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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsPongo March
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vitorlanna
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« on: April 22, 2017, 10:46:49 AM »


So this is a game I have been working on for some time now! Basically, you must direct pongos, these little blue creatures, towards the portal. They walk by themselves, but you can create up to two ice blocs to block some paths.


There's a lot more done, but I figured I'd post just this for now instead of making a giant post, and then post more little by little (the game as a whole isn't done, though).

--Edit--
Soundtrack is by Thommaz Kauffmann! Here's a sample: https://soundcloud.com/thommazk/pongo-march-gameplay
« Last Edit: January 08, 2018, 05:19:11 AM by vitorlanna » Logged

alvarop
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2017, 11:51:58 AM »

This looks really cute and well done. Show us more now Tongue
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2017, 05:58:33 PM »

This looks really cute and well done. Show us more now Tongue
Thanks! =D Will do!

A bit about the origin of the project... So back in 2013 I was brainstorming mobile projects that took into account mobile input. As a kid I liked putting a finger or a pencil in front of ants to see they plan a way around it (or over it). So I came up with the idea of "herding" some small creatures towards a goal (like in lemmings) but using your fingers to block paths and iteract with the scenarios. The main form of danger was predators.

Some references I collected from that time:
(Arts by Kyoung Hwan Kim and Bobby Chiu)

But then I put the idea in my big ol' archive of ideas with others, until last year, when I made this prototype:

With no predators at first... But I managed to add them later!

The form of interaction also changed. Originally you'd keep yout finger on screen for as long as you wanted a path blocked, but that obstructed the view, and it was worse when you used multiple fingers (which some people didn't like to do anyway). And so the fingers were replaced by ice blocks!

You'll also noticed that the Pongo in the last gif is a little different, but I'll leave that for another post!
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2017, 11:18:01 AM »

So! About the pongos... I had a vague notion of what they'd look like, but not a specific design in mind (like I had for the predator).

So I experimented a few things.


But finally I had an idea.


I recognized my influences for that idea, that helped ground and define the design.


Here are some gifs of some earlier versions:


Back in these, there were purple and orange pongos, each preferred turning to a different direction. But this was cut for simplicity.
In the last post, though, there was a green pongo.
That was because, for monetization, I was considering different pongo skins. Like these!


I'm not sure if I'll keep them, or exactly like that. I'm thinking more deeply about what monetization fits best with the project.
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Melaniipon
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2017, 06:54:06 PM »

Not only does this look adorable, but it looks fun as well! I'll be watching! :D
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2017, 12:33:29 PM »

Thanks Melaniipon! =D

==
Now, the two first posts were about some stuff that was done long ago, here's something more current...

If you tap in an empty space, you create an ice block. But what if this space is occupied? Well...

Originally, before the ice blocks entered the design, the idea was that pongos (and the predators) would struggle under your finger, and maybe try to wiggle away. But with the ice blocks, changing it to freezing seemed to make more sense. It counts as an ice block, so the limit of maximum 2 simultaneous ice blocks still stands. You can tap on the frozen again to "unfreeze" them. Also to avoid it being overpowered, if a creature is frozen for a long time it escapes on its own and becomes temporarily immune to freezing.

And I think I'll probably cut this mechanic.

Pros:
-> People are surprised and amused when they do this for the first time, usually by accident.
-> An additional action the player can take in the game without the need of a new input.

Cons:
-> People usually thing they lost when they accidentally freeze their pongo, so they restart the game. The game would have to explain that they haven't lost, and that they can unfreeze the pongo or wait it out.
-> People don't get the "immune to freezing" part. I could change the way that's indicated (I do have an idea), but it's complicated because there's not an universal way to symbolize that. I have ideas, but the player most likely would have to be taught what's going on.
-> In level design, I have to be careful with it. Otherwise, the level may be cakewalk for players that freeze predators and really hard for players that don't.
-> Aside from the above example, it doesn't really contribute much to the strategy.

So yeah, I think I'm dropping it. Most likely I'll just make that ice blocks don't appear in a space that's occupied by a creature... Like this:


What do you guys think?
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2017, 09:18:22 AM »

So! There's these couple of winter spirits that I use in the tutorial. They are part of the story, but they aren't very focused on because Pongo March isn't really a story-focused game. In their previous design, people seemed to not think much of them - just strange creatures saying mostly irrelevant things. So I revised their dialogue to be way more direct, an revised their design to try the best to convey the information they are trying to without confusing parts.

Before:

Now:

What do you guys think?
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Fat Pug Studio
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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2017, 09:19:05 AM »

Looks great, i loved lemmings!
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2017, 11:54:49 AM »

Thanks Fat Pug Studio! To be fair, the connection to lemmings is more in the part of "direct creatures that you don't control to an exit to win", but there's not much more in common besides that. I hope you'll like it anyway!

==

So, recently the first contact that the player had with predators were at this level:
However, there's too much to learn here:
1 - Predators are hostile and will try to eat Pongos;
2 - Predator chase Pongos;
3 - When predators are chasing pongos, they are reckless and will fall into holes;
4 - When predators aren't chasing pongos, they are inteligent and avoid holes.

Most players impulse is to place an ice cube at the hole, or using it to lock their pongo in place and waiting for the predators to fall in the hole by themselves. One of the things I did to help teach these things is changing the color of the predator when they are in a chase, to reinforce that it's a different behaviour with different consequences, and I also introduced two new levels before that one:

This one is meant to introduce predators. You don't have to kill them here, you just learn that they are hostile and will chase you.

