I received my Pebble smart watch yesterday after waiting over a year since first backing the product on Kickstarter.
First thoughts are that the build quality feels almost like a prototype product, the mushy buttons and glued together case definitely feel first generation. The functionality on the other hand is incredibly cool, reading emails, text messages and other notifications on your wrist is a revelation. It's amazing how inconvenient getting my phone out of my pocket now feels.
If Apple really are making an iWatch I can see people going nuts over it, the experience is like a new paradigm and Apple have the resources to get the product right. I'm firmly outside the walled garden so I won't get an Apple product myself, but I'm looking forward to the next generation of smart watches that it will inspire.
You may notice in the video a new "pointed" brick type that I've added in the past week. I've also added sloping bricks and these deflect the ball off at a tangent to make things a bit more interesting.
Other updates this week include some improvements to the particle effects, a bit of tweaking to the background star field (work in progress) and the ability to load in levels from a file.
Next up comes a simple level editor to allow me to produce all the levels I need for the game and the screen that allows a particular level to be selected for play.
The development of Plasma Duel is progressing well and I feel that I am on target for a full release to the Google Play store in September. The core game is finished and is fun to play both against an AI opponent or against another person in two player mode.
I've made some important changes to the original game that improve the gameplay dramatically. The biggest change was to allow the paddle to move fully in two dimensions around the screen. On a touch screen device this gives the player so much more feel and immersion in the experience. Another important change is the addition of two rows of bricks in the centre of the playing arena. This improves the visual variety of the level and creates a goal other than duelling with the opponent for the beginning of the game.
The game currently has four powerups working, these are the ones ported over from the original game - grow, shrink, lasers and multiball. I will be adding an additional four powerups to expand the variety of the game. I also plan to add angled bricks that will deflect the ball in a different direction. This is another feature that will give the game more visual variety and also add interest to the gameplay.
Now that the game itself is almost complete I estimate that I am roughly half way to finishing the game. Now I have to do all of the things that complete it and make it ready for release. These will take almost as long as coding the game itself.
My first task is to create a level editor and level loader so that I can start designing levels. Levels are currently randomly generated but the finished game will have eighty one hand crafted levels. This will allow the player to be gently eased into the experience and give structured progression to the game. There are eight AI opponents and each will have nine levels to choose from. The remaining nine levels will be unlockable bonus levels. The paid version will also have another nine level slots available for levels designed by the player using the level editor that will be included in the premium version.
I also need to complete the menu system for setting up games and accessing options. The menus will all be nicely animated and will allow the player to select levels that are unlocked either in single player campaign mode or for some two player fun. There will also be a "result" screen that will show the result of each game.
Something I am looking forward to is the development of achievements and experimenting with the new Google Play Games services to store player achievements and progress. Achievements and progress on my current games is all stored locally on the device, this is less than ideal and means that progression is lost when the player purchases a new phone. With Google Play Games integration I can solve this problem.
After that there are some smaller tasks such as ensuring that the advert integration is work well on the free version and adding some cheat modes and Easter eggs into the game. I expect it will also be necessary to add some tutorial hints on the first few levels that a player experiences just to help ease them into the concepts of the game.
If I feel I have some time I also want to try implementing multi-player over a wifi connection. This isn't a high priority and I can foresee problems as the game is quite fast paced and vulnerable to response latency. It could result in a significant advantage for the player that is hosting the game. Because of these concerns I am quite happy if multi-player over wifi waits until a later update of the game.
Finally, by the start of September I hope to be at a point where I can start the work related to the publication of the game. This will require creating all the artwork assets for the Google Play store, writing the game description with a view to maximising exposure in the app store search engine and creating effective icons. Past experience has shown that the app store icon and the game icon need to be different as they serve entirely different purposes. The app store icon needs to immediately tell the person browsing the store a story about the game whilst the icon shown on the device should simply look as nice as possible,
Following the model that has worked well with my slot machine games I will be releasing both a free and a paid version of Plasma Duel. The free version will be monetised with adverts that will appear discretely under the menu screens. The paid version will be free from adverts and will also have the extra feature of being able to create custom level designs with a built-in level editor.
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