Acorn Ace Final Project Discussion

The development of “Acorn Ace” over the past few weeks has been a dynamic, yet fun and rewarding project. After many changes, iterations, and hours of work, we are proud of the game we’ve developed and are considering continuing work on it and publishing it on the App Store as a game for mobile phones and tablet devices.

The first iteration of “Acorn Ace” was John’s Project 3 game feel prototype of a squirrel swirling up a pole and reaching a birdhouse. Our team got together and decided to make a game out of his idea: a fun, cartoony game that would play as a mobile phone game.

Since we were building off of John’s prototype and he knew its feel the best, we decided that John would take care of character controls. Miles was strong in coding ability and found some games that served as our inspiration, so he managed the level design and environment. Amy emphasized polish the most in her previous prototypes and took on the polish and art assets.

The first week of our group project, we had several brainstorming sessions that built off of the initial design. We wanted to make a game that had a “quick, twitchy” feel that was whimsical and casual. We developed the idea of a squirrel character climbing up a level comprised of two obstacle-ridden trees. We added bird enemies to pay a bit of ironic homage to the game “Angry Birds” and added acorn bombs as weapons to fight said birds.

Originally, the game was going to incorporate two styles of play: a climbing and dodging game where the squirrel would have to reach the top, where his stash of acorn bombs got stuck during a crashed mission landing, then parachute down the level he just climbed and go on the offensive, tossing bombs at the birds and obstacles he avoided on the way up. We felt the first stage of gameplay was the most important, so we started our work on that. When that was finished, we would move on to the second stage gameplay.

The next week, after working on the first stage of gameplay and having a lot more to do on it, we decided that we would drop the second half of the game and focus on making the climbing game have the right game feel. This worked out better because we were still focusing on movement mechanics and feel up through the Alpha build.

Between the alpha and playlets builds, we got a lot of work done: we made a more successful character control system, implemented a level generator, and incorporated the majority of the art assets and appropriate animations. During the playlets build, people enjoyed our game but noticed several issues that we changed for our final build:

-making the jump mechanic a mandatory part of gameplay: players could win the game without needing to jump. We fixed this by adding obstacles that could only be avoided by jumping to the other tree (extra-large branches)

-reworking the bird enemy AI system: the movement patterns of the birds made them virtually unavoidable, so we added a prolonged behavior sequence where the birds would be activated when passed on the tree, then fly up with the player for a few seconds before attacking.

-adding a warning system for off-screen objects: items would be ahead of the player off-screen and players got items more from chance that strategy. We added indicators for oncoming acorn bombs for each tree. We also added indicators for the large obstacles ahead that required jumping to avoid.

Among these changes, we also finished our menu system and added more polish. We may decide to improve upon our game in the future and add the second stage of gameplay, as well as deeper score systems and menus. We are also considering prepping and releasing our game on the App Store as a fully-functional game to download and play on mobile devices. This would require reworking the controls to fit the touch screen system, but we designed our game from the beginning with this in mind.

Overall, developing this game has been a positive experience and we hope that players will enjoy playing it and experience the game feel we wish to convey in the game.

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