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.

Mindframe Arena at PlayersXpo 2017

On the weekend of October 28th and 29th was amazing for those who love games and had the chance to go to the PlayersXpo 2017 in Dublin! As you might know this super gaming event reunited all of the hottest in the gaming universe (including us!) and retro gaming enthusiasts. You could meet your favourite Youtubers, Twitch Streamers and Game Developers, sometimes some of them were just walking around, making it easier to take selfies and to talk to them!

During the event we saw amazing cosplayers walking around - we even got some pictures of cosplayers at our Mindframe Arena stand!.... thank you guys

Mindframe Arena's stand had great feedback on the game from the adults and especially from the young players. We are aware now that there are kids waiting for the game to be released because they were excited to play it! Well, we can say for sure that it wasn't just only a great experience for the visitors but also for us. We had the chance to show our game and we got loads of positive feedback. This is what keeps us motivated to release the game as soon as possible!

We want to thank all the gamers who came to our stand and played Mindframe Arena and if you couldn't go but want to try the game, sign up clicking here and give your thoughts about the game.

A big thank you to Michael Finucane, PlayersXpo 2017 Creative Director for the opportunity to be part of this amazing experience and all the guys who organised this event directly and indirectly. PlayersXpo 2017 was produced by professional gamers for passionate gamers. The event was well organised with no queues on entry - it was possible to play any game available without waiting for too long and most of them you didn't need to wait to play.

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!

Daily Draw Reward System

This is our daily draw for our new game Mindframe Arena, it is the part of the overall meta game, encouraging players to come back and play. We decided to make it a bit more fun than traditional daily reward systems. Obviously, the video is speeded up but hopefully you get the idea. We are using our own backend server for the daily reward and other key game systems. Hopefully we be able to let other game developers use this in time. Btw, the robot character is called Metrix…. Just so you know 😊

Meta Game

So what is the meta game and why is it so important for free to play games? From searching online, you will see there is not one definitive definition for the meta game. From our perspective, a meta game is a superset of game features that are not directly related to the core game mechanism. In essence, it is the actions that a player needs to do, to keep playing the game for free. So it might be a daily login reward, a set of quests, a gacha system or some other feature concerning resources. For free to play games, it is vital to keep players engaged. So the game does that… well partly. To the continue to play the game (for free), a player needs resources. These might be for buying new equipment or content or for just staying alive and maintaining health. The meta game allows a player to acquire those resources, sometimes by just playing the game. Even for relatively straightforward meta games, they still need to be designed. They can’t be ‘bolted’ on afterwards, a mistake developers make. Meta games make the design of free to play games increasingly complex and time consuming – something not suited to solo game developers.

If you are designing a free to play, our advice is to first acknowledge it. Many developers design a game and leave the payment stuff until the end. Unfortunately, you probably won’t make any money this way. Free to play is a bit of a misnomer as players are effectively paying you with their time. In our time poor, multi-device, multi-platform lives, you gotsta to pay for them player eyeballs somehow! That is where your meta game kicks in.

Our second piece of advice is to start the meta game design as early as possible. It has a major bearing on your game’s pacing and difficulty progression curve. Without a basic meta game framework and currency/resource system in place, you won’t be able to properly expand your game mechanic into a coherent set of levels.

Thirdly, study good examples of meta games…. no point reinventing the wheel.. or game loop in our case. Currently the masters of meta are Supercell. What makes them so super? Obviously good game design but large players number and effective analytics really helps. Also they have learnt how to successfully adapt the Japanese ‘gacha’ mechanic for western players. Others are doing this but Supercell are probably the best as seamlessly adding it to their games.

meta game

The meta loop from our upcoming game Mindframe Arena

And lastly, another acknowledgment is needed. Mobile games are fundamentally different from most PC and console games. The players, the mechanics, the attention span, the business model, the UI, the backend services, the frequency of updates…..  I could go. Mobile games are easier to develop than PC/console however they are not necessarily easier to design. If you are going to make a mobile game and you are not a mobile gamer, think twice about it… or get a ‘real’ mobile gamer on board.

Free to play has now moved beyond mobile and Web gaming. You may not like it but huge number of players are used to it. So if you are in this space, embrace the meta!

Game Names

In our regulated and legallised world, naming games and apps has become a very difficult chore. First you have to check that the name is not already trademarked as a computer game. Then you have to see if it already exists in the various app stores. Finally you have to see if the website domain is available. People still tend to search for .coms. After all that, you have to like the game name.... probably the hardest of all. As with most game developers, our game names tend to change over the life of the project. You want it as early as possible to start your marketing. However you also want it to be right. Meeshas Maze was the first name for this game. I liked the name but ultimately, it was not suitable for the type of game that we were building. After lots of head scratching and some beers (hmmm...maybe lots of beers), we agreed on Mindframe Arena.

Early Game Design

When you start out making a game, it is all in your head. Bit by bit, you get it written and visualised. Eventually you start to make it. This was one of our early concepts designs for choosing your Tecs. It shows a traditional attack and defense value mechanic. This is something that we abandoned quickly as it did not suit the game style. Also there were different levels of characters (Tecs). This is still in the game but is less obvious from a progression point of view. You can also see here the card influence. Again this has changed from the original design where there is now less emphasis on viewing the Tecs as cards. 

The Mindframe Arena Zones

So these are the initial Mindframe Arena zones. As you can see, each one is themed on a specific topic. This is important to the overall game story and how you progress. Each zone will have about 20 levels - we need to fix the final figure for this. There will be another inner set of zones which are going to be pretty exciting,.... cant say anymore for now

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