Thursday, 30 August 2012

Colour Schemes

In order for the app to be accessible to as many people as possible, the colours used should be tested for colour blindness. This ensures that any element does not become hard to spot and text does not become illegible, even if the user is colour blind.

The general colour scheme was tested before creation:

Colour blindness checks for the planned colour scheme

Of particular interest were the colours of the fish. These need to be distinct to any user for certain elements of the gameplay to make sense. This meant some adjustment of the original planned colours for four varieties of small fish:

Initial colours - problems on red-green blindness types
 As can be seen, some of the colours are almost impossible to distinguish if a person is red-green colour blind.

New colours - fish are much easier to tell apart
The adjusted colours are now distinct for those with colour blindness. The simulation tool used can be found here:

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Feedback session: 3 weeks

After 3 weeks of development, we ran a feedback session in YCCSA to check that we were making a game people would like to play, and gather ideas for future versions.

After integrating the current game engine with the graphics, menu screens and levels produced so far, we gathered around 15 friendly people from YCCSA. They played the game on phones, tablets and laptops, and gave us loads of useful feedback that we will use to improve the game in future versions.

In general, people seemed to be really impressed with the game. They liked the originality of the game mechanic, the smooth, intuitive gameplay, and the graphics. In future versions, people asked to see more variety and animation in the environment, which would enable more puzzle-based levels and upgrades to exploit the complexity of the flocking algorithm.

We recorded 82 separate points that people made about the game! (A mixture of initial reactions, good points, bad points and ideas for improvement.) The main routes we identified for extending and improving the game are:
  1. Interactive environments
    1. Predators, water currents, animated obstacles.
    2. Feedback between the fish and their environment – the environment being able to damage the fish and affect their movement, and the fish being able to change and destroy their environment.
    3. This allows us to design puzzle-based levels, which the player must solve by understanding how the flocking fish interact with different types of environment.
  2. Upgrades
    1. Players can use points to buy upgrades for their fish/flock, and different types of fish.
    2. Different fish will have different skills, rather than being generally “better”. So the player can choose which fish/upgrades to use for each different puzzle level.
  3. Social Networks
    1. Different fish have different flocking parameters depending on which fish they are interacting with.
    2. This gives more mechanics for making puzzles, and more upgrade choices.
    3. Real fish behave like this, so this could make the game more biologically realistic, and allow it to be used for education/research, as well as for fun.
We also decided to make a website to explain the science behind flocking, and to host downloadable versions of the game.

A big thankyou to everyone who came to the feedback session. Your comments will really help to improve the game.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Basic Interface

With the game mechanics coming into place, the user interface will soon be needed.

A map through the planned interface was drawn out by hand to make sure the path through the various menus and screens is logical and will provide all the necessary options. This is the skeleton from which the actual content can be built.

Interface Map (click to full view)

Designing Sprites

This process began with some paper sketches of elements within the game - thinking about the relative size of the fish, obstacles etc. and how they appear on the screen.

Next, some pen and ink sketches were used to have more clear designs to work from when producing the digital version. This ensures the vector images aren't too stiff and geometric: if working directly to vector, it can be tempting to use more generic, oversimplified shapes and the designs become unimaginative.

Finally, the designs are drawn digitally in a vector format. This allows easier resizing of the sprites to suit different screen sizes.