The first real game that I learned to build as part of my Unity course was a standard block-breaker game. Once I learned how to build the core game, I moved into trying to design something that had the block breaker skin, but would require more finesse and give more control to the player.
The first feature I added was the ability to tilt the paddle. This allows the player to choose the angle of the ball when firing it off and also change the the direction it goes when it hits the paddle. Adding this allowed me to create situations where the blocks, or stars, that were to be broken could be blocked from the sides. The player needs to be creative in order to maneuver into these areas, and that requires more strategy than just catching the ball when it comes down.
Next, I wanted to give the player the ability to have control of the ball even when it wasn’t touching the paddle. Often in block-breaker style games, the player spends a good chunk of time waiting for the ball to come back to them. And when it finally does, the only control they have is to catch it and bounce it back based on the angle it was already going. I wanted to give the player more control, so I added a gravity button. Click the mouse, and the ball comes back to you. You can use this to better control the angle of your next bounce, or to get into harder to reach places. This paired with the paddle tilt made the game feel a lot more deliberate, and allowed to more puzzle-like level designs.
I wanted to give the player incentive to go for as many starts as possible, so a big goal was to make the breaking of the stars feel satisfying. There are three colored stars to break in the game. It starts out with white stars, which break in one hit. When they broke, I wanted it to feel crunchy and arcade-like, so I added a punchy explosion sound-effect and a quick particle effect that would play after the star disappeared. This made it look like they were bursting to pieces. Then, to make it all the more satisfying, I added a score that would pop up with each explosion. Watching 300 points accrue on each area of impact encourages the player to go for more.
In later levels, I added yellow stars, which take two hits to break, and red stars, which take three. When you smack a star of a different color, it goes one color down, and makes kind of an annoying, not all the satisfying buzz sound. My hope was for this lack of satisfaction to encourage players to want to smack them again to get that crunchy, breaking apart effect.
Below you’ll find the more puzzle-based level designs I ended up on. My overall goal was to teach the player slowly how to use the various tools to get into tough spaces and about how the different kinds of stars worked.
Conclusion / Takeaways
This was my first big project and I learned a lot. First, I was able to get some experience taking an over-done game concept and trying to put a new spin on it. I learned how to ramp up difficulty in increasing waves by introducing something, making it a little harder, and then taking a few steps back to introduce something new before going a little further. I also got a little bit of insight on the value of play testing. Level 9 looks interesting, but it’s actually very tough in a way that I don’t think is interesting. I also learned how to make art that matches an abstract theme and makes the game feel cohesive but also interesting. I also learned how minor tuning adjustments up and down can make a big difference in how a game feels to play.