Dev Video 1 – An introduction

Welcome to the first in a series of the videos about our new game Mindframe Arena.

So, we're going to do a bunch of videos just covering somewhere development and design approaches in my Mindframe Arena. Today we are going to kick off with a quick overview of our development setup and what we used to make the game

We use Adobe Animate (previously Flash) for our visual design work and we use it as you can see here to design a lot of our user interfaces. We're using it for years and find it really good for designing 2D games

When we started on the game, we decided to do a basic game design doc - as the game evolved we discovered do we need is a more comprehensive can design document.  I know a lot of people talk about agile development and that and you don't really need documentation. From my experience if your game is reasonably complex and has a lot of data, you do need a GDD, particularly if there's more than one or two people working on it

The GDD does get out of date but it really helped to solve a lot of issues in the beginning about some core gameplay mechanics and how things worked

With this game, we developed our own backend for the game. We use Amazon Elastic Beanstalk (an Amazon Web Services platform) as our team has a background in web development and PHP. We found it easier for ourselves to basically write her own backend system for managing the meta-game, user registration and a few other backend services.

Watch the video for the full transcript!

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Mindframe Arena on Unity Connect

We use the Unity game engine to build Mindframe Arena. Though it has its quirks, we are big fans of Unity for indie and mobile game development. While it’s powerful editor and inbuilt physics are great, we think its best feature is the support and training provided. Games are complicated pieces of software and, without help, it can take a long time to master even the minimum skills required to make a basic game. Unity’s support ecosystem (tutorials, docs, forums, etc) is the one of the best out there for new game developers. They provide a good introduction to using the game engine and the C# programming language. One caveat for students though; it is not a substitute for properly learning a programming language. Unity uses C# as a scripting language and for computer science students, it would be important to know the fundamentals of the language outside of Unity. Aside from that, it is an ideal engine for solo or small teams.

Unity knows most of their developers are the smaller guys n gals. As such, they are good at helping game devs promoting their games. MadeWithUnity.com was their previous portal for developers to showcase their games. Now they have Unity Connect. Here you can show off your game projects or your work in general e.g. if you are looking to get hired.

We have setup a Mindframe Arena project on Unity Connect – check it out and say hello if you are already on Connect !

https://connect.unity.com/p/mindframe-arena-1

Tec Spells

Each Tec has a default spell. In time, certain Tecs may have more than one spell. The spells are related to the personality of each Tec. You can play the game without using spells but you probably won’t win 😊. For experienced players, spells are vital in developing winning strategies, particularly when encounter more powerful Tecs.

There are two types of spells;

  • Offensive
  • Defensive

Defensive spells can only be cast on your own Tecs. They are used to heal or help a Tecs. Likewise, offensive (or attack) spell can only be used on opposing Tecs – hey why would you want to attack your own faction??

A spell is cast by dragging it onto an opposing Tec. Most spells can be cast from anywhere on the board – a big advantage for less powerful Tecs.  After you cast a spell, your turn end immediately ends.

 

OFFENSIVE SPELLS

 

DEFENSIVE SPELLS

Mindframe Arena: The Challenge Arena

To challenge an opponent on the game board, you need to right beside them e.g. beside or above them. The walkway between you will turn to red and the challenge icon will appear. If you tap it, your Tec and the opposing Tec are brought to the challenge arena. In the area, the 2 Tecs are pitted against each other using their power bars. The challenge occurs automatically once started e.g. the player has not input. So, it is important for players to challenge Tecs that are the same or weaker than theirs so they have a chance of winning.

In the arena, both Tec’s power bards are displayed at the bottom of the screen. Two pointers automatically move randomly along the bars. After a few seconds, they stop. Whoever has the highest attack values wins. If both have the same (and it is not 0), both are knocked off the board. If both have 0 (miss), it is a draw and nothing happens to them.

POWER BAR

Every Tec has a power bar. It represents their attack strengths (3 possible) and also the likelihood of that strength being selected. The longer the width of a particular strength, the higher the probability it might be selected. You can check an opponent’s power bar before entering a challenge. As you get more powerful Tecs, they will have stronger power bars. Note a power bar can be affected by spells.

It is a good tactic to use a spell on a Tec before challenging them!

Tecs

In Mindframe Arena, your game characters are called Tecs. You manage a group of 5 called a faction. Over time, you can build up a pool of Tecs and change your faction for new opponents or levels. One of the key skills in the game is learning which Tec to use in certain situations. Each Tec has a direct (power bar) and indirect (spell) capability. They use their power bar in challenges which are direct confrontations. Their spell can be used from a distance which makes them strategically important. So a good player need to have a balanced faction for each game.

The core of the game revolves around collecting, upgrading and using Tecs to progress through the game world.  There are 8 tiers ranging from entry level Tecs to powerful specialised ones. A new player will start with some Civic Tec and move on from there.

Tiers

  • Civic
  • Active
  • Fighter
  • Combat
  • Mystic
  • Advanced
  • Prime

Tec Profile: Ninja

Being less than 2 inches tall and weighing less than a toe nail, Ninja is the perfect stealth Tec warrior. No surprise, black is his favourite colour and coffee. Feed on a strict diet of magic toads, his primary spell allows him to free other Tecs – making him an important member of any faction.

Class:
Move Distance:
Spell:
Spell Type:
Spell Details:

Fighter
1
Freedom
Defensive
Frees one of your Tecs from lockup

Tec Profile: Flower Girl

Flower Girl a hemp loving hippie who has a fun loving free spirit. Born in the summer of love, she is a far-out freedom fighter who loves her fellow Tec brother and sisters – with one exception; hairy hipsters – we would not blame her! Don’t be fooled by her peaceful disposition. Behind her happy hemp exterior is a tough trippy heroine.

Tag Line - Way out wavy gravy!

Class:
Move Distance:
Spell:
Spell Type:
Spell Details:

Civic
2
Xtend
Defensive
This gives one of your own Tec an extra move distance of 1 for their next turn

Game User Interface Design – Information Panels

With a complex board game, displaying information is a difficult UI (user interface) task. While we could easily put lots of text on the screen, we know that you (you gamer you !) don’t like that. So we have to use visuals as much as possible to display information.

Mindframe Arena UI game screen

This popup panel gives you the basic details on a Tec:

- Name
- Movement range
- Power bar rating
- Spell

You can access this from a number of screens in the game. One key design philosophy for us is to avoid cluttered screen and a ‘heavy’ UI. We see this in a lot in board and strategy game and while, it does appeal to certain players, we are not them! As much as possible, we are going for a minimal UI and displaying information only when needed. We believe this is particularly important for mobile play. If you would like to see some of the game UI in action, download our early (very early) test alpha version – Android only for now.

The Mindframe Arena Game Board

When designing the 23-node board, we were looking for something that would firstly work with our Tecs (animated game characters) and our perspective backgrounds. We also wanted a board with a straightforward winning strategy – get to the other side. Though how you get there is another matter.

Mindframe Arena board strategy

We were also looking for a board design that would offer a underlying complexity that would take time for dedicated players to learn. After playing for a while, you will see that the board design is inherently linked to the Tec’s movement patterns and spells.

Tec spells

Without the Tec spells, a game would become just a matter of brute force and attrition. With a Tec's primary and secondary spells, you need to use the board more strategically – protecting other Tecs and key nodes & pathways. We are also happy that the board facility players with different playing styles. You can choose a direct full on attack, or set up a defensive posture or use a Tec on Tec marking strategy.

Game board Mindframe Arena

If you would like to be one of the first to play the game, drop us a line via Facebook or Twitter. We have some goodies for our first test players!

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