Bonds Title Image

About

Genre: 2D Platformer

Description:

Bonds is a 2D platformer game in which the player character - Agent Bonds has been shrunken down to sub-atomic size in order to disarm an atom bomb from the inside. The player must piece the level together and collect different sub-atomic particles (electrons, neutrons, & protrons) to progress through the game. In some ways BONDS is a spoof of James Bond, but in many other ways, it is it's own beast entirely.

Number of Players: 1

Development Information

Role(s):

UI Design
QA Lead
Website Design

Responsibilities:

While working on Bonds, I had to wear several hats - each with its own challenges.

As the UI designer I was responsible for teaching the player the controls of the game and communicating and translating the game into something the player could easily and quickly understand.

As the QA Lead, I was responsible for organizing playtests for the project and being the liaison between the testers and the development team. I checked and reviewed bugs that were entered into the database and made sure that they were assigned to the appropriate team members.

Tools/Technology:

Unity3D Logo

Photoshop Logo      Tiled Logo

Development Time:

DevTime
~5 Months

Team Size:

TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize

Challenges:

Joining the Team Mid-Development

This project was different from all of the others that I have worked on, in that it was already under development when I joined the team. I think joining a team that has already begun development on a project can, without a doubt, be a hard thing to do for a number of reasons:

  • Everyone already knows the game

    • Being familiar with a project is an important aspect of development and, unfortunately, is something that can only be formed over time. Being thrust on to a project that is already in development can feel like walking on hollowed ground. You have to catch up on the project quickly and not be afraid to ask questions, or you will quickly fall behind.

  • Everyone already knows each other

    • This seems like a minimal thing, especially on a larger team, but on a smaller team, it can be much more difficult to begin working on a project with people that you are unfamiliar with. It was my job to become familiar with them and what their development process was like. Luckily, my team was open to hearing out my ideas and gave me a lot of freedom to implement them and improve my skills in the areas that I wanted to improve in.

  • Everyone already has an established production pipeline

    • This is what I was most scared of when jumping into this project. I was afraid that I was going to step on someone's toes by doing anything. It helped to just ask what needed to be done, but for the most part, since it was a smaller development team, we could all do a bit of everything that we wanted to.

Teaching the Player How to Play

This sounds like an easy task, and in theory, it is. Doing it well, however, is something that a lot of games struggle with. BONDS is no different. While being quite a simple game to control, the main mechanic behind BONDS (the ability to zoom out and drag pieces of the level around to create a new level layout) was a hard mechanic for new players to pickup - which is another key part - NEW players. Once the players had learned the controls, they no longer needed the tutorial.

So how do you know when the player has learned the controls? This was a question I worked hard to find an answer for. So I collaborated with the level designer on the project to create a simple level early on in the game that just had the objective of teaching the player the basics. This basic level utilized the UI and taught the basic controls to the player and then, slowly but surely, let the player go off on his/her own (kind of like training wheels on a bike).

UI Changes

The user interface in BONDS was simple, but conveyed all of the information that was needed.

Stylizing the countdown timer to make it look like a bomb lets the player know that they only have a certain amount of time left in this section - it's also a nice reminder of the narrative driving the gameplay.

In order to further build up to that climactic moment of the bomb going off, once the timer hits 10 seconds, the screen begins flashing red. If we would've had more time, I may have implemented a screen shake mechanic as well.

When getting feedback from the QA team, we had several complaints that they could not see the entirety of the level when zooming out to the "full-level view." In order to fix this, we adjusted the UI's opacity to be somewhat see-through when the camera was zoomed out.

Being on both the development team and the QA team definitely made for an interesting experience. I found myself both happy and upset. I was happy that people were playing our game and thought it was "super cool," but I was upset that others couldn't figure out the controls. In the end it was nice because we were able to improve the game because if it.

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