Cube Overlord – New game mode

After some small updates on my android game Cube Overlord, I am now releasing a new game mode! Time Trial.

Before I tell you how it works, here is a little back story of how it came to exist :)

Game modes

There are currently two game modes in Cube Overlord.

  • Stage/Story mode (with 10 levels)
  • Arcade mode (infinite vertical scroller)

For those that haven’t played it, it’s quite straightforward: You avoid cubes of the opposite color (you loose a life if you get hit) and you collect cubes of your color to gain points/beat the boss. And you can switch color anytime by tapping on the screen.

In Stage/Story mode you face a boss at the end of each level and you get 1-3 stars depending on your results.

in Arcade mode you are in a infinite scroller with increasing difficulty and try to get as much points as possible before you loose all your life.

normal-50

I also had another mode available during development, called Survival mode, it was supposed to work like this:

You try to survive for as long as possible, game speed increase every second until you reach terminal velocity. Cubes pattern become more and more complicated. There are no power ups and no extra life. Score is determined by how long you manage to stay alive. Quite simple if you ask me :)

But there were several issues with this game mode and in the end I wasn’t very happy about it:

  1. There wasn’t any incentive to collect any cubes, a very big feature of the game therefore became useless in this mode. I consider this as a failed design. The mode would have been functional but it wouldn’t make much sense. It would actually punish players trying to collect cubes as it would make it harder for them for absolutely no benefit. It was counter intuitive and it didn’t fit with the other game modes.
  2. I could have made it so that collecting cubes would also bring you points, but I felt this would be too similar to the current Arcade mode and didn’t warrant a game mode of its own.

After musing it over, I finally decided to scrap this mode entirely and release it like that. This allowed me to focus on other things and not delay the release of my game. I justified this by telling myself I would keep on working on this mode after the release and eventually make it available in a later version.

So after the game got released, I started thinking about this mode again, trying to find a way to make this work. And this is how I ended up with the Time Trial mode.

Design

Here is how the design process went:

I started from the issue at hand: Collecting cube in this game mode is useless.

Possible solutions:

  • Gain points -> Already rejected before
  • Change Survival mode to a mode with limited time -> you no longer try to survive for as long as possible, but you have 60 seconds to go as far as possible

Sounds good, now increasing the time left when collecting blocks actually make sense. This fixes the issue at hand.

Let’s try this! I make small modifications to the survival mode:

You have 60 seconds, each cube you collect adds 1 second, getting hit removes 10 seconds, as before, speed and difficulty increases as time passes. You can get time multiplier by chaining 10/20/40 cubes of the same color.

How it plays:

It works, but it’s too easy to collect cubes, I never run out of time and always end up dying by getting hit several times in a row once the game reach a certain difficulty level. Similar to what’s currently happening in Arcade mode.

Possible solution:

It should be quite easy, try to tweak the numbers. On my first try I basically divided by 2 the time added when collecting cubes.

How it plays:

It’s still too easy, and now you have a “+0.5” showing up on screen each time you collect a cube. Ugly. I don’t want to show a bunch of decimal numbers on screen, it’s confusing.

Before trying to tweak the numbers again (+0.33 ?), I try to get the root cause of this issue.

My conclusion: As difficulty increase, you have more cubes on screen and as speed increase you can collect them even faster. I will not be able to find a number that will be balanced for all difficulties unless it also varies with difficulty. This is starting to get complicated and I don’t want to confuse the player.

Possible Fix:

  • Don’t increase the speed as time passes and/or have less cube in harder difficulties -> I didn’t even try it as I knew it would make the game too boring. Many peoples complained that the first levels of story mode were too slow, and I wasn’t going to do the same mistake again. Anyway this would kill the sense of progression.
  • Add special cubes that show up every X seconds to increase your time -> Back to square one, what’s the point of regular cubes then ?
  • Instead of adding extra time when you collect cubes, increase the player speed! So he can travel further -> Sounds about right, let’s try this.

It works fine, some tuning, are necessary but this solution is quite balanced: It is necessary to collect cubes to go further/faster but it also increases the difficulty as it makes it harder to dodges cubes now

Final solution

You have 60 seconds to go as far as possible, collecting cubes of your color increase your speed (you fill up the bar at the bottom of the screen), collecting power ups give you some  extra time (~4 sec) and getting hit makes you loose 10 seconds and half of your increased speed !

This is probably not perfect but should work quite well, I will obviously tweak things as I get some feedback, but I am quite happy with what I ended up with.

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