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Re-skinning “Entangled”

As I mentioned in my previous post about MonoGame, I’m in the process of porting my Windows Phone 7 game “Entangled” to iOS (either with MonoGame or by making a Unity version). I’m doing this because I’d like to get experience developing and selling on non-Microsoft platforms, and Entangled is a nice small game to start with.

As part of the port, I’m taking the opportunity to re-skin the game, add new levels and mechanics, and possibly some cute bunnies. So – maybe not quite as small anymore.

Hopefully new visuals will aid the appeal of this small game (it has good reviews but very few downloads despite being free).

 

Entangled (Windows Phone)

Entangled (Windows Phone)

The same level in the re-skin

The same level in the re-skin (rotated)

 

One of the significant things I’m changing involves the color mixing. A significant portion of the gameplay relies on being able to mix and separate the primary colors. In the original version I use additive color mixing (RGB) since you’re mixing laser light; and well, light mixing is additive.

But I think more people are familiar with subtractive color mixing: The stuff you learned in art class when mixing paints. Yellow and blue make green, etc…

With that in mind, I needed to change from lasers to something solid as the medium. So now I have paint or water (not really sure, but it also looks like flames) flying out of gargoyles’ mouths into planters.

 

Art

 

The "laser beam" made of lots of leaf shapes superimposed in Photoshop.

The “laser beam” made of lots of leaf shapes superimposed in Photoshop.

 

Following from this, I’m trying to decorate the world in a kind of garden theme. Vines growing on things, some kind of vegetation in the background, etc…

Now is a time when I’d really like to have an artist working on the project. I don’t think I’m quite prepared for any kind of profit-sharing arrangement though. So for now, I’m doing the art myself. It’s fun in its own right, but a bit of a nuisance when you’re trying to actually make progress on the game.

Right now I’m going with a “jiggly” hand-drawn animated look. The kind of animation where the artist draws the same (static) object many times and these frames are played in sequence. I’m not sure if there is a name for this technique. I haven’t been able to find one – I’ll call it “shimmering” – but it does impart a unique look. It also quadruples (or more) the workload.

 

A leaf texture with four hand-drawn variations of the same image.

A leaf texture with four hand-drawn variations of the same image.

 

For art sources, I’m using a combination of the following:

  • Completely original hand-drawn stuff (I’m not very good at this)
  • Traces of art from a bunch of clip art books I have
  • Hand-drawn traces of images of real objects (the leaf above is from a photo that I printed out and then traced).

This is working for the most part, but I’m finding it hard to have a consistent art style throughout the game. I need some kind of art director or something.

 

Purple planter and some leaves (mentioned previously)

Purple planter and some leaves (mentioned previously)

 

There’s still a fair amount to do with the art. I have yet to work on the backgrounds. The individual levels now have a sense of place with respect to each other (you pan from one to the other), so it would make sense that the backgrounds impart some sort of movement too (e.g. parallax). So I’m thinking about some vague vegetation/natural environment background layers.

In general most of the art is black and white, since color plays a very important role in the gameplay (this is why the leaves are so pale in the above image). This does make things easier, especially for backgrounds (I think).

One problem with the backgrounds is that any kind of vague static imagery will contrast sharply with the high contrast “shimmering” foreground images. I did experiment a bit with programmatic methods to simulate shimmering for static images, but I wasn’t super satisfied with the results.

 

Mechanics

I’ve introduced a couple of new mechanics, and created another 10 levels for each. I still have a few other ideas for possibly-interesting mechanics.

 

Some of the art for the new mechanics

Some of the art for the new mechanics

 

In response to the increased number of levels, I may remove some older levels that aren’t as interesting or are too frustrating (I may also integrate a hint system). It’s very easy for me to create a difficult level, but they usually aren’t very fun. The best levels/puzzles are those that use the fewest mechanics or pieces, but seem impossible at first. The small problem space is a lot less frustrating and results in less trial-and-error solving.

Audio

Given the change in theme, I’m also completely redoing the audio for the game. I don’t plan to have any music soundtrack (though if I find appropriate music for a reasonable price, I’d reconsider). For now I’m going with ambient outdoor noises that I’ve mostly recorded myself. The sound effects I’ve mostly done myself also.

Naming

I’m not quite sure what to name this re-skinned game. I could name it the same (Entangled), but that could get confusing. Given the plant/vine theme, perhaps… something with “tangled”?

I’m hoping to get this shipped within another month. I’m pretty sure I can finish the game in that time, but I’m still unsure how much work the port will be. If I can’t use MonoGame, I’ll have to try Unity. That will mean that I’ll have to essentially re-implement the entire game, not to mention get up to speed on an unfamiliar engine (which isn’t built for 2D in the first place).

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