Gamelogic, the company behind Unity plugin Grids, which enables developers to rapidly implement games built on various types of grids, last month launched a special campaign to create 30 small prototypes inside a month to show off just how fast its tech is.
Develop spoke to the Gamelogic's Herman Tulleken and Jonathan Bailey to find out more about the project and what Grids can offer developers.
What was the idea behind the 30 Games in 30 Days project? How did it start?
Herman Tulleken: One of the things we talk about often in our local game development community (Make Games SA) is prototyping and open development; showing the world what you are doing; and getting early feedback, instead of potentially going on a wild goose chase. We like these ideas, and were thinking about how we could apply this style of development to our tools.
Jonathan Bailey: Besides using prototyping to select future products, we thought we could also use this methodology to improve our current product. The idea behind prototyping with Grids was to get more feedback, discover and fix potential bugs and add new features.
Tulleken: We realised that one of the best ways to prototype features for our library was to actually make games. This would make sure that we test the ideas on practical game development problems, and not artificial text book problems. It gave us a way to show the features in a compelling, concrete, visual way, instead of as abstract code and algorithms.
Up to this point, we were struggling to get our message across, and convince people that our tool would save you tonnes of time, and how flexible it really is. We thought making lots of examples could be a really good way to show people this was true.
Bailey: With this in mind we packaged the prototyping into a campaign, setting ourselves a challenge to make 30 games in 30 days using Grids. This way we could have all the benefits of prototyping but also prove our promise that Grids helps developers with rapid iteration.
We came up with the idea for the campaign in a brainstorming session on the Wednesday, and released our first game the following Friday. So everything happened very quickly.
How does the project show off the benefits of Grids?
Tulleken: The project shows that you can make grid games fast using Unity and our tools. We implemented lots of mechanics; this would not be possible if we did not have a solid library that solved many of the problems we had to deal with.
But I think we also showed that our tool allows you to use your imagination, and make things that are unique. We showed grids are more than just squares and hexagons. We implemented games on irregular grids, Cairo pentagon grids, grids wrapped on spheres, disks, and spirals. We showed we could work with infinite grids and nested grids. The library is indeed flexible.
How did you design each of the 30 games? How did you ensure you didn't run out of ideas, or they weren't all too similar?
We started off with a big list of game ideas. The plan was to execute these sequentially. As we went on, we got a better feel for a realistic scope, so we made our ideas more focussed. We also started to think up ideas to show off specific types of grids or things that can be done with grids.
One game idea came from a user asking us whether our pathfinding could work across multiple grids; two days later we made a game to show that yes, it could. Another user and I were talking about irregular grids – something I did not really think was possible with the library. That planted the seed for a game using an irregular grid, and one afternoon we figured out a way to add it. As we got near the end, we literally thought of the game on the day we made it.
Focusing on specific grid types and novel ways of using grids helped a lot with making the games varied. We had lots of ideas to fall back on; and we could always cheat a little by using the same game twice on another grid if we had to. Fortunately, that was not necessary.
What was the response to each game, and the project overall? Which prototypes emerged as favourites?
Both our local and the international community responded positively to the project as a whole. People were impressed and excited about the challenge that we were undertaking, but also seemed sceptical about the prospect of completing 30 games in 30 days. The scepticism was probably increased by a lot of developers not expecting such fast turnaround times with Unity. This added to the pressure but also the excitement surrounding the challenge.
The games sparked quite a lot of interest. We received feedback on what could be improved but also on what was most popular. People talked about the level of fun, game mechanics, uniqueness and even the art of the games. This gave us a good idea of which games we should consider taking further as well as how we could improve them.
Some of the games were quite popular. Favourites include our matchmaking game on the Cairo pentagon grid (5), our maze-shuffler game using nested grids (6), and our space rollercoaster using distorted grids in 3D space (30).
How has this helped interest in Grids? Have you seen an increase in uptake?
Bailey: Interest and uptake increased considerably during the campaign. From the day we launched the campaign our web traffic shot up and our sales also increased during the month.
We had a lot of interaction and received a lot of feedback from the local and international community. Some of this feedback even led to game ideas and the new tech that we developed. We hope that we also got people more interested in making grid games, in particular using more novel types of grids and using grids in different ways.
What's the next step? How will you follow this project up?
Tulleken: We want to update the library with all the new tech we developed and with some new ideas for improvements we discovered during this project. We want to keep in the spirit of rapid prototyping, and look to prototype ideas for new products, including games that these could be used for.
Bailey: We definitely want to keep up the momentum that we created during the campaign. We want to do another challenge, but we’ll need to think up something even more extreme in order to exceed what we did this month. We feel that we have raised the bar for ourselves now.
We also want to get more exposure for Grids. One of the challenges we face is reaching our customers, so we want to explore other ways of doing this. Lastly we want to get more feedback on the games that we have made. We plan to put the games onto other platforms, and depending on the feedback we get we may take some of them further.