As the setting is in space we thought we should use comets as special tiles. But what exactly will they do? We thought about what real comets do and came up with the idea that our comets should destroy other tiles. Since the normal tiles can be easily destroyed anayway, we were in need of some permanent tiles that remain in place even after you have walked on it. If you now walk onto a comet tile, the corresponding permanent tiles will disappear. With this element it is not so clear when you have to pick up which light tile. Once again they come in different colors to confuse you more.
Comets are energetic and active objects. They are not meant to be floating quietly somewhere between normal tiles. Therefore, we added some exciting animations to this element. The comets themselves are surrounded by orbiting light balls, looking like they are ready to explode at any time. As soon as you walk on them, they will shoot arrows out of colored light to all the corresponding permanent tiles:
It took a long time to find a design for the permanent tiles that we all like. The first idea was to make a rock-like tile with a crack through which a colorful glow shines. It is supposed to look solid in contrast to the normal tiles, but at the same time destroyable by the comets.
And here comes the first problem: you can’t tell them apart easily. This makes the levels with many differently colored comets really annoying. Here are the first attempts to fix this problem:
Now they are far too colorful for us. However, we couldn’t think of any better alternative at this time. Instead of accepting a not quite satisfying version, we decided to try something completely different in order to get new ideas:
They look simple and elegant. But it is not quite our style. Finally, we found a variation of the original idea that just falls into place!
The rotatated position should help especially color-blind players to be able to distinguish between them.
We really enjoy this exciting element! Hopefully you too.
These are our favourite tiles! And the most challenging, if you ask me. Some filthy pig left his waste in space – rockets. But hey, that’s great! Our little star can use them to fly over huge distances between two tiles. And just like that he is flying through the sky. So what is the difficulty? You can now cover large distances and do not have to clear one block in one motion. There might be the possibility to come back to this block again with a rocket.
Now we had to think about the exact function of these rockets. Finally we agreed on these rules: rockets jump over other rockets because they just fly above them. But they land on every other tile including the other special tiles. If this is a wormhole then the star will just be sucked into it.
The design of this tile is peculiarly cute. Check it out:
The wormhole is a common game element. It teleports you to another position anywhere on the screen. That is the first element to make the solutions less obvious for the player. It also gives the game a more colourful look. Additionally, we can use several wormholes in different colours to irritate the user.
But it was a long way until we finally agreed on a design for the wormholes. Here are some examples of the things we tried out. We hope you like the final decision.
There are many things you have to consider when you design levels for a mobile application. You need to start off with easier levels and then increase difficulty along the way so that the player does not realize it too much, but still feels challenged.
We do not want the solution to be simply a result of brute force. That is why we tried to put a little trick into every puzzle. This way the player can always just start walking or think one moment about our intentions and solve the level much faster. The first thing should always be the thought about where the star should end up. Sometimes you have to think backwards to find the right path.
Another important thing for us was the uniqueness of the solution. If a puzzle is ambiguous it is more difficult to find the solution because there is no clear argument why you should take that path. But that also made it harder for us to design. Most of the levels had to be solved several times, many small changes had to be made again and again until we finally liked them.
When we are finished designing a level, we use the editor “Tiled” to insert it into the game. In this editor we got the tileset with the most recent design. We can specify the size of each puzzle, where which tile goes and also the starting position. This is a very easy process, that just needs some concentration and time. On the left you can see what this looks like.
As our star has only one night to become sparkling, we wanted to show you this night in the menu. Therefore we choose a black landscape with a tree, where the skyline will change from sunset at the earlier levels to black night and then sunrise at the end of the game.
What does that look like? Helen drew a big painting that shows this scenery. To give the impression of time passing, the background slides away when you change from one point in night to the next. This effect should look like a small rotation of the skyline. Click on the picture for more details:
When you start a level, the background slides upwards. The effect should give you the impression of looking up to the stars high in the sky.
The level selection is visualized by 10 gray fields with a bright number. Those represent the locked levels. If you unlock a level the field becomes luminous. Again, once you cleared it a little star apears in the corner.
Altogether we tried to make the menu look calm and comfortable, like a warm summer night.
Have you ever wondered what a computer science Ph.D., two students of mathematics and a student of mechatronics do in their free time? Programming their own iPad App it is! As spare time is boring anyway, we thought we could work a bit more and decided to make our own game. We all agreed that it had to be challenging, but meditative and of course addictive. But most importantly, it had to have a cute main character. And so our little star was born! Although we made him the cutest star in the whole sky, he is not quite happy, because he does not yet sparkle like the others. So his goal is to collect as much light dust in one night as possible to become bright and shiny.
How exactly does he do that? In each level there is a grid of light balls. To clear it you have to walk onto every single tile at least once. The difficulty is to choose the right path. Most of the levels have only one solution. To make it more interesting, we also thought of several additional tiles, which we will tell you about in detail later.
Excited as we were about this first idea, we started right away. Barbara takes care of programming. As the game is for Apple products, she uses Objective C. The Code will be open source when we are finished. Helen is our artist. She makes the star cute and let our little world sparkle. Florian is the one you have to complain to if the levels are too hard. As our puzzle master, he has to approve of every new level before we add it to the game, to ensure that there is a nice solution. Agnes designs the easier levels that teach the player the game. She also makes sure that everyone is doing his job. But most of the big decisions are made in group. We also find our inspiration together.
In the next entries, we will tell you more about the design of the menu, the look of the tiles, how we make the levels and of course our little star.