Snowfall
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Snowfall

  • Author(s): Eckert, Hannah
  • et al.
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Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license
Abstract

Snowfall was designed as a simple variation on the platformer genre, wherein you play a snowflake falling through the air trying to avoid dangers such as icicles and fiery snowflakes. In the game, snow-covered wooden platforms are generated at uneven time intervals and travel across the screen. These platforms can hinder or help the player, depending on how the player jumps or slides to stay within the screen.   The thematic material is light and fun, which is reflected in the up-beat, slightly-stressful music we selected. Although you play cute snowflake, there is still some element of stress in trying to avoid enemies and achieve as high a score as possible. Visually, we leaned into the lightheartedness of the game to present a very soft, bright looking game. The snowflake changes color depending on which power-ups are attained, and the cheery feel is amplified through soft sounds such as snow softly crunching when you land on a platform, or fire cracking softly when a fiery snowflake falls.   Though Snowfall follows the mechanical conventions of many other simple games such as Doodle Jump, it differs in that the player must gain skill in using the controls to dodge falling obstacles in addition to falling onto new platforms. Risk is rewarded because power-ups are randomly generated, and intentionally do not always pop up in places where they are easy to get. In this way, Snowfall differs from traditional platformers because it often must be played riskily to achieve high scores, and it can take quite a few games to get good enough at dodging to embrace such risks.   In creating this game, teamwork was key and is the first class concept that I would like to discuss. From the beginning, my partner and I took to a procedure where we worked a lot together, divided up the remaining tasks fairly, and then worked independently. This process led us to be successful as a team because both of us were equally skilled in creating mechanics and assets in Construct, so we were able to work cohesively at debugging and overall tuning very nicely. Though the lectures emphasized having distinct roles, we found that our emphasis on communication—both in person and via Google Docs—allowed us to have flexible roles without the misunderstandings. This was truly one of the best team experiences I have ever had, and I feel that getting to experience it while also learning a bit about effective team strategies really solidified the content for me.   As for the game itself, Snowfall engages the concept of behavioral conditioning because it is a bit addictive. By making having quick transitions between gameplay and the final score screen, we used operant conditioning to improve the likelihood that the player will play multiple times in a row. It is very likely that the player will die relatively quickly the first time they play the game because it takes time to learn controls well. Subsequently after losing, the player sees large letters suggesting that they play again. It makes sense that the player would choose to play again, because there is an appeal to their inner achiever—through displaying their score—to improve and get a higher score! The controls are intuitive enough that it only takes a couple of tries before the player can get significantly higher scores. Thus, we have eased them into a cycle wherein they play the game repeatedly. In all honesty, we were not thinking about this cycle at all when my partner and I came up with the game. However, the course material has revealed how the simple suggestions (having a score and replay button) have an effect on what people tend to do, and how game designers must be mindful of using these suggestions for good and to create a good experience for players.   As a last thought, playtesting was an exceptionally valuable part of this game making-process. Playtesters helped to show us that we needed a more challenging, dynamic game—from the perspective of controls—but they also taught us a ton about clearly conveying cause and effect situations. When we created our power-ups, we thought that it would be clear what each one did, but players only saw a snowflake changing color. This forced us to try a wide variety of different animations, effects, and eventually sounds to communicate what was going on. Player feedback was the only way that we could find out if we were communicating clearly or not, and this ultimately improved our game.

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