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Tomb Town Bash: Development at a Glance

Tomb Town Bash: Development at a Glance

Hello readers! My name is Cass Hensley, and I was the Game Designer behind our Halloween game Tomb Town Bash. Hopefully all of you have played our game, and if you haven’t then you should totally go download and play it! The best thing about our game is that it is completely free and fun for all ages! Before I dive into details, I wanted to thank everyone that gave us feedback on our game. Feedback is very important to us because it gives us a chance to get a fresh perspective on what our players think about the games we make, so that we can then take the knowledge we gain and develop bigger and better games in the future!

I wanted to take some time and contemplate on the development of Tomb Town Bash to not only give some insight on how we develop games, but also use this as a way to put my thoughts down on paper. We were extremely excited to put this game out because it was arguably the first multi-platform and completely thought out mobile game that any of us on the team had ever developed. There is so much that we wanted to do with this game, and hopefully we can really expand the game moving forward.

How did the concept of this game begin? We wanted to create some sort of interactive for Halloween, so we decided to develop a game. The original concept for the game was for it to be a very simple game based around a whack-a-mole mechanic where you would tap on ghosts to earn points, which was first thought up by Brian Nutt, our Lead Designer and Thomas Gorence, our Lead Developer. We knew that this game concept would be easy to prototype and ultimately finish, in a small period of time. The guys came to me and asked what my thoughts were about the overall idea of the game, for which I responded, “it’s cool, but we can totally do better.” We always want to be innovative and do something unique with each project, which is really one of the things that makes our company so great.

We immediately started expanding the game design to really create a fully thought out game experience. I wanted to first do some research on what other games out on the market do a similar whack-a-mole mechanic like ours. The reason research is important to us is mainly because we like to see what has already been done and gain inspiration for how we might approach our project. The main thing that I noticed through doing research is that none of games kept the gameplay fresh and exciting. Whack-a-Mole by itself, can become boring rather fast, and these games were suffering the same fate. They didn’t really have any sort of story elements to them either, so story and exciting gameplay were top priority for us.

We created a very simple game concept that would be modular, meaning that even after we start adding new features, if we have to take all of those away then the game would still be fun at it’s core. We were able to create a very quick and dirty prototype for us to start tweaking game balancing features such as: ghost spawn rates, points, and level length. We continued working on these key elements throughout most of the production cycle because they were the most important to the success of the game. We had a fun prototype, but it was void of story and great pacing, which are both key elements to great immersive games.

There was so much that we wanted to do with this game, and there still is, so expect future expansions! However, we had to make hard decisions in order to stay within scope. At this point, we had a game that was very similar to other whack-a-mole games, but luckily we had the time we planned on having to kick it up another notch! We decided on a simple story of helping invite ghosts to a Halloween party and told it through unique level settings, UI elements, and gameplay elements. The story helped us come up with the idea of giving the player an invite list of good ghosts and bad ghosts, which helped give a reason as to why players would want to pay attention to the types of ghosts they were inviting.

We had our art, story, and basic gameplay; however, we were still missing a solid level of strategy and pacing. The strategy came from our implementation of a combo system, which would give extra points when players invited the same type of ghost simultaneously. This element added even more meaning to the types of ghosts that players were inviting. We love meaningful choices in our products, so we were happy with this outcome. Next, we needed better pacing. Our levels dragged on too long, and gameplay became stale about 2 minutes into playing. We turned to our list of item pickups and modes of play.

What do you do when something becomes boring? Give it a shot of adrenaline of course! Finally, the answer hit us. That is when Sugar Rush was born. We didn’t know it, but it would be one of the most exciting parts of our game. Sugar Rush would activate after players collected three pieces of candy that would randomly spawn in the level. The best part about this mechanic is that it blended perfectly with the theme of Halloween. The idea behind Sugar Rush is that it would give the player an exciting mode of play that would give them that shot of adrenaline to keep them actively engaged in the game.

We cleaned up our code, compressed out assets, and playtested the game as much as possible until our deadline to try and resolve any last minute issues. We had the luxury of launching our game as soon as the new iOS7 was released, which through a very fun bug our way that we eventually fixed.

Well, thank you for reading, and I hope you took something away after reading this. We will be posting a postmortem soon in case you are interested in seeing what went right, what went wrong, and what we took away from the development of Tomb Town Bash. Until then, let us know what you think about Tomb Town Bash!

Download and play the game by clicking on: http://ideasorlando.com/cards/TombTownBash/

Cass Hensley
Cass is originally from the Midwest, calling Anderson, Indiana home. He popped up on IDEAS radar as a graduate of Full Sail University here in Orlando with a B.S. degree in Game Design.