This one is meant to show that they avoid holes normally but fall into holes when chasing. Admittedly, I'm not sure if it will be successful - the player's attention it no in the predators most of the time for them to notice these things.
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2017, 09:51:01 PM »

Now this update is a little more polemic: an energy system.

(There, in the top right corner!)

It isn't set in stone, I'm just testing to see if it's a viable possibility for monetization. Extending your maximum energy can also be a reward for completing harder levels.

I'm not sure though if it is a good fit for the game. I've had other monetization ideas, though most of them require a lot more development time. That's one of the toughest things with freemium games, I think.

(Nothing about it is necessarily final)

Thoughts?
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2017, 09:55:08 AM »


Updating the visuals! Not done yet, but it's coming along.
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2017, 10:00:53 AM »


So the game is divided in chapters, each chapter a different mechanic. Each chapter has 9 regular levels and 9 challenge levels - after the first 9 levels you can go to the next chapter or try the challenge levels, whichever you want.
That's something that's not always really clear and I've been trying to improve it. One of the things is that animation showing when a new chapter is available.

Also you'll notice that there's some animation now in the background. I'm not sure if the bushes are too distracting.
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2017, 09:39:11 AM »


Not much new that is great for a singular screenshot, so I thought I'd talk a little about mechanics.
The first obstacle introduced is the hole pongos can fall into - is basically the most simple obstacle I could think of: that pongo that enters that position dies.

The second mechanic are the spikes, that have 2 states, on and off. They alternate between states when a switch is pressed. Some people seem to intuitively guess that it would be a time based mechanic, but I think the switch works better, considering you don't control the pongos directly. The switches can be pressed by your ice blocks or any unit that passes over it (which can generate chaos sometimes).

Also take note of the fast foward button on the top. I went to a week-long event recently (BIG Festival in São Paulo) and some people there really wanted something like that for the situation where pongos are all already in the right path and you only wait. That situation is not that common (and it gets less and less as you advance to more complicated mechanics) but it's simple enough to do, so there it is.
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2017, 11:17:25 PM »

Hi! It looks really cute! But why mobile? Why not console or pc? I presume it will be F2P, isn't it?
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2017, 11:57:22 AM »

Hi Joe! Thanks! =)

To be frank, I'd like to publish it in all platforms! I still think about trying PC, though I'll have to at least remake most of the level design.

The idea behind choosing freemium mobile is that it'd allow to do something smaller and then expand it over time - in general, in PC people expect more content right away. Just this small game I've been working for a year (it's just me)! I have been working mobile for some time now so I'm also more used to it, I guess.

But if premium PC works out, then that's great! Freemium is kinda complicated to do, it's a whole other discipline to learn.

I think for console to happen I'd probably have to look for a publisher, though I'm not sure which console would work well with the mechanic. If you have suggestions, I'm all ears!
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« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2017, 02:53:59 PM »

Oh my! looks like I've missed a lot of entries, I blame email for that XD.

The visuals are great. I think the fast forward button is an important addition. I think the stops of the pongos could be a little briefer, but I can't tell for sure, because I haven't played it.

For monetization I don't have any original ideas... I think the energy can be a little tricky, the pongo skins are an easy and good strategy (even better if the game gets some sort of online multiplayer). You could also make new paid levels or new backgrounds (future, snow, for example).

I'm not a big mobile player, but Pongo March is the kind of game I would definitely give a try.

*I kinda liked the freeze the pongo mechanic, but I think I'm too late now XD.
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vitorlanna
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« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2017, 01:37:36 PM »

Yeah! I found out even I was unsubscribed somehow, go figure ^ ^"

Thanks! The gif-taking might have made it appear slower thant it normally is, too. But will see! Another factor is if the level is and early one or a later one with more than one pongo, in that case some even think it's too fast!

I think the closest the game will get to online multiplayer is an online ranking, but even that is a little tricky - I can rank the amount of stars players get, but that has an obvious upper limit.

The freeze-the-pongo mechanic is indeed gone, but who knows, it might come back in the future! Maybe as power-up? Another mechanic that I cut was of the ice blocks melting (because players waited for them to melt instead of realizing they could keep placing them), but I have plans for some volcano / fire levels, maybe I'll re-add the mechanic there! o/

About new levels being paid, that's certainly something on my mind. Statiscally speaking, is not great because one of the biggest goals in freemium is retention (to keep the player playing for the most amount of days) and a paywall goes against that, but still, it might be the method that fits better with the game. It's not like there is infinite levels to keep the player for months anyway.

Just today a friend was talking to me how the freemium mobile market is now dominated by these large games and that simple, small games might not make it anymore. But where will I run to then? haha Just keep going foward I guess!
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2017, 03:35:51 AM »

Yeah,I think earning money with indie games nowadays is quite tough, in every market. From what I've seen, the safest way to make an income from games is to launch as much games as you can. But, what do I know?

Anyway, I think your game is very good looking and polished, if you can transmit it into a nice icon and page on app store/ google play you will stand out.

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vitorlanna
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« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2017, 11:44:30 AM »

Thanks obj_control! Yeah, the challenge is launching more games and keeping a decent quality.

Anyway, some people have asked me about music. The sound is the one thing I didn't make myself, I hired someone who did two musics for me!

This is the one that plays while you're playing:
https://soundcloud.com/thommazk/pongo-march-gameplay

Thommaz, the composer, made it so the music is synched to pongos walking - both have the same timing.
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« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2017, 01:59:48 PM »

This looks adorable!

Personally, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to mobile and monetization. Ideally I just want to pay someone a few euros or so and be done with it.

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