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Photon Explosion | Peter Lu | Game Designer

photon explosion.

An arcade fast-paced game about spreading your photons to take over other planets and survive

Role:

Technical Game Designer

Duration:

4 Weeks

1

Team Size:

design goals

Design a game that could be commercially successful

Explore game design for procedurally generated levels

Design fast-paced and arcady game

design for high KPI and low CPI

challenge

How to catch players attention immediately and keep them retained?

solution

Make the game snackable
To make a game snackable, it needs to be something player can play anywhere and anytime, which means that it has to have a tight and short gameloop where the player doesn’t have to invest a large amount of time to understand it.

 

Example:
Peter is on the bus station and he is casually going through his phone and doesn’t know what to do to kill time. However, he suddenly sees Photon Explosion and remembered that time takes to play this game is short and the gameplay is very engaging, so Peter opened the game and played until the bus came.

 

The gameloop was designed to be short and tight. 
It looks like the figure below:

Increase visual dynamics helps reduce CPI because users are often attracted by a large amount of moving and colourful items.

CPI: Consumer Price Index

gameplay/mechanics design

core mechanics

The core mechanics of Photon Explosion is to drag and drop photons to different planets for them to grow and maximize their numbers.

challenge

How can I expand on the core mechanics to add more variations to the game and make it enjoyable to play?

solution

Solidify the design pillars and gameplay loops then iterate on different gameplays to see if they fit.

 

Design Pillars:

  • Numbers growing

  • Fast moving objects

  • Command large amount of objects

  • Instant decision making


After testing dozens of gameplays, I solidified on the following:

Enemies

Power ups

Big planets

Big moving planets

Decision making process Before and After

Before

After

outcome

Adds more variations to the game and tightens the main game loop.

design for procedural generated levels

challenge

How to design and balance the gameplay with infinite amount of levels?

solution

Make modular levels
Making modular levels means that I as a designer have more control over what I want player to experience. 

What does a modular level mean?
Instead of making everything completely random, I made different sets of levels that are usually combinations of 7 - 15 planets and 1 - 3 power-ups with manually tweaked difficulty ranges from really easy to really challenging.

Easy module: 12 planets

11 small + 1 big

Medium module: 8 planets

6 small + 2 big

Medium module: 8 planets

6 small + 2 big

Hard module: 7 planets

6 small + 1 big moving

Hard module: 7 planets

6 small + 1 big moving

outcome

I get to control what player experiences instead of giving them completely random levels.

challenge

How to iterate on the balancing and the aesthetic fast?

solution

Make tools.
It is important for me to create a tool that allows me to change the balancing and the aesthetic of the game fast without going into each script and prefab. Therefore I created a customizable level/color editor that gives me control on the difficulty of the game depending on the progress player makes as well as the color for everything. 

Below are some screenshots of the tools I made for Photon Explosion.

LEVEL EDITOR

General data allows me to control and change data of every prefab

COLOR PALETTE

Color palette tool allows me to change color of everything and apply instantly

POWER UP EDITOR TOOL

Power up tool allows me to change the description, color, name, prefab, and function of the power ups

a video demonstration of how my customizable color palette works

outcome

I’m able to use my time 10 times more effectively and made more iterations in the limited amount of time I had.

 

Player gets in the flow easily where their knowledge and skills are constantly being challenged while it’s not too hectic.

okay, so how did the game do?

The game turns out to be more successful than I expected, and attracted 2,500 users in total with a daily average of 200 users.

Group 2.png