Wasco Youtube Trailer

Wasco Body

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Designing UI for Wasco - Overall Approach

Before we start making background visuals and/or button art and wiring all that jazz into a functional UI we got to hold them horses. Stand back and think about the big picture. Stop doing art. Stop setting up the code-flow for your game. Just... stop.

When you're developing a game, or any project that requires UI for that matter, it helps to plan ahead. You need to think about your screen-flow or in other words how one screen leads to another and how many of these things there are and finally how all of this comes together.

This process will help you figure out some of the repeating screens and will force you to keep things simple if you want to finish your game faster and avoid frustrating your players with redundant functionalities and screens. You will end up KISSing most of your UI elements goodbye. (K.I.S.S stands for Keep It Simple Stupid). KISSsing a design means removing the inessential elements and simplifying your take. You should strive to achieve an MVP that can accommodate room for growth. (MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product).

For example, I wanted the player to be able to name their character and this requires me to come up with a layout for a character naming screen but then I realized this isn't necessarily in the boundaries of MVP and decided to scrap it at an early phase. Another thing is I needed a menu that could be overlaid onto the in-game screen and realized I could use the same UI schema for the title screen which saves me time. This approach also saves the players some time as well since they don't have to learn two different types of menus.

Having such a flowchart also comes in handy as something you can hand to your team mates if you have any. It will help them setup the code much faster knowing every screen there is and what navigates to what. Also for the person who needs to come up with the UI drawings it helps to see the whole picture and administer the best matching visual response. The flow-chart may change over time but it's still good to have a plan and see the big picture. Also note, you can immediately fix a piece of mockup drawing but to administer changes to a working UI and codebase it takes a lot of overhead.

Another good example regarding this happened with the save files. I wanted the players to have multiple save files so they could play the game and maybe hand the device to a friend or sibling and he/she could also start a new game. This isn't a must have... I realized it will take considerable time to set these scenes up, write the code and write code that manages this. I scrapped this idea completely. You have one save file and if you really restart the game you can format your progress. In the future if I really want to add this feature I can always update the game. Right now I'd rather have a working game people can play than have an unplayable build with save profiles.

Designing UI for Wasco - About, Contact and Credits Pages

When I was thinking about Wasco's UI and how to design it I came across a couple of redundant pages. These are the screens that almost every game out there provides its userbase with. I'm talking about About, Contact, Credits, Rate and Share pages. Everyone can appreciate less clutter. I don't want to crowd the title screen for Wasco and I don't want a trillion pages to design and build for my UI either. I want players to find things easily and not get overwhelmed with a plethora of options on their title screen. Perhaps we're taking a pedantic approach regarding these matters and noones cares whether you have three or eleven different options on your title screen but I'd like to think it's important so let's take a look at if we can condense these pages:

About page is what is this and who are the people that did it.
Contact is I want to tell those who did this something.
Credits page is who did what and how can I reach/follow them.

1 - Regarding the Contact page:
For me Contact page is the most important of them all. It is best to make the means of contact crystal clear and easy to use because many times people get ticked off by some problem and they will review your app with one star and talk about some issue on their review. This really hurts us badly because rankings and exposure are tied to this mechanic through Google's algorithm. So we need a way for players to contact us with issues personally instead of going public as their first response. We need this not only because we don't want one star reviews but also because contact through e-mail has a way more successful outcome compared to review driven conversations. Most often we won't get a reply on a one star review even if we completely fix that user's problem. I believe the main cause is that there are too many steps in the communcation process and it's insincere. Sometimes the problem wasn't even us to begin with but the user ignores the comments we make under their review. Best is when we reach out to people through e-mail... that way we are immediately on a one on one basis where we can help them and they find a direct contact through us instead of google letting them know some developer entity put a comment under their review and they should check. You can also write as long as you want and have a detailed conversation through e-mail. That's why I'd like to keep contact easily accessible.

2 - Regarding About and Credits pages:
These are also important pages but the information you'll find on these pages are for people who are curious about your game and those who are curious are willing to follow their nose and will take extra steps to find out answers. This means we don't have to inconvenience all users with these options and we can perhaps embed them under an Others segment in the title screen. In actuality we don't even need to make these pages at all because users can go to the Google Play Store screen and find the developer website there and navigate to this information. I choose to still contain these pages because they're easy to set up and we can make it easier for our players to find more about what they like. Alternatively you can embed links into these options instead of setting them up as screens in your app. This will also save a lot of trouble.

See you on the next post!

Why Wasco and not some other game?

I had a very difficult time finding a good picture for this post so here's an illustration 
by the famous illustrator Juan Gimenez.

This is a topic that made me think a lot and it's important to think about this. Through thick and thin you will fall back on many things that will keep you going and the answer to why just maybe the strongest one of them all. It was at least the strongest one for me. If you know why you're in this mess then you can most often answer if you should quit or keep going when times get tough. If you don't know the answer you're either going to lunge into a crisis and lose a lot of time thinking about it or yet worse give up because why not do something else. It's a bit of a soul searching as well as putting your feet down on the ground.

I started work on Wasco because after I played the prototype Erhan made I told myself: "Man this was such a fun little game. I want to see games like this and as a matter of fact I want this prototype to reach a release. I want to play more stories like this. Erhan created such a smart bit of short but sweet story with a witty and fun environment. Why aren't there games like this?" This was the emotional bit. The spirit bit. This part is just as important as the other part which appeals to the pragmatic, calculated and realistic.

Before I seriously started working on Wasco I worked on it for about a month or two preparing a road map of how long it will take and what assets we need and what sort of effort we need to put in it. I did all of this for fun on my free time because I was 'considering' working on it at the time. Then I had another month where the work was a bit slow so I started handling it as a hobby project. When you're working on 'porting' mechanics it's mostly solving programming puzzles. That's what I did to kill time, I solved programming puzzles for Wasco for fun. Then work picked up again so I had to stop.

Then when work slowed down again we talked with Erhan and I considered six different game concepts for the course of a month. I came up with financial projections for how much things will cost and how much we're hoping to make for all these concepts. For each one there was a sheet of paper that listed pros and cons. I talked to an old colleague from the Industry for a third party opinion, made my pitches to him and discussed what I should go with. In the end all answers lead to Wasco because it was the smartest choice. It was the option that I could finish fastest and it was also the option that appealed to my taste. Financially speaking although it wasn't promising at all, it was the fastest one I could roll out.

Take a look at the pros and cons list of Wasco:

-Matches Vision: It's a story oriented game and that's what we'd like to make.
-Prototype Ready: Has a playable prototype which removes a heap of design work. Requires considerably less time to port and make than a new project does.
-Small Scope: Scope of the game is very small. It only takes 1 hour to finish it. Less work necessary than otherwise.
-Has Spirit: The story and the game has character and soul. This is one of the most important things out there.
-Additive: The story could be turned into series given the right type of story to follow up.
-Technologically safe: All features and tech involved benefit from the fact that they've been tried and done a million times before.
-Release Platform: Targeting a platform we're familiar with.
-Bitesize: The project is small enough for one person to handle over a period of time.
-Fastest: Out of all pitches it is the fastest one can finish and release.

-Tough Competition: There's about a billion games like this one. The game needs an edge to show uniqueness or a hook. That is very difficult given its forte is simply a good story.
-Marketing Inexperience: No idea how to do marketing for a game like this. No idea how to find a publisher for a game like this. Lacking lots of xp required to bring it out.
-Length: Length of the game is quite short so people may not find it interesting enough to pay for.

See you next week!