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 Introduction

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.


gameplay design

Paddle Tilt

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.

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Ball Drop

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.

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game feel

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.

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level design

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.

Level 1 Start Screen:  Quickly introduces player to game concept and game controls

Level 1 Start Screen: Quickly introduces player to game concept and game controls

Level 1 - First Bounce:  Three stars that are near impossible to miss, introduces blocking block but easy to avoid.

Level 1 - First Bounce: Three stars that are near impossible to miss, introduces blocking block but easy to avoid.

Level 2 - Skybox:  Introduces the necessity to drop in from above to break stars, also introduces stars in tight spaces.

Level 2 - Skybox: Introduces the necessity to drop in from above to break stars, also introduces stars in tight spaces.

Level 3 - Shooting Stars:  Combines ideas from the first two levels, player must balance a few different challenges before we add a new wrinkle.

Level 3 - Shooting Stars: Combines ideas from the first two levels, player must balance a few different challenges before we add a new wrinkle.

Level 4 - Hit Me Baby, One More Time:  Layout takes a step back to account for teaching the player how to tackle blocks that require two hits.

Level 4 - Hit Me Baby, One More Time: Layout takes a step back to account for teaching the player how to tackle blocks that require two hits.

Level 5 - Helix Comet:  Things get interesting again, player must take on single-hit and double-hit stars while navigating different angles.

Level 5 - Helix Comet: Things get interesting again, player must take on single-hit and double-hit stars while navigating different angles.

Level 6 Start Screen:  Reminds player about the drop mechanic as the rest of the levels require an understanding of it to succeed.

Level 6 Start Screen: Reminds player about the drop mechanic as the rest of the levels require an understanding of it to succeed.

Level 6 - Tight Space(s):  Requires player to be tricky with no easy to get stars, double-hit stars become more integrated.

Level 6 - Tight Space(s): Requires player to be tricky with no easy to get stars, double-hit stars become more integrated.

Level 7 - The Hits Just Keep On Coming:  Level complexity takes another step back to introduce three-hit stars, but not as much as before.

Level 7 - The Hits Just Keep On Coming: Level complexity takes another step back to introduce three-hit stars, but not as much as before.

Level 8 - Diagonalaxy:  Player has learned all new mechanics, now we can ramp up the difficulty using all three stars, still a few gimmes.

Level 8 - Diagonalaxy: Player has learned all new mechanics, now we can ramp up the difficulty using all three stars, still a few gimmes.

Level 9 - Balancia : With three - hit stars at the bottom and a lot of blockers, player must use precise angling and drop mechanic to succeed.

Level 9 - Balancia: With three - hit stars at the bottom and a lot of blockers, player must use precise angling and drop mechanic to succeed.

Level 10 - Black Hole:  Just about every star hit in this level is accompanied by a blocker, but there is also an opportunity for the ball to bounce around a lot on its own, creating a satisfying final spectacle.

Level 10 - Black Hole: Just about every star hit in this level is accompanied by a blocker, but there is also an opportunity for the ball to bounce around a lot on its own, creating a satisfying final spectacle.


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.