Developer Diary 4: MVPs, Pax East, and Modding Competition
Compiled by John Polson
This week’s diary brings you an update to Dejobaan’s marketing and distribution of Kick It. Our current goal is to create what the industry calls a “minimum viable product” (MVP) — which basically is another way of saying that we’re working towards creating a small, delicious core nugget that demonstrates everything we want the game to be.
MVPs can do different things for us — for example, an MVP geared towards players will tell us whether the basic concepts in our game are what we want them to be (and where problem areas lay). When we released Kick It’s Alpha-1 and Alpha-2, we found that players were looking for more of a connection between their MP3 music and the levels that music created.
An MVP geared towards release via third party digital distribution will need to be sufficiently presentable to dazzle the digital distributors (read: please Steam users) and be functional enough to run on their platforms. We need to design that core package such that the publisher’s players get the idea of the game and enjoy it even though it’s just in alpha.
Based on forum feedback, we’ve broken the Kick It MVP down into a few categories:
1. A Kick It level must be a complete, meaningful, and playable experience. It should run from beginning to end, scoring players in some meaningful way. An example would be to give them a letter grade based on percent completion — trying to achieve a higher grade gives people an incentive to replay the stage and attempt longer kiss chains.
2. The level layout, gameplay, and aesthetics must match the beat. For example, scoring plates should strike the player to the song’s rhythm:
But what if we also made levels respond to the music much like music visualizers do? We’ve been studying up on the concept, and there’s a great deal of inspiration out there:
How about enemies that pulse to the beat? What if the sky changed color, pulsing along with the music? All these things contribute to a connection between what players hear and what they see.
3. We want to introduce the concept of a level progression. We’re currently thinking of a map, where players progress from city to city, gaining certain abilities. The simplest example of this might be the ability to purchase stronger shots, allowing players to tackle more difficult levels, which allows the player to gain more resources to purchase stronger shots (and so forth!). The idea here is to create a metagame, rather than allowing players to simply pick stages at random, as in the alphas.
4. Over the course of this level progression, we then want to provide new mechanics. As seen in the forums, it’d be something like this:
City #1: Generates levels that focus on kisses and static architecture.
City #2: Introduces moving architecture.
City #3: Scoring plates.
City #4: Enemies.
City #5: Rapid decision making (e.g., pairs of scoring plates; you must always pick the optimal plate).
City #6: Twitch decision making (e.g., the levels where cubes appear in front of you, forcing you to dodge quickly)
We’re also talking about allowing people to mod the game. As RoadCrewWorker has pointed out, it’s actually already possible to create maps if you’re clever:
This reminds us a lot of one of RCW’s favorite videos:
You may have heard rumors about a modding competition. We have yet to make a formal announcement about such, but it’s looking promising! We’ve received a number of donations from some awesome indie friends. Andy Moore’s Radial Games kicked in several hundred dollar$$$. Other prizes include Lazy 8 Studios’s Cogs , Rudolph Kremers’ Eufloria, Galcon’s Galcon Fusion, Garage Games’s Metal Drift, Ronimo Games’s Swords & Soldiers, and 2D Boy’s World of Goo. The goal here is to jumpstart the modding community for Kick It and push the boundaries of procedural content generation so all indie studios can benefit from it. More on that as it comes!
JohnDejobaan has posted a forum thread to field specific Kick It questions, which we’ll answer in future blog posts. Forum registration is free, so go join the cool kids and talk about Dejobaan and Kick It. Ask your questions here, and John and Ichiro will cherry pick the juiciest ones.
John says: Speaking of the ultimate cool kid, Ichiro will be appearing at two PAX East panels:
“Just Because You Have an Idea, You Are Not a Game Designer” on Saturday, 10:30am – 11:30am. The panelists include Ichiro Lambe [President, Dejobaan Games], Chris Oltyan [Producer, Dire Wolf Digital], Eitan Glinert [President, Fire Hose Games], Scott Macmillan [President, Macguffin Games]
“Start Your Own Damned Company” on Sunday 4:30pm – 5:30pm. The panel includes familiar faces: Chris Oltyan [Producer, Dire Wolf Digital], Eitan Glinert [President, Fire Hose Games], Scott Macmillan [President, Macguffin Games], Ichiro Lambe [President, Dejobaan Games], Damian Isla [Director of Technology, Moonshot Games].