With all the games today looking like each other in some form, one might easily think that humanity has reached its peak in gaming innovation on the platforms of today. One might also believe that we would need things like the Oculus Rift or some other insanely advanced technology to move forward in the gaming industry, but Mike Letellier, AKA Crab Cyborg is living proof we still have lots of room to move forward.
He is a veteran game designer, who spent the last four months of his free time creating a simple, fun and addictive game for the Android platform.
He invested more than 400 hours in the creation of his game called Shape Up, which is a fast-paced hidden object game that, as he says, looks sort of like Tetris. It’s a free downloaded game for Android devices.
In the game, the screen is filled with shapes, sizes, and colours and you need to find the target shape as fast as possible.
In order to pass a level, the player must find a set amount of shapes in only 30 seconds. But be careful, just because you have a small display and big fingers, doesn’t mean you can simply press all over the display to get to the goal fast. It doesn’t work, I tried it. And trust me, I have fat fingers!
There are a total of 108 levels, and they have different entertaining designs, ranging from deer-looking levels to lips, hearts, trombones and many other shapes.
Letellier said he always saw hidden object games doing well, but they simply never ‘cut it’ for him – they weren’t enjoyable. So what do you do when someone throws a party you don’t like? You throw your own party, with Blackjack and hoo…
Anyway, that’s how he got the idea to make the game. “I tried making a game that incorporated the idea of finding an object, but in a new and exciting way, with a bit of a speed kick. The idea to use pixels came really naturally since they’re already designed to work that way,” he said.
But that’s nothing new or innovative, right? What’s so special about this game? I’m glad you asked. You see, there is not a single image file in the game; all the shapes are programmatically made.
Trial and error
Letellier explains: “I use Unity, which has a lot of cool features – one of which is the ability to make a graphic just by programmatically assigning colours to pixels,” he says.
“I would just list the level data as which coordinates shouldn’t have anything in them, but I realized I could use an old school approach and I paired together every eight pixels as one byte value. Zero would mean that there were no pixels in those eight spots, and 255 indicated they were all on, with everything in between.”
But just creating these graphics isn’t enough. He has to determine shapes, and place them next to each other, in neighbouring fashion. It’s not as easy as you’d think, and it required a lot of trial-and-error to get things working properly.
“There have been a lot of experiments with trying to generate good and random shapes quickly while trying not to leave any gaps. Picking through colours was also very experimental. No two colours should ever look too alike, and they can’t be too dark, or too light, or they risk blending in. I ended up somewhere around 30 colours that may go into a shape.”
He decided to give the game out for free, with in-game purchases as optional. Within the game, players can buy the Ad Blocker to block incoming ads, as well as multiple levels.
The SOOMLA assistance
He decided to use SOOMLA as the Unity plugin which saved him precious time and gave additional options.
“I’ve implemented SOOMLA for Store functionality because I wanted a free Unity plugin that worked with Android. It ended up saving me a lot of time, opened up early access to Amazon’s IAP 2.0 and gave me analytics without any real effort on my behalf,” he says.
“I also love that there are checkboxes to switch between Google Play and Amazon that prevent the wrong services from being in my Android Manifest automatically. I plan to use Profile for Facebook and Twitter with my next update.”
If you guys think you can do even better, you’re in luck. Letellier says he’s looking into releasing the level editor in the future, so you just might be able to give it a shot.
This is not where Letellier plans on staying, though. He wants his game on PC, iOS, Nook and Facebook, and he’s currently getting it translated into Russian.