The Art Direction of Hecticube

Although I worked on every aspect of Hecticube by myself (excluding the excellent sound design done by George Hufnagl), I wanted to write about the Art Direction in particular because that is what I am well versed in. Game design and especially programming are things I am very new to and I've just been kind of winging it. Maybe one day I'll write about my misadventures through the world of programming to really give you a laugh.

 

An evolution of the past.

Screenshots from Shapes & Sound: The Shape Shooter

As a lover of aesthetically stimulating design, I decided that Hecticube would be a slight departure from the last game I art directed (Shapes & Sound: The Shape Shooter, which was developed by myself and two other Jamaicans under the name ARRG Studios), at least in some aspects. Shapes & Sound shares a similar aesthetic in that it is very minimal and geometric. We had decided however that we were going to go against the grain and stick with a fully monochromatic colour palette. It was a very fun yet challenging design limitation because it challenged me to create minimal graphics that had to stand out on their own without the use of any colour whatsoever. This meant that I couldn't rely on colour to save any visual flaws, but instead I had to make everything as polished as I could.

 

Squares. Squares everywhere.

Taking the geometric nature of Shapes & Sound and simplifying it even more, I put design limitations on myself to make every element in the game entirely out of squares (though Hecticube is actually made entirely of three dimensional objects, for the purpose of this post we're going to pretend that everything is flat) as well as to not use any textures or patterns. I broke the first rule in a few places, namely with the play / back icons which are triangular, as well as with the game's text. Everything else, however, has a simple four sided face, and there are no curves in the game (again, with the exception of the text).

 

Visual preferences.

Since Hecticube is so minimal, I wanted to really push the visuals by adding very vibrant colours throughout the game. Still, I limited myself to nine themes that the player could pick from, each consisting of five colours - the main colour, the secondary colour, a colour for each player's bullets, and the brightest colour which was usually very close to pure white, used for the main cube and for text. Further pushing the visual design, I decided that I didn't just want to use the default Unity shadows but I wanted to utilize a custom material instead which would give me full control over each object's main colour and shadow colour. The end result was that I could make the shadows more rich and saturated, or, I could make them a completely different colour all together from the original colour, making the game feel even more artistic.  

 

 

It has a pulse.

For those who don't know, I come from a motion graphics background, and so I am a huge fan of a wide variety of animation styles. I am also one who believes that it's all in the details. "Every mickle mek a muckle" as Jamaicans would say, meaning everything adds up to make the final product. Coming from that background in coherence with having a keen eye for details, it was imperative that Hecticube was rich with animation. I didn't want to just make the game work and stop there. I added animations, no matter how minute, in every single area that I could find that would benefit from it. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going to add animations just for the sake of adding animations - less is more - but if an animation could further polish the game or especially if it enhanced the player's understanding of the game, it was added.

 

My ultimate wishes for Hecticube is that you and everyone else has a wonderful experience with it and that it will forever resonate with you. However, if for some reason the game just isn't for you, I at least hope that you enjoy and appreciate the visuals it has to offer.

New Mechanics

Hello friends. I’m gonna keep this short and sweet for you guys. I was struggling to make the pong-like controls work for a touch platform, and I lost what made the game initially fun. So, I changed up the main mechanics. Instead of the players controlling a bar to hit the ball back and forth, players now shoot little square shots at the ball in order to get the ball to hit their opponent’s goal. That’s all. I’ll start posting more frequently again in order to not only keep you folks up to date, but also to keep me on point & motivated.

Touch Controls

     It is currently 6:58am. I can hear my roommate moving about and starting her day. The sun is still rising, casting beautiful light on the city that never sleeps. It’s the perfect place for me, clearly, because I never slept either. I was up working on HectiCube making the necessary changes to it to make it work on phones & tablets - it’s surprising just how much you may have to change depending on the game. I thought it would be really simple, but of course, what works in my mind will probably never work exactly the same in reality. For the most part, it was a smooth (but tedious) process of changing variables to suit the new portrait view of the game. I found that the game’s nature lends itself well to using one hand (maybe two with a tablet), and utilizing the portrait view simply just makes sense for two people using one device. Once all that was done, my next task was to change the control scheme for the game. When it was World Cuppong on the PC, it was just simple directional movement using WASD or the arrow keys and I used physics to make the characters move. Seeing as how touch screen devices have no keys, alternate paths had to be taken. I pretty much spent my entire night testing a few different ways to control the characters. I knew for sure that I wanted the player to have direct control over their character by tapping the screen and dragging them where they want to move them, I just wasn’t sure how to accomplish this.

At first, I had taken the code I used before and tweaked it so that if you pressed above the character, it would go up, below it, go down, etc… Well, that was a bust. The character would never stay still and kept overshooting where it was supposed to be going =/. Next I tried to make the character kinematic instead of using physics. This worked pretty well in terms of moving the character, but then I had an even bigger problem. The ball wasn’t responding how it was supposed to to the character. It was barely moving at all. Eventually my friend Audley said that because I essentially disabled the physics on the player, it wasn’t adding any force to the ball thus making it not move at all. Thanks to Google however, I found out how to essentially “Lerp” but with velocity. Problem solved. Another issue I was having was figuring out how to make the device register touches on both sides of the screen without them interfering with one another, but I gave up on that after a while and decided to focus on just the character movement. I guess I’ll go back to that next. 

Mobile development is a whole different beast from on the PC, but I accept the challenge, and I will slay it.

Introducing Hecticube

Hello friend / fan / fellow developer. You have arrived at the lovely home for my new game, HectiCube. Over the course of the next year (ideally I’d like it to be “finished” within a year) I will be posting my progress, discoveries, troubles, GIFs, videos, builds, and everything else relating to the game.

I’ll try to update it as much as I can once there’s something good to post. Hopefully, you’ll be entertained and hey, maybe you’ll even learn something.