Battle Bowls is an arcade spin on the classic sport of lawn bowls! It has online multiplayer with voice chat, as well as offline single-player challenge modes. Best of all, you can use power-ups to thwart your opponent! Collect avatars and upgrade your bowls to help you climb a ladder of competitors on your way to become a worldwide bowls champion!
What is Lawn Bowls?
Lawn Bowls is a beloved Australian sport that originated in England. It's played by young and old, often on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, barefoot with a drink in hand. It's a sociable sport but also very competitive! At the highest level it is featured in the Commonwealth Games. I wanted to bring both the social and competitive aspects of the game to mobile, but with an arcade twist for a casual audience.
The goal of lawn bowls is simple, take turns rolling a weighted ball down a lane at a special target ball, called the jack. After four throws each, whoever is closest to the ball wins the round, scoring points based on the number of balls they had closest to the jack. Ends are switched after each round, and this repeats for several rounds until an overall winner is determined.
Distillation & Design Process
The first step was to distill a game that can go on for hours into just a couple of minutes. So, I limited the game to one round of three balls each, with no point-scoring mechanism - the players simply win or lose the game. To quicken the setup process, the jack is placed by the system instead of being rolled out by a player. To keep the pace and intensity, each player has a time limit to perform their throw.
The throw uses a two-step skill mechanic. In the first step the player aims their ball. In the second step a "swing bar" animates back and forth at a set speed. The player must tap the screen when the swing bar is dead-center, or they will not throw their ball exactly straight as they wanted. This is a simple reflection of the real game, where it's easy to see the direction you want to throw, but it's another thing to roll the ball perfectly at your target in a straight line, with the exact force to stop next to the jack.
Secondly, I wanted to add more arcade spice to the game. This would separate the game from reality and take full advantage of the mobile platform. I added a suite of power-ups that could either benefit the player or adversely affect their opponent.
Thirdly, I wanted address replayability and retention. I surrounded the core game with a leveling mechanic and a variety of progression unlocks. These unlocks include avatars, badges, balls, power-ups and buffs. Once unlocked by player level, these items can be purchased from a variety of sources, including coins (the core currency), crystals (a premium currency), or in some cases watching a reward ad. Some items, such as balls, have stats that affect gameplay, whereas other items, such as badges, are purely cosmetic.
In order to keep the gameplay fresh, the jack is always randomly placed in the rink. As the player levels up, it is placed further down the rink, in addition to an increasing number of obstacles that may spawn in front of it. This keeps the player challenged in a smooth curve as they skill up and become increasingly proficient at throwing the ball.
Several login rewards also encourage the player to keep coming back. For the core reward mechanic, I wanted to create a minigame that required some level of skill and wasn't a no-brainer like the typical “spin-the-wheel” or “loot crates” with rigged odds. So, I created a Match-and-Win minigame where the player must memorize and match pairs of cards to earn their reward. Extra turns can be earned by reward ads or spending premium currency. This minigame becomes much more exciting than a random spin-the-wheel or loot crate, because the player sees the odds and the potential reward! Match-and-Win is offered several times throughout the day. On top of this, a daily reward is offered, which escalates in value for each successive day the player returns to collect it.
With all these items to unlock, I built a cloud save system so that the player never loses their data. It also allows the player to sync their progress and play across multiple devices. I wanted this system to be non-intrusive, without requiring any new registration or logins, so I utilized the native system backends on iCloud and Google Play Games, which the player should already be logged into when they their open the game.
Multiplayer was a core focus of the game, so it was prototyped and built from the beginning. The player is represented in-game by one of many collectible avatars. They can emote to their opponent, in addition to using realtime voice chat (which the player can optionally mute). Regular games use random matchmaking, but at the highest levels, players can also enter a High Stakes mode where they can bet huge stacks of coins in a “winner-takes-all” gambit!
Being able to play offline was also a must, so I created single-player Challenge Mode. There are two game types within Challenge Mode: Versus and Collect. The Versus game type is the regular game mode played but played against an AI of increasing difficulty. In the Collect game type, the player has no opponent - they must instead collect all coins placed on the rink within a limited number of throws. As the player progresses through levels, the difficulty and rewards of both game types increase. With successive game updates, new levels will be released.
Native achievements and leaderboards on both iOS and Android also drive long-term play. As with our previous game - Oopstacles - leaderboards for Challenge Mode are released in successive seasons. Once a season ends, the leaderboard is locked, and whomever completed all levels the fastest will forever be crowned as the champion of that season!
To bring the game into a new dimension, I utilized the latest in Augmented Reality (AR) using ARKit. This is a mode where the player can project the game into miniature form in their living room or backyard!
One of Unity’s latest features is their new Cloud Diagnostics feature. This allows developers to implement a custom feedback form into their games. For a small developer, this is a wonderful means to solicit design feedback and collect user bug reports from directly within the game - no need to visit an external website or write an email!
Not only does it contain the user’s custom message, but it also includes a swathe of information about the user’s device, including its model, OS version, game version and debug log history, among other important info!
Living the Indie Dream
Crystal Pug is an independent games studio based in Brisbane, Australia. It was formed in 2016 by highly experienced professionals from the games industry. The team has decades of experience in digital entertainment including AAA games, VR simulations and computer-animated feature films at award winning companies such as Nintendo, Square Enix, THQ, SEGA, Konami and many more. We worked very hard on the game and hope you like it!
Keep an eye out for Battle Bowls on iOS and Android, releasing 21 Feb 2019!
For more info and to download, please visit https://crystalpug.com/battle-bowls
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