I started Fractalmouse Games on my own time to design and create games for mobile devices. The first was a naval battle game called Looting targeted for Windows Phone 7. My idea was to update a classic casual game, which I did by adding the goal of scoring points to a game that otherwise ends with only a winner and a loser. Loot is randomly placed on the ships and the opponent collects the loot when he makes a hit. If the player misses a subsequent attack the opponent has time to recapture the loot and keep it for himself. From a game design perspective this gives the players something to shoot for and enables me to create a series of short, medium, and long-term goals like collecting points by sinking a single ship without a miss, winning the game and beating their previous high score, or keeping their rankings in an online leaderboard.
When designing the game I wanted to immerse the player in the feeling of the world and have a reason for things to happen. Initially I had ideas for a more creative main menu like a scene or an active map. Different areas of the screen would correspond to the various menu options. Ultimately I didn’t come up with something I liked for the small form-factor, so I designed the boards floating in the water. I did make sure the boards bounced a little when the user pushes them, both for feedback on a non-tactile input method and to fit the story of the watery background.
First the player sets up the position of their ships. Ships sail, so the idea is that the ships are always in the water and are being sailed into position. I needed a way to rotate the ships, so I came up with the little whirlpool as a way to change the orientation. Each time the player sails through the whirlpool the orientation changes.
When the actual gameplay opens, the player’s ships are in position. To keep the player in context of having just positioned his ships, that grid shrinks into the upper left corner. The screen needs to fill with the opponents ships, but the player shouldn’t see those positions. I wanted an explanation for why that was the case, so I added the fog that rolls in as the opponent’s ships are sailing across. Now as the player attacks his opponent, a cannon ball shoots across the screen and holes are either punched down into the fog on a miss or up with an explosion on a hit. Every subtle interaction was designed to increase the enjoyment of the gameplay.
See Looting in action
I designed and illustrated all of the visuals, implemented, and published the game myself. The ships were hand-drawn on paper, scanned, then completed in Painter. I chose the classic look of an oil painting to compliment the feeling of the pirate theme, though a lot of the detail of the brush strokes was lost on the small screen.
After the initial release of Looting, I designed a generalized game engine to support common scenarios for game developers.