The player colors are easily communicated. "I'm red, you're blue and we need to stop that green dude".
- Ice is white and the slow tar is black. Also this is easy to explain to the players.
- The speedy terrain (yellow) is easily spotted. Which helps planning your path quickly.
- All player colors are different from the colors used in the terrain. This prevents players from thinking their color is connected to the terrain behaviour.

The bad:
- Color blindness prevents clear distinction between the players' colors.
- The color pallet feels like it is still a placeholder. It lacks refinement.


This one mostly feels as if a yellow filter is added to the whole scene. It feels a bit retro. Rather pleasant to the eye, but not fresh enough.
I really like that the tar isn't black and has a little red in it. It will be still easy for players to point that one out by referring to it as the dark patches. Probably still close enough to black to be called black by quite some players. 
The same applies to the ice. No longer pure white makes the pallet more subtle. It's a bit too close to the yellow now.

Also I removed the black outer ring of the players. That ring helps a lot in making the players stand out against all backgrounds, but I'm going to try and see how far we can get without. It looks a lot nicer.

With this one I tried to keep all colors in a limited color pallet. All colors relate to blue or red. Visually nice, but difficult to get all contrasts right. Especially the lighter colored players don't stand out on ice.

What does work well is to have the ice and neutral terrain have a blueish hue and contrasting that with the reds of the tar and speedy terrains. All terrains are very easy to read.

So far I like this one best.
The colors seem fresh and unfiltered. Will have to still test it for color blindness.
I guess this means the speedy terrain becomes grass : )