Saturday 3 November 2012

What's new in Galaxyball?

I've been working pretty full-on with Galaxyball 2113 so far, and it's really taking shape. GameCity Nottingham proved to be a fantastic opportunity to test out the game with the general public. What's great about demoing at this kind of event is that the audience really runs the gamut of player-types: from children to grandparents, gamers and non-gamers alike.

 I managed to work in two new teams before the festival: the burly aggressive Astro Marines, and the Cortex Crusaders, who aren't just brains in jars… they're brains in rocket jars!

Galaxyball - Marines and Crusaders

Functionally, the Astro Marines are heavier and bulkier than the other teams, while the Cortex Crusaders are smaller and floatier. One thing I did learn from GameCity is just how physical the game can be, I'll be making these kinds of differences bolder and broader so they have a clear effect on play. I was never a fan of subtlety anyway, so I'm going to experiment with other, more obvious abilities - the brains could psychically repel opponents, for example, or the marines could be protected against stage hazards.

Galaxyball - Wormholes Stage

I've also been putting a lot of effort into the look-and-feel of scenery, as I really want the player to feel like they're part of some brutal sports tournament. I've been working on scenery such as vents, pipes and fans to make arenas feel more industrial, and the flashing lights respond to the state of play and upcoming hazards, making it feel more alive.

There's also an extra two arenas added in now: one with wormholes, for an extra jolt of unpredictability, and another where the goals regularly change position.

Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell tries out Galaxyball at GameCity

The really exciting take-home from GameCity was just how physical people get over the game. As soon as they score their first goal, players tend to get very competitive - which is exactly what I want. Just like Greedy Bankers' iPad multiplayer, I want players to get in each others' way, steal each other's characters, and mess each other up within the game world and in the space around the screen. In fact, that whole feel works even better here than it did in Bankers.

Both players need to use the whole space to play, which means they both get to use the whole of that lovely big iPad screen. And because players don't always need to be in the exact same place at the same time, it's more of a scramble for a good position than a fight over the exact same spot. It's hard to explain, but it makes the whole game feel fluid - a clash of hands never creates a stalemate - and that's incredibly encouraging.

It's certainly an exciting time for the game and I can't wait to show off some more as it expands!

For the sake of perspective, here's how the very first prototype looked. Great oaks from little acorns eh? It was fantastic fun even at that rough-and-ready stage, which is exactly what you want a prototype to be, and why I was so excited to pursue this project in the first place.