Monday, May 21, 2012

Gridiron Solitaire #6: Two Weeks of Hell, the Soundscape, and Help Screens

The headline feature turned out to be a nasty, nasty bit of work. It was one of those things that are fairly simple to get working, but adding depth was sharply painful.

First off, take a look at the graphics blank that Fredrik designed:

Totally nifty. The original version he sent had images and story titles in the empty boxes, but I realized that all of that content could be dynamic, so he sent me a set of images that could be used in those locations, and I wrote ten possible headlines for each image. So it's not just the headline and sub-headline that are dynamic--it's the entire newspaper page, basically.

This is what happens sometimes--you start working on what seems like a little feature, but it gets more interesting as you work on it, and then suddenly it's integral. In this case, I realized that a newspaper headline after each game was a core component of the reward system instead of just a cute little bit of fluff.

That means that the headline feature will probably expand to include a headline at the end of each season, as well as a headline after the user plays the offseason GM mini-game.

Okay, so let's take a look at what the finished product looks like. I was playing a tough game on the road, burned through my Big Play presses on defense early in both halves, and resorted to running the ball to take more time off the clock, so passes were rare. Here's the headline (you can click for a larger image):

Since the passing stat had the highest deviation from what would be considered "normal", it was the subject of the sub-headline. And the headline is a Yes reference (which is obvious to you old schoolers).

Now that headlines are in, the last significant piece of functionality I'm considering adding is first down measurements. I like the drama, and it would be a nice homage to Front Page Sports Football, but I haven't quite decided yet if I'm going to do it.

Moving forward, I have some decisions to make about the soundscape. Since Fairway Solitaire is the gold standard for games of this type, I've paid close attention to how the game handles sound effects. Basically, everything that happens in Fairway Solitaire is tied to a sound effect. It's quite impressive, really, and I conceptually like the approach, but doing that in this game will be difficult.

Primarily, it's difficult because I want all the sound effects to be football-related. I've done that in many areas of the game, but certain simple events (like the user successfully matching cards) will happen so many times that it's difficult to come up with a universal sound effect that won't make people want to scratch their eyes out.

Plus, the crowd volume is dynamic based on the game situation, so as you match cards, the crowd volume is slowly going to rise. But it's not in huge steps, because then it wouldn't sound like a real crowd. So I have some decisions to make about sound that may functionally go against what I conceptually like on a blank sheet of paper.

The other big item is to design a help screen for both offense and defense, an overlay that appears the first time you play the game. It will explain the game mechanics, then give you an option to turn off the screen going forwards.

That almost sounds like an afterthought, but it's very important to me that the game mechanics can be explained with just one screen for offense and one for defense. So I have to be precise with how I explain things, and the screen must have a natural flow that make them easy to read and understand.

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