The purpose of developing MotionMaze and Pop & Dodge within such rapid production cycles (2-3 weeks each) was to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. And boy, have we learned some valuable lessons.
One of the most eye-opening experiences came at a playtest session we did with elementary school kids. We handed them the iPod, and most kids immediately sat down, tapping through the screens, then trying swipe and tilt. We realized that our main mechanics consist of unexpected controls, so we must spell e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g out so the player understands this new experience.
Lesson 2: Give people a reason to jump.
People like to play games sitting down. It’s become the norm, and frankly, after a long day, who wants to have to do physical activity to play a game? The game has to be playable on a basic level without physical controls but provide an added layer of powerful incentives to lure the player to get out of their comfort zone and move around. If you tell a player to jump, they might do it once or twice, quickly getting bored or tired. If you provide motivation to jump, players will stay on their feet and soon forget they’re actually jumping.
Lesson 3: Make sure it works.
Duh, right? Well, with physical activity, movement detection isn’t always reliable. Everyone moves differently and interacts with iDevices in different ways. After going through rounds of testing full of over- and under-registered movement, we’ve realized the immense value of creating reliable movement detection. Players expect it, so we should be able to deliver.
Lesson 4: Keep chugging.
None of the games we’ve created thus far are blockbuster hits. But we’ve learned valuable lessons from each that we will carry forward with us to our next project. Keep dreaming, keep tinkering, keep chugging.