Pixel Riot: Hyper Casual Mayhem
A 2D fast paced arcade game of the 80s theme which requires players to save their screen from imminent destruction by the invading pixels.
My role required me to come up with an intuitive narrative and flow for the game-play we had devised. It is a casual game with intermittent bumps of high skill requirements, intended to increase the playability of the game for a longer duration.
Play Store Link: Pixel Riot
Team: Mr. Funcs
The process we adopted to get this game done. Procrastination was a big foe!
As the game was intended for the casual audience: the core game-play mechanic was the most important feature of the game.
This needed to be enjoyable, so that people could get easily hooked to the game.
Plus, the ever-diminishing attention span of the modern crowd necessitated
- the input be as simple as possible and
- the average game length being 60 secs at max for a single run.
These were some of the conclusions we had agreed upon after going through most of the top trending games on the Play Store.
As the shelve lives of App games are low for most games on the Play Store, we decided the overall commitment to the game by the user need not exceed a week, hence enabling us to decide the scope and the amount of content we would create for the app.
We came up with a low asset prototype for the game-play we had decided.
The core game-play being: a player being able to change the color of the sweeping bar, which was swiping the screen constantly. The change in color helped in sweeping particles of the corresponding color off the screen.
FEEDBACK CYCLE 1
A little feedback from our younger audience. 😁
Now we needed to know whether the gameplay we had came up with, had any appeal with the players or not, without the frills of the overlaying design.
Hence, we contacted some of the people we knew, who were into hardcore app gaming.
This was mostly a closed alpha testing. We needed feedback and we needed it quick.
After it was greenlit by atleast 80% of the people we had forwarded the apks to, we could confirm that the game was addictive.
We had the gameplay mechanic, and now we needed a reason to explain the player why they did the things that they were doing.
We needed a narrative! Initially, we had came up with the idea that the player was a mundane desk security who used to scan miners for radioactive contamination.
We made the designs and tested it as part of the feedback cycle. The most common replies we received were the miners looked mostly like cars in a incoming traffic.
This was visual Problem #1:
The players not being able to correlate the given narrative with what they saw on the screen.
Problem #2 being,
the game mechanic required us to put buttons with different colors, and pressing any colored button resulted in the sweeper turning to that color.
Hence the corresponding colored miner were to be swiped off the screen, or their color removed to indicate they were clear of the contamination.
This presented two dilemmas: Swiping miners off the screen didn’t make any sense as per the narrative. They were live people, what did it really mean swiping them off the screen. :O
The other being, just removing their color and turning them white didn’t result in a clear VISUAL FEEDBACK to the player. Hence, they felt their actions didn’t have any effect on the game. The greatest sin that an app can commit: not being responsive.
And this clearly illustrated a huge problem.
We finally had to abandon the radioactive miners narrative.
Those days, we were pretty much into discussing about breaking the 4th Dimension (as Deadpool 2 was coming out).
This was when, we struck upon the idea, why not call the particles as pixels and the entire play area being the literal smartphone in the player’s hand. The pixels are rioting against their owner and marching to destroy the very screen they lived on.
Hence, started the PIXEL RIOT!
Now the gameplay felt more cohesive with the narrative and could be expanded upon in the future, if the need arises. (Pixel Riot 2 :p).
DESIGN AND FEEDBACK CYCLE II
All the assets were made and packed together to create the first beta build.
It was clean looking and worked smoothly.
We forwarded it to our wider acquaintance circle.
It was mostly positive, as people were appreciating the effort that we put, rather than critiquing the base game.
We had to search for design enthuasiasts that we had ever said ‘hi’ to and ask them for their honest opinions.
The feedback was productive and implementable.
We also came across a pattern, that people quickly became bored with the arcade style gameplay we had came up with. And very rarely opened the app for the 3rd or the 2nd time even. We had to resort to surprise phone calls to truly understand the situation.
We realised we needed a feature, that made it distinct from a basic arcade and make players come back for more.
We decided, we needed to summon the BOSS, and that too, many of them.
But we also got into a disagreement whether making the BOSS stages was a viable step for the app. As initially, we had decided the fast paced game didn’t require much content and we needed to push the final product as soon as possible. Working on more features, at this end of the product cycle meant delaying the product launch, further and further.
Hence, we decided to use the present assets and come up with something viable for the BOSS stage. And we did. We used the particles (Pixels) and grouped them into swarms of definite shapes, which gave rise to the multi colored BOSS stages of our game.
Finally, the feedback for the BOSS Stage was quite mixed. Some of the veterans liked the new feature over the mundane arcade and some new players were just satisfied with the earlier scheme of just the arcade version.
Hence we placed two modes: Arcade and Riot.
The Riot mode emphasizing a linear storyline with BOSS Stages and the Arcade Mode offering, the simple endless mode of arcade fun.
We still push updates, adjusting some minor bugs and time delays.
The most common feedback we had received was, our game is ADDICTIVE. And yet, the Play Store shows a 500+ lifetime downloads for the app. A very low number for an app store with games crossing 100,000 downloads easily. But, yes we had expected it.
The initial growth was mostly due to our social circle which reached about 100 downloads and then it further expanded to include the people friends with our friends. Albeit, an organic reach generated merely based on mouth-to-mouth publicity, which lasted as long as the game interested the audience. Data also indicated a sharp increase in the number of uninstallations in the initial days, which prompted us to believe, people downloaded it just to have a glimpse and not for the sake of playing.
I would opine we lacked enough resources for marketing or simply, that the three of us weren’t good at it.
We have a further plan for incorporating unintrusive advertisements within the game, if it reaches a certain download milestone. As our game has elements 80s arcade, we had decided to give only a single life for the entire gameplay, failing which, the player had to start again. Hence, we had planned for dedicating a particular section of the game for answering flashcards containing advertisements, which if correctly recalled by the participant awarded him a LIFE, which the player could use once, to continue after dying . The logic here being, it’s more beneficial for the advertisers to have their content in people’s mind, rather than just being flashed on the screen.
A passive memory like this could evoke stronger emotions when the player faces the advertiser again, although it will be subtle.