ABOUT THIS PILE OF WORDS
ICE WORLD LAVA WORLD: An infrequently-updated and utterly inconsistent waffle-house of video-game-related nonsense from the brain, spleen and other organs of Tim Furnish, a software developer and misery based in the UK who's used his clearly-not-as-precious-as-he-figured-it-was spare time to create interactive electrotainment about stupid wildfowl, science-fictiony space kidnappings and, most recently, everything spherical he could think of. And he wrote it all just for you, because you mean the world to him.
Tuesday, 3 May 2011
A Prize Every Time
Ballpit, my little iPhone puzzle game, has had, since the very beginning, something called accolades. They're clearly achievements (or, for those normally living in the currently locked-down city of Playstationville, trophies) but I decided to give them a different name because I own a thesaurus. Version 1.2 of the game (in review with Apple as I type) adds iPhone Game Center support, so the game actually does award Game Center achievements too. Yay. Go me.
Lots has been written about how there are several types of player. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the entire world has agreed on this subject, and the number of those types is 4: the expert, the persistent, the explorer and, because I can't think of a single word to sum the final category up, the player who does exactly what the game asks, no more and no less, and has difficulty (or no desire) to think or act outside the box or to excel compared to anyone else. So that I don't have to write that each time, let's call the final group Barry. I don't think I know anyone called Barry, so I should be safe there. If I do, then hello Barry! How've you been? Long time no see. And I hope you don't mind me using your lovely name as a randomly-selected heading for a subset of the population who could perhaps also be classified as borderline autistic.
I digress. So what's the aim of achievements? Surely, to try and push people towards getting more out of the game - more entertainment, more enjoyment, more time passed when sitting on the train every day if that's all they're after from the experience. And Ballpit certainly supports being played by all 4 of the groups mentioned above. But what I hope I've done with Ballpit's accolades is to push people into trying to play as one of the other groups. I tried to be even-handed when it came to designing accolades, so that each group of players would find themselves awarded a few without really trying. A few examples follow:
The expert: The FIVE TONNE BUNDLE accolade - awarded for scoring 500 points in a single move - should come pretty easily to someone who's getting good at the game.
The persistent: The POINT COLLECTOR, POINT HOARDER and MILLIONAIRE accolades can be collected by anyone given time. A good player will clearly achieve them more quickly (in terms of minutes spent playing the game) but a terrible player can also grind and slog and get the same accolades whether or not they actually get any better at the game.
The explorer: The GOTCHA and KEEPIE UPPIES accolades (awarded for catching a ball before it hits anything and for stopping the first 5 balls added to the game from touching the ground respectively) aren't things you'll get for playing the game properly. OK, maybe the first one, at a push, once you get good, but certainly not the second. Why would you do that, ordinarily? Because you can. Because it's a challenge. Some folks will like that. Some folks won't care for it - an activity which scores you no points? Why bother? Well, now it does score you points, just not points in the game itself. It scores you points in the big meta-game of how many accolades you can unlock.
The Barry: When seeing some people play the game without being terribly great at it (for example, non-iPhone users for whom simply using a touch-screen device is a new and difficult process) I noticed that a common technique is to simply let the pieces land where they may, possibly while screaming loudly about how it's getting really fast now, ooh, ack, I can't see a group and tapping the screen frantically again and again and again and again and again at random. Folks who play like this will eventually see groups of 4, collect them, score some points and repeat until the whistle blows. They're unlikely to manually rearrange any of the pieces to make a group, certainly on their first try. For such people, the DROP LUCKY accolade comes fairly easily - awarded for collecting several groups in a row without dragging any of the pieces about. (It's worth noting that for a seasoned player who's pretty good at the game and for whom dragging pieces around to form groups is second nature, it's actually quite tricky to stop doing this and just collect 10 groups as and when they're created by chance or by tipping the device from side to side). Now, a lot of folks are going to start out at this level and then develop into one of the other three types once they've wrapped their heads around how to play the game properly. But for the people who never really get it, for whom the game never really clicks or who just can't stop themselves playing it the same way again and again instead of trying to improve, at least there are a few accolades such as this one which will come pretty easily.
That's just a few. And I seem to have waffled about them more than I expected, so the table of all the achievements and the player types for which they cater will have to wait for another day. I may even dig out the statistics on how many folks have actually achieved each accolade.
In related news, Ballpit Lite version 1.2 is also on its way and also adds accolades (and Game Center achievements) - a completely different set to those in Ballpit rather than a subset. Which ties back into my previous post about making two different apps with a similar name rather than a full game and a demo version.
Also, the new version of the game introduces some more achievements, including one for scoring 3000 points with your very first group collected in a game. Let's see how many expert-type people are capable of that...