The Feelings of Lasting Legacy

When I start working on a game, one of the first things I decide is how will the game make the player feel. Different designers have different ways of driving and focusing the design of their games: some will use a short elevator pitch, some will use key pieces of art, some will let the mechanics dictate the rest. I prefer to use the way I want players to feel to anchor the design, and I flesh out the rest of the game around it.

Once you have defined that feel, you can run every single design decision by it. Every game feature should support those feelings in some way, if not, they’re a good candidate to cut. And if some contradict them directly, you can veto them right away and not go down that path any further. Continue reading

Casey’s Contraptions Postmortem


Casey’s Contraptions is an iOS game created by the two of us, Noel Llopis and Miguel à ngel Friginal. Noel, an industry veteran for over a decade, turned indie over four years ago and found success with microtransaction-based Flower Garden on iOS. Miguel worked as a graphic designer in the advertising industry for years before becoming a web developer. Casey’s Contraptions is his first published video game, although his first paper role-playing game came out almost 20 years ago. We met through Twitter several years ago, and then finally in person at a 360iDev conference. Even thought we didn’t plan it that way, we ended up working together during a game jam, and that set us in the path to collaborate in a future project.

We knew we wanted to target iOS for our next project because we love the platform from a user and a developer point of view, and because it’s a platform where it’s possible for indies to succeed financially. Beyond that, starting a new game is never easy. Even though we have page after page of possible ideas, settling on a specific game idea is always very hard. We wanted something that met three requirements: The game had to be creative in nature as opposed to using destruction as the main gameplay element, it had to be something we were excited about, and it had to be something with the potential to sell reasonably well on the Apple App Store. Easier said than done! Continue reading

Good Things Take Time

If you’ve read this blog recently, you probably know that Miguel and I are busy working on the iPhone version of Casey’s Contraptions. What may be surprising is that we’ve been working on it for over three weeks and we’re still not done. After all, to make an iPhone version all we have to do is make the project Universal, recompile, and done, right? Continue reading

Casey’s Contraptions Weekly Update (Oct 29)

Casey-Portrait-2.pngI like to be as open as possible about any project I’m working on, whether it’s giving talks, sharing technology, or discussing sales numbers. That goes for projects in progress too, although sometimes it makes sense to wait a while before announcing them. In the case of Casey’s Contraptions, we had an early announcement because of the IGF entry, so we might as well start talking about the game.

At one point I was half-seriously toying with the idea of creating a Twitter account that would show our latest commits to Subversion. Apart from the 140 character limit, that falls in the TMI category.

So instead, I thought it might be interesting to give a weekly update with what Miguel and I have been up to each week. Hopefully it will give you a glimpse at what’s going on behind the scenes. Any feedback in what you want to see more or less of is totally welcome.

Week Of Oct 29

sidebar2.pngBoth Miguel and I felt this was a very slow week. I’m not sure exactly why, but I suspect post-IGF submission syndrome. We’re feeling the mini-crunch we did leading up to it, and now we have lots of not-so-fun tasks to do on our planes. Still, I think we’ve been slowly picking up speed. Next week should be a fully productive one.

Sound Effects

We added audio for in-game sound effects. Up until now we only had background music and no sound effects at all. Yes, that means we submitted to the IGF without sounds. Yikes! We had to cut corners somewhere. Fortunately, since the IGF takes updates, the next update will include some initial sound effects.

We’re using OpenAL for audio playback, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how simple and efficient it is. What a great change from using AVAudioPlayer!

We’re currently trying to define the style of the sound effects. It’s a strange mix of slightly cartoony, but not too much. Hopefully we’ll zero in on that next week.

Sharing Of Levels

Sharing of levels. We can finally share levels through email. It makes sending levels to each other much easier, and it should come in handy for the next round of testing. Of course, we still can’t reference an attached file from an email using the Apple API, so we’re having to submit levels and a screenshot to the server and store it there.

Sandbox editor

There’s more to creating a level than just placing objects. To create a playable level we need a title, a specific background, some goals, and a set of available items in the toolbox. Since we want people to share fully-featured levels, we’re building this UI right into the game, and it’s what we’re going to use to create all the levels ourselves. We can’t wait to see what people create, but, I have to admit, it’s somewhat of a pain to implement :-). We still have a few days of work in this one.

Right now it’s all using UIKit on top of OpenGL. I’m still waiting for a great, cross-platform GUI library + tools that gives us the basic features from UIKit + Interface Builder but it’s fully cross-platform.

Also, while Miguel isn’t looking, I’ll share with you what we have so far for the level editor sidebar.

In case you missed it, Casey has a Twitter account. And apparently he likes Angry Birds quite a bit! 🙂

Also, don’t forget to join the Casey’s Contraptions Facebook page.