The Global Launch of Crashing Season came 26th of May 2016. To let everyone know what we went through and what we learned, we thought that it would be good idea to go through the development process of the game and show how it evolved during the past year. In short, the creation process could be described like taking a plank of wood and turning it into a beautiful (non-IKEA) kitchen table. This process with Crashing Season has been long.
We tested the game and did research throughout the year while making heavy modifications in the game based on the findings. Our vision for it included having courage to transform and making an original design for the game accompanied by unique visuals. Also, the core idea of the project has always been to make a game that’s a little crazy, stands out and is fun to play. The blog post is a collection of thoughts of the process from our CEO Antti Kananen, Art Director Oskari Hyvönen and Game Designer Petrik Sandberg. Let’s start.
In The Beginning
In the beginning the core idea of the game was very simple. The playable character would be an animal character and the enemies for it would be hunters. Players’ mission was to try to escape from the evil hunters and survive for as long as possible. The main goal was to get the maximum amount of points and rise up the high score charts on every map.
By collecting coins, player would have been able to unlock new characters and levels. With this design, and after some testing sessions, the problem we faced immediately was that player got stuck in the first level. We noticed that either players didn’t know how to unlock new levels or they didn’t even know about the existence of the new levels. Whenever players collected the in-game currency, they just consumed all the collected coins towards other in-game purchases rather than opening new maps with the game’s currency. We quickly arrived to the conclusion that the gameplay was very complicated and there was a clear problem with progression.
Also in the beginning, the playing mechanism was quite cruel and players died all the time – immediately after they were hit. The walls and other obstacles made the same amount of damage as the bullets coming from hunters’ guns. It took only one bullet or one crash to knock the character out. Fun? Not really. Hard? Yes, too hard.
For the game, the basic controls of the character has been the same throughout the development process, but at first controlling the animals was trickier. Every time the player tried to turn, the animal started drifting like it was in Fast & Furious. The movement was changing from one drifting position to another and of course, it had to change and be optimized towards a more user-friendly way.
The Crashing Season control scheme has stayed the same for quite long period of the dev cycle
After the first versions of the game, during when we were developing it further, we noticed that crashing was the most fun part of the game. Therefore we decided to transform the goal to getting as much points from crashing the enemies as possible. Same time, we scaled down the difficulty level a lot and created a health-mechanic for the animals so the playing would be much more fun and easier. This was also the time to start really thinking about the Long Term Goal (LTG) of Crashing Season, as some things were left unknown for the player.
Long Term Goal is one of the most important reasons why players play the game. It’s the goal of the game which players try to achieve by playing. Depending on the game, it can differ a lot.
LTG can be:
Unlock all the cards
Develop all the characters to the maximum level
Play through all the levels
Achieve the maximum level of the game
Build an outstanding city from the scratch
We started to ask ourselves: “what is the LTG for our players?” We asked this because we had noticed that aiming for the highest score wasn’t a good enough reason to play constantly for months and months. Another question we asked was: “Making 3D content takes time so how we could take full advantage of everything we’ve made for the game?”. To answer these problems, during this spring, we decided to create a completely new challenge system for the game, in which players had to use every animal and complete several challenges with different difficulties in every level.
This iteration changed the game completely. For example earlier, one problem was that our players tended to use only one or two animals to play even thought we had created 15 of them. The new challenge system forced players use all of the characters which deepened the game’s experience significantly. This stems from the fact that all the animals handle slightly differently, but also from the fact that each of the animals have their own special abilities. The moose’s boost for example launches the moose forward like a battering ram, the crocodile spins on the ground like crazy, and the cow leaves a big cow pile behind, in front of the enemies. This of course created a lot of work with animations and coding but we believe that it’s a very important part of the game, and worth of all the trouble – boosts and abilities allow the player to succeed much better in the game and try out different strategies for playing it.
At the verge of the launch: post production
As mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, Crashing Season was globally launched on the 26th of May and a lot has changed from the first draft which is of course completely natural in the world of game development. At the moment, the game has three worlds (Forest, Wild West and Arctic) with one more world slated for release in the future. Every world includes five animals to play and five different levels with hunters – if not changed again in the future.
We like our levels so much, we printed some paintings based on them to hang in the office.
In the new system we will give players three small tasks at a time. Completing them allows the player to level up. By leveling up, the player unlocks new characters, character improvements, maps and boosts. The tasks don’t take a long time to accomplish, but the amount of tasks in the game makes it a long time to finish Crashing Season. We have also made movement a lot easier in the game, while still keeping the controlling system the same. The character moves forward automatically but pressing the left or the right side of the screen the character turns.
The LTG on the new version is not just playing through all the maps, but also at the same time achieving the maximum player level – more variety on the way, and fun, as players have to try out all of the game’s content at some point. To support achieving the LTG, players have smaller challenges to accomplish through the game. These all little changes have made players to stay a lot longer in our game.
Here is the laundry list of the problems and questions that we still have and which only the global launch will answer:
The game is more complex now, do the players understand the core idea of the game.
Can we communicate the core ideas of the game while saving that valuable interface space?
Is there enough variations in the content of the game, so that players would spend hours playing the game?
How well will Crashing Season monetize?
So to recap, Crashing Season development is still in full swing even after launch, and we’ll be honing and polishing the details while adding new content since the game has been received quite well. Some of the lessons we again learned during this included a few old game development maxims.
Kill your darlings, if you find that some concepts just perform better, change them.
Also be prepared to make radical alterations even after soft launch.
Listen to feedback but prepare to filter out the constructive feedback from the bad. Don't take the entire game into a completely different direction just because one person said so.
The climate of the game industry changes year to year. You should try to follow the trends where it matters.
Check out our infographics of the game development process:
This blog post was originally published at: http://koukoi.com/2016/06/07/changing-the-game-concept-from-start-to-finish/ on June 7th, 2016.
It was cowritten by Mikko Salonurmi and Matti Luonua.
You can get Crashing Season for Android and Apple devices, download links below.