Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ready Jet Go! Space Scouts - The Lab

It's here! A brand new app, Ready Jet Go! Space Scouts, is comprised of 5 games and an open-play lab that connects them all! Compared to previous Gopherwood Studios projects, this one was the biggest yet: we designed and developed Cooking School, Rover Maker, Base Builder, Mission Control, and Food Farmer each as a standalone game, and then created the Space Scouts Home Base, badge system, and Lab in the app itself to tie the games together and create a single fun and engaging experience.

The inception for the app started with my nearly-endless enjoyment playing with Fantastic Contraption and my fascination with Lego bricks. What if we made a game that incorporated the open-play of Lego but the more-directed play of Fantastic Contraption? Wait, what if we made a bunch of different games, but you could mix and match pieces between games to make new things? As we began working through the ultimate design for this app, addressing these game design questions and considering reward structure and educational goals, I began working on an early investigative prototype to flesh out the ideas a bit more, especially regarding an open-play experience that incorporates elements from different games.

The prototype was an open-play "Lab" that focused on a pin and strut mechanic. Early on, we found that this was a bit too clunky for our target audience and honestly quite frustrating on mobile devices. We continued to wrestle with the basic handling of game elements as the individual games were designed. Base Builder started with loose joints and floppy beams, which, after many iterations, ended with stiff joints and static beams to make game-play easier and more intuitive for our target audience. Rover Maker avoided beams altogether and went more of a building-block route from the onset: blocks snap together to create a rollin' rover.

As the game-play across titles solidified, integrating each of the games into the Lab proved to be a huge challenge. Base Builder and Rover Maker provided natural elements for the Lab, but Cooking School was an odd fit, and Mission Control and Food Farmer had completely different mechanics from the other three titles. Merging these into a cohesive whole required a bit of creativity.

Adding Cooking School ingredients was easy enough: playing with your food is fun. However, the kitchen tools didn't really have a place to be in the Lab, Gravity put them on the ground (which doesn't work well for various reasons, like the Mixer tool that outputs mixtures downward). They can't levitate like the game, because it looks odd and breaks the other games' elements in peculiar ways. Lastly, it opened new questions about what exactly can be processed by a kitchen tool? Astronaut dolls from Base Builder shouldn't, but what about Rover Maker wheels? Can they be fed into a Cooking School Chopper? Ultimately, we decided to add a "wall" block, identical to the Rover Maker blocks in functionality, but visually conveying the sense that kitchen tools could be "pinned" to them. Kitchen tools were then implemented to behave just like Rover Maker rockets and wheels: they can be attached to blocks and won't process other pin-able things like wheels.

Mission Control was tougher: it doesn't really have "pieces" of things to work with like the other titles. So for this game, I added Boop, the rover, and Jet 2, Jet's trusty robot, as items in the Lab. The Lab play area was also extended to provide more room for these two to go exploring and interact with other Lab items.

Finally, Food Farmer. Adding this game into the Lab focused primarily on the food, since we already had kitchen tools in place to process vegetables! In addition to the basic food items, their various cooked, sliced, and diced versions were added. Now players could cook their watermelon and pop their corn!

That's a bit of an overview regarding the Lab and how it came together. Check out the app and see what kind of awesome machines you can make in the Lab! I just thought of something...

Gotta run... ...I'm off to build a battery-powered popcorn-popping, five-wheeled toppling tower on the moon!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Cooking School and Delicious Martian Smoothies

What's more refreshing than a brand new game? A brand new game where you can mix up an ice-cold, delicious Martian smoothie, that's what! Check out Cooking School and help Mindy figure out how to arrange Carrot's kitchen tools to make an assortment of spacey and space-themed snacks!

Choppin', Conveyin', 'n Cookin'
This is the second game title that's also included in the Ready Jet Go Space Scouts app (Rover Maker is as well).

Delicious hoagie coming up!
Have fun and let us know what you think! Also, let us know if you cook up one of these recipes IRL: not sure these will turn out correctly using non-Bortronian, conventional kitchen appliances, but we're interested none-the-less.

A big thanks to Wind Dancer and PBS KIDS for letting us bring this game to life!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Make Rovers in Rover Maker

Wish you could design fancy rovers to rove around on other planets like Mars? Or other moons like Europa? Wish no more! Just play our latest game, Rover Maker, and make your friends, kids, and rover-making scientists jealous with your creative rover creations. Actually, don't make all those people jealous. That's not very nice. Just share Rover Maker with them so that they can also make creative rover creations. There are plenty of rover parts to go around, thanks to Ready Jet Go! and Sunspot and Sydney's endless supply of rover-making resources.

Hmm, might need to revisit this design.

There's a lot of free-form open-play in this game to really use your imagination as you create rovers to address the terrain and other obstacles of each planet and moon. Rovers can be powered by gravity, wind power, solar power, batteries, and even rockets, as you try to match your rover's capabilities to the level's layout and navigate Sunspot across the level to Sydney waiting patiently at the other end.

Whoops. I'm a game designer. Not a rover designer.

Why are you still here?!? Go have fun; let's see what you can make!