Monday, May 28, 2012

Gridiron Solitaire #7: Coming Around

Big things going on this week in the development of a little game.

First off, first down measurements, which were a "stretch" feature as recently as last week, are now in the game.

Here's how it works. Before fourth down, if you gain exactly the number of yards needed for a first down, you get the first down. On fourth down, though, there's a first down measurement. The animation of the chain stretching is quite nice, and there are dozens of possible positions for the chain, so every measurement will feel different. There's even a referees hand holding the ball in place, which is something only a football nerd could appreciate.

Yes, it's inconsistent to only have first down measurements possible on fourth down. However, it would be worse to have the measurement so frequently that it lost its inherent drama. This way, every measurement has impact, because it results in either a first down or a change of possession.

I'm very pleased with how everything turned out, and I can't wait until someone has to endure a measurement in the fourth quarter of a close game. Watching that chain stretch is quite dramatic.

I also reworked the subroutine that determines the volume of the crowd loop. It's more dynamic and more noticeable now, and much more responsive to changing game conditions. Again, I know this is a card game, but I want you to feel like you're inside a stadium, and a dynamic crowd is what makes it feel alive.

The pregame broadcast was also improved. There are basically four "wheels" of phrases--one each for running, passing, defense, and special teams (in relation to your opponent). There are 25-30 phrases on each wheel, depending on the ratings difference in each case, and everything on one wheel must sound natural when combined with anything on the other wheels. As I read that, it doesn't sound difficult, but in practice, it can be very tough, particularly because certain words and phrases are easy to overuse. It sounds quite a bit more natural now, and since the pregame broadcast gives you important information about your best strategies in that game, it needs to be well written.

Last weekend, I started working on help screens. My original idea was to have one for offense and one for defense, but John Harwood correctly pointed out that it was much more logical to structure the information into two screens for each, which is what I've done. Here's the first screen for offense:

It was Fredrik's idea to use the referee character as a guide, and as usual, he was spot on.

I have three screens left, but all the text is written--I just have to arrange the visual elements and text on their respective screenshots, and that will only take about an hour per screen. So by the end of this week, help screens will be fully incorporated into the game.

Last thing, and this is sort of a milestone: my bug log is at zero. Everything that I know to fix is fixed. I know that John Harwood will find a list of 50 things by Wednesday, but for now, the list is empty.

That doesn't mean I'm done--there are still a bunch of things that need to be polished and enhanced--but this is the best that everything has worked as a whole.

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