I suppose it’s quite realistic to assume that every game creator has that one game that they made that doesn’t quite match up to the exacting standards they set upon themselves as developers; the one they don’t like to talk about. I had one, it was called All The Balls. Note the past tense.
All The Balls’ spiel was that I didn’t really like or rate paddle-and-block games such as Breakout or Arkanoid. I’m kinda fond of them, but they were a favourite of my late father who I’d play them with when I was young. The thought process behind AtB’s design was; surely there must be something I like about the genre?
And there was, of course; the multiball moments when the paddle need to move rapidly to deflect multiple balls. Making a game that centred around this seemed like a great idea; however, the original version was let down by an aesthetic that was primarily a reaction to the notion that a game without ‘juice’ is not fun. And All The Balls really should’ve been fun; after all, the title is a sly reference to a popular and very memetic Allie Brosh (AKA Hyperbole and a Half) comic panel:
And yet, I went for this faux-Art Deco look at the 11th hour of visual design in some attempt to inject a little ‘class’ (for lack of a better word) to my game. It didn’t work.
The thing is, I actually did draw a set of full-colour assets for AtB before I went monochrome. And when tasked to create the banner image for the Indie Quilt Jam, I used a few of my unfinished and unused game assets in it – one of which used those pre-monochrome All The Balls assets:
“Oh. That actually looks more fun than All The Balls!” was the reaction. This is entirely why mockups and concepts should be created before development, and I do not know why I skipped this stage with All The Balls – I’d have realised much earlier that the original coloured assets were a better fit.
I ceased work temporarily on my current project to put all the assets into All The Balls for a makeover.
I now consider All The Balls to be one of my best games. From the one I didn’t talk about, to the one I’m happily showing off. What changed? Screenshots and gameplay look appealing, but I also made some changes to the game that improved it immeasurably:
- Coloured assets, of course
- A new background to suit the assets, rotating and scaling slowly
- Screen-shake. I was reluctant to do this at first, but it exaggerates the multi-ball carnage and chaos
- Paddle behaviour was improved. Possibly the biggest change, the ball is never accidentally sent ‘through’ the paddle to the bottom now, making it much fairer and less ‘glitchy’ in feel
- An effect for releasing new balls made it look as if they were ‘fired’ by the paddle
- Score rewards for deflecting balls successfully encourages accurate play
- Menu tweaks, such as an animated title
- Given that beating all 50 stage layouts is easier now, the game loops back to 1 instead of ending
- A new musical theme was composed; something more fun and quirky
I guess in the end, I caved and added ‘juice’. Hopefully though, I didn’t overjuice the game. I think the main improvement is that paddle behaviour; from which I learned that if it’s tough to get any game physics to feel right, at the very least ensure that player-controlled entities behave perfectly.
My one regret is that I created this game whilst I had the free version of Construct 2 – I’d love to be able to put a (small) price tag on the game as I think it is worth maybe a couple of dollars of anyone’s money. Who knows, maybe there could be More Balls on their way in the not-too-distant future?