Previous articles in this series about the development of SPACE COLORS were centered around my interest in "Rethinking Early Development" and "The Iterative Process". Now, three days before the launch of SPACE COLORS on the iOS App Store, I wanted to look back and talk about how I think this project went.
First off, I'm incredibly happy without how SPACE COLORS turned out. I think it, along with Cat vs. Aliens really represent the truest form of myself in my work. Both games, I think, just feel like me, and that's something that I'm tremendously happy with and proud of as a game developer. Granted, as the sole developer on both games, it probably goes without saying that they'd have a sort of personal mark, but I'm happy with that nevertheless.
The most difficult thing about the development of SPACE COLORS is actually pretty simple to nail down: it was incredibly hard to not add more features throughout the development of the game. All along, I wanted to adhere to my sort of vision for a modern Asteroids while still bringing in elements from a lot of the games I love like Subspace, Chase Ace, and Armada — but since it's a mobile action/shmup/roguelike, I also really wanted to streamline as much as possible to keep the game fairly accessible. I would have failed in a lot of these goals if the average mission took more than four-five minutes to complete, or any complex touch gestures were required, or the game had to be paused to deal with inventory management, or anything along those lines. I wanted to keep the game simple: move around, complete your missions, earn money, and blow shit up.
And to say that it was hard to resist adding more of those aforementioned features would be a pretty huge understatement. I wanted to make a deep, complex action/adventure/RPG. I wanted leveling up to have a significant impact on the progression of the game. I wanted the ability to find new items and armor and engines from enemies and equip your ship with them to boost its survivability/deadliness. These are all things that I desperately wanted to do, but all of them would have added an extra layer of complexity that I, deep down, don't really think SPACE COLORS needed to be a fun mobile game.
So, where I ended up was with a game that takes place in a procedural galaxy, has randomized missions, has a streamlined metagame where the only thing that persists from playthrough-to-playthrough is your credits which you can use to buy permanent upgrades to your ship/health/weapons to help you make it further in the game, and some really great explosions.
And as it turns out, I understand why people put virtual joysticks/controls in their games so frequently: it's so much easier. Unfortunately for me, I hate those things with the fire of a thousand suns. It took about a total of five-six completely different input solutions before I finally was able to decide on one that I liked that allowed the flexibility/precision that I think the game needs. And it didn't even end up being that complicated a system, but it took time to really get it right. I had to remove "firing" as an active axis that the player controls (though I did find a way, through a two-finger touch, to allow users to manually fire if they wanted to) and, instead, rely on single taps or tap-and-hold to determine all of the games actions. If you wanted to move to a spot, tap it on the screen. If you wanted to continually move in a direction, tap-and-hold anywhere on the screen to move towards that direction. And to attack an enemy, just tap it and your ship will auto-target the enemy until it either explodes or goes off-screen.
Anyway, SPACE COLORS has been approved on the iOS App Store and comes out this Thursday, August 7th. Once the game is available, it'll be live at this link. And be sure to check out the little site I setup for the game.
I'm super psyched about the game's launch, and I hope that the very open development and constant iteration and player-testing I did makes for a fun mobile video game.