Tag Archive for GameDev

Who doesn’t love a tutorial?

Recently I was playing a demo of a major Nintendo Switch game that was part of an established series. After about 30 minutes I was bored stiff of tutorials. More time was spent telling me things than actually in control. This is not good design.On the same day I played a demo of a re-release of a classic arcade game. Within a minute of launching the game I was enjoying myself and quickly picking up the controls. This is very familiar for traditional retro / arcade games.

Given that Paint It Jack is a relatively simple game, I certainly don’t want to be dragging the user through a long, boring tutorial process. That said, the game is one that I hope will appeal to children and casual players. When looking at mobile games, the typical platform for casual games, it is clear that tutorials are a must. Players might want their hand held a little.

My plan of action for this is to create a series of tutorial screens that will be displayed in between levels. First of all you get given the absolute basics (controls & objective) then before the next level the player is introduced to the cleaners with a simple text screen. Following that there will be screens introducing the pickups, more advanced controls and story. I also plan to throw in a few tips in among the “Fun Facts” to inform the player of techniques.

The “tutorial” screens will be kept relatively simple. All I’d want to convey is the most basic information so that the user is made aware, can absorb the concept and then get back to playing. This would be accompanied by a large bit of artwork, trying to bring some character into the game.

Generally this approach should be relatively hands off, just a click here and there once you’ve read the page. This should allow the player to just play without having to get dragged through a tedious section learning the rather simple gameplay. The player is informed of core mechanics to avoid being sat there pondering “what on earth is going on?” but to be really good at the game, albeit one with a low skill level, players will learn and develop as they play.

My biggest challenge with this is that it is a rather art intensive approach with large images and then a little bit of information. My art skills have always left something to be desired and have previously been a core reason as to why I’ve minimized the amount of story and tutorials in my other games! However rather than being afraid of this challenge, I’ll embrace it. Even if it looks a bit rubbish, hopefully forcing myself to have a go will help in improving my skillset!

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Telling a tall tale

I’ve been making some decent progress with Paint It Jack, with some art improvements and additional gameplay elements. It is a pleasing, easy going experience and I’m looking forward to building upon it.

One thing I’m hoping to do is include some story.

Jack: “Who am I?”

So who is Jack? I’m still working it out but I’m liking the idea of him being a little dorky. He’s never been accepted or liked but he still has a very positive outlook and has a cheerful spirit about him. He wants to help other people, although perhaps no one has really wanted his help, or even his presence in their lives. But still he’s happy to do his thing.

With the whole paint and colour thing, I’m thinking that a bit like nature, being bold and colourful is hugely important for his kind. Both the world and creatures are very bland. As a result the creatures would absorb colour (paint) to make themselves attractive and interesting. In fact one of the largest industries involves mining for resources to make “paint” to absorb.

Sadly poor old Jack has never been able to retain colour leaving him plain and grey. This is why he is shunned by his kind. He’s a sub standard weirdo. However he has a realisation that rather than being a curse, it means he can “spread” the colour to the world around him. His mission then is rather than focusing on bringing colour to himself, like everyone else does, he is bringing to the world. Awww. How terrible and cheesey.

So how exactly do I convey this? I’m not going to be making long animated videos because my artistic skills are terrible so I’ve no chance of creating a cool video, but perhaps a few storyboard screens? Well as a player I’d be spamming “NEXT”, “NEXT”, “NEXT” so why inflict that on others?

Instead I’m thinking of sharing the story and background on the world, creatures and Jack through short little bursts as you play. Before starting I’ll give a bit of context, with a quick one page storyboard, just so you know that Jack is on a mission to bring colour to the world. Then the level complete screen would give you a little bit of information about the creatures and Jack. Most would be irrelevant to the storyline but would help paint a picture of the “world”. On top of that I can have the odd screen here and there which fills in more story.

Hopefully this way I can share the story and provide some personality to the game but in a much more casual way. Afterall, the story won’t be integral to the gameplay, nor will it be the most exciting, riveting tale (the initial release can be probably played through in ~30 minutes).

