Game Development: Safe Cracker, Part I

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Game Development: Safe Cracker, Part I

At Pressure Games, we're very proud of the games we've created for the Countdown toy. Each game is a creative outlet where we push simple features (6 buttons and lights, an accelerometer, text display, etc) to their limits to create something awesome. We currently have 7 games implemented, which is to say that they've made the cut and are part of every update we deliver. They still may be refined over time as we get feedback, but they're solidly designed games that work in Hide & Seek, Hot Potato, Table Co-op and Single Player modes.

For our game development series this week, we'll be taking you through the inception point to the current, very early, implementation of a game to show you what the development process is like. With that, I'd like to introduce you to our newest, still deep in development game, Safe Cracker.

On January 21st, the team had a game jam session. We do these sessions about every 2-3 months to get a pipeline of games ready for development. These are a great creative time where everyone brings their best ideas for what games we should implement next. At our previous game session (in November), we approved only one new game for development: Simon Says. That was our first game using the accelerometer, so it took a bit longer than most games to implement. However, Simon Says has been a huge hit with testers for making them jump, duck and move all around so it was no surprise that the team mostly brought movement based games to the table for this session.

While there were many good ideas on their own, one idea stood out and was quickly refined to become what we're tentatively calling Safe Cracker. The idea is to find the correct combination to open a safe. To do so, the user must twist and turn Countdown like a combination on a padlock until they find the correct code to open the lock. As the user twists Countdown, the buttons will change colors to indicate if they are getting closer or further from the next code. Once they've twisted to the right spot, they'll have to hold Countdown still for a couple of seconds to 'lock in' the code. After they've found 3 codes (just like a normal padlock), the game will end and they can move onto the next one.

It's a great combination of fun, newness each time it's played and stress when racing against the Countdown clock.

The initial idea for this came from Nilesh with the idea of a simple orientation game with instructions like 'twist left', 'twist right', 'aim down' or 'hold upright' instruction and the user must move Countdown to that proper angle. While interesting, there's no 'story' behind any of those moves, which really help the user feel like they're accomplishing something to stop the Countdown timer. So, we talked through different reasons a player would want to twist the device in different directions and the idea of a padlock or safe quickly rose to the top as an exciting way to get kids moving.

Even better, it works great with our difficulty system: Lower (easier) difficulties can have a very large target range to turn too while higher (harder) difficulties would have to hit their codes very precisely.

There's still quite a bit of development left for this game, as you can see the earliest implementation above, This is a proof of concept of how sensitive we can be with the accelerometer for letting the user find each code and making sure the overall mechanics work.. which they most definitely do! The physical motion required for this isn't hard, but the feeling you get while twisting and finding the correct 'Hold' point is a ton of fun. Once lights are implemented and it enters into the full gameflow of racing against the clock, we can already tell this is going to be a hit.

Stay tuned to a future post where we'll show you the final implementation. If the above demo of the current implementation doesn't woo you, we understand! We've been through this for all of our games though, which makes it much easier to visualize when to continue development and when to pull the plug. Safe cracker has definitely hit the mark of continued development. We constantly re-evaluate progress and refine as we go along though, so the next look may be very different than described above.