Placeholder level complete to play about with Fun Facts.

p.s. I’ve not got a decent name for the creatures yet. Both my placeholder of Squeebles and current name “Takogaki” are kinda rubbish. Weird octopus like creatures that exist on land, have one eye and are a relatively advanced species…

Gameplay changes for Paint It Jack

The original Paint It Jack prototype involved completing an objective whilst dodging the cleaners. Beyond having a couple of different objective types, there was no variety in the game.

One thing that I’m keen to improve with Paint It Jack is to have a greater variety in the gameplay with multiple types of cleaners, objectives and also pick up items.

The different cleaners will ultimately behave the same way, wandering around the level soaking up your paint. Unlike before they won’t harm the player and instead just slow down your progress. The different cleaners will have different speeds and capacities so one type will trundle along, soaking up loads of your paint on paths and objectives whilst another will move around quickly but won’t completely clean the path. One difference to the prototype (I think) is that they will have their own capacity so once they’ve soaked up a load of paint, they will need a rest.

Perhaps in a later release I might introduce more clever and complex cleaners. A new AI character that hurts the player would be an interesting addition too! That will have to wait until my unannounced game is complete though.

My current progress includes only one objective type where the player has to paint special parts of the path. I’m very keen to expand on this with levels involving picking up items, triggering switches etc and potentially being more specific on which objective needs to be certain colours. We’ll see whether that makes it into the initial release though.

One thing that I’m definitely doing is adding pickup items. Currently I have a few items planned:

  • Paint Bomb: Deploy this and it will explode after 5 seconds, leaving a paint pickup for you. However if the cleaners hit it before it explodes it depletes their paint capacity, possibly killing them.
  • Helper Brush: Sends a brush flying forward that paints the path & objectives, disappearing when it runs out of paint.
  • Speed Up: Pretty self explanatory. This would have an immediate effect then wear out.
  • Maximum Capacity Up: Increases your maximum capacity. Still unsure about whether I’ll make it permanent or a temporary effect.
  • Glue: A trap that you can place which will stop the cleaners moving for a set period.
  • Paint Mine: Still unsure on this but it would be a trap that works very much like the Paint Bomb but without the timer.
  • Paint Bucket: Another that I’m unsure on whether to include it but you can use this to fill up on paint without having to go to a blob. It would be handy as you could fill up before painting an objective.
  • Paint Spawner: Not a pickup but a button that you can hit which spawns a blob of paint in the level. It would have a recharge timer to prevent the player using it over and over.

Not all of these will be included in the initial release but I hope at least half of them will. It should add some nice variety to the game!

On top of these there will also be an option to dump your current paint. Why you might ask? Well to slow down cleaners. If you have one coming and want to stop it from soaking your objective, dump your paint in its path and it will be out of action for a short while.

The one thing missing from the above design is risk. There’s no way that you can “lose”. To address this I am planning a second mode. Rather than changing the main mode, which I want to be relatively relaxing, chilled and accessible to kids, there will be a “challenge” mode that has a time limit as you try to paint the room as quickly as possible – of course with cleaners trying to stop you! My grand plan for this is for it to unlock new characters or customisation as you progress, plus potentially including online high scores (depending on whether downloads are in the region of 10 or 1000). There would also be characters that introduce the challenges, one per “tier” of difficulty. However I doubt I’ll get this done for the initial release.

I’ll maybe talk a little bit more about each of the gameplay features in due course, but hopefully that gives an idea of how I’m hoping that the game will have a little bit of complexity to it.

A new look for Paint It Jack

Paint It Jack was originally designed to look like an old school arcade game with Pac Man being a major influence. Of course with my limited art skills and low effort for the prototype, it didn’t look great but I did like the style. However I somewhat suspect that I was alone in that.

With the new project I’ve decided to use multiple worlds with very different art styles. One will have similarities with the previous game using neon colours on a black background. It will be full of bold colours and whilst arguably a little gharish, it will keep faith the original design.

However with the other two worlds that I am planning for the initial release, I hope to have a much higher quality of visuals. My initial work, with the help of my wife, is leading me to think this will be the best looking game (excluding Invertical Touch as Hunted Cow provided the art for that!), although the bar I’ve set is pretty low

I’m hoping it will be quite fun to play with shaders rather than having eye bleeding colour. I also want to have the whole environment gains colour as you paint more of the level, rather than just the path.

The characters and items will all be getting a revamp. Sticking to a top down view makes this a little more challenging but I won’t leave assets as “job done” once I’ve completed my first go. I hope to rework them, try again and give myself a range of options.

I also hope to create a range of unique and interesting characters, although perhaps not for the first phase..

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Wetting my appetite with Paint It Jack


For some time I have been working on an unannounced project, whilst also dealing with a big personal event (Achievement Unlocked: Got Married) and a not entirely enjoyable day job. On top of that I’ve got new consoles to play and the desire to have a life away from my desk.

This has meant that sitting down to struggle through some rather challenging areas of code & design has been less and less appealing. Progress has been slow and this has affected my hunger and desire to work in my spare time.

To reinvigorate myself, a new project has been started. I’m going to work bloody hard to finish this and unlike some other projects, getting it playable and shipped won’t be enough. It needs polish. It needs depth in gameplay.

I am looking to take the concept of “Paint It Jack“, a simple game about painting the gameworld that was prototyped in 2012 but never finished. I hope to go beyond my initial plans and make a fun arcade game with a range of game modes, characters, different enemies, pickups, a well built progression and also visually attractive – or at least less MS-Paint than my other games.

Over the coming weeks I plan on writing an article each week, tracking development and looking at features that I’m planning and sharing screenshots. I hope this, even if no one reads them, proves a fun and interesting experience that also spurs me on.

Paint It Jack prototype, 2012


I don’t expect to implement everything for initial release but I’d love to get something in a solid shape to put on GameJolt and/or IndieDB before moving back to the unannounced project. Once that is released, or at least functionally complete (pending playtests, feedback etc), then I’ll move on to developing the next series of features.

I hope that once this first phase and initial release has been completed, I’ll be fully up to speed again and ready to really engage with the challenge of my unannounced project. If writing little articles, like what I’m planning with Paint It Jack, is valuable for myself, then I’ll look at doing the same with the unannounced project. When looking at what has been completed (and working), I’m quite proud. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to really build on what is done and get a pretty awesome strategy game out by the end of the year.

Note: Unannounced project is not an original IP, hence no title. Perhaps I should think of a fun code name. Like how a film called Mary Lou was being shot near my flat recently…

Here’s a video of my old Paint It Jack prototype:

This time I’m going to do a proper job

Last year saw a crazy amount of games released (check out my 2012 reflections) and I’ve already released two Android games this year along with a free version of Invertical but things are going to get a little slower now.

I’m not stepping off the gas (at least by much) but rather trying to focus on creating more “complete” games. My current Android prototypes will find themselves on the backburner whilst I work on two other titles. First up we have a re-release of Invertical. After getting positive reactions during an event last weekend where I demoed the game, I want to improve it further. Its a cool game but could it be even better?

There are two weaknesses that I’d like to address. The initial impressions you get aren’t great. The front end is too simple, early levels look dull and most importantly, the store front artwork doesn’t excite. I’m hoping addressing these will help in bringing attention to the game and getting it some coverage. The other key area is progression and use of books / scrolls. This still isn’t 100% but I’m probably going to have a few bonus levels that are unlocked based on how many books and scrolls you have. Finally of course I’ll tidy up a few of the levels while I’m at it.

I’ve not fully announced the second project and I’m hoping on taking a lot more care and time over its release. The project is a huge learning curve for me and I want to be a bit more of a perfectionist. Often I’ve been guilty of cutting corners to “get it out there” so this time my approach is going to be a little different. I want the game to be a good representation of gameplay when I reveal it. I want the game to be awesome already before thinking about letting others play it and most importantly, I can’t let myself say “that’ll do” for any aspects come release!

As I am really bad for going “ooo nearly there – lets show it off”, I have a plan! After finishing that build, promo artwork, video or screenshot I’ll save it for a day or two. If I’m not happy with it a few days later, it won’t go out. This applies to the revamped Invertical as well!
One thing I’m keen to do is a blog a week. This will help me focus on being productive and having something to talk about or show each week, even if it is just a paragraph or two. Hopefully it will be interesting as well, discussing some of the challenges and also anything useful I learn. In particular looking back at how the game evolves could be a good read! If I’m lucky it may even raise awareness in the game, which of course would be fantastic. Not only could that help the launch but it should help in gathering feedback! This won’t start until I announce the project and its nowhere near ready at this point.