I did not like Clash of Clans until I tried it

Almost a year ago, several of my friends were going nuts on Clash of Clans. I could see them playing during class, while eating, pretty much anytime anywhere.  And of course they all spent a lot of money on it. They tried to convince me to play the game with them. However, I did not gain any interest on it. One of the reasons was that the first impression that Clash of Clans gave me was just a ripoff from one of my all time favorite mobile games, Townsmen.

Why I did not like Clash of Clans

Townsmen, by HandyGames, is a city building mobile tycoon game that features the same beautiful village theme as Clash of Clans, but a much more robust and complex resources system. For example, every building requires villagers to operate and villagers actually consume food and water you produced with those buildings to survive. In that case, the whole game was filled with a dynamic on resource management that requires constant monitoring and even more intuitive than the dynamic of money from SimCity. Another thing that really cranked my gear is that, with all the intuitive resource management they did in the game, they even add more livingness of the game by adding actual villager NPCs in the game running around doing exactly what they were assigned of. Although Clash of Clans did the same thing, unlike Townsmen, villagers in Clash of Clans will only jump around and do random things which gave me an impression that the developer did not care about the feature at all. Besides, although Townsmen was a single-player only game, it introduced building soldiers and invading other village way ahead of Clash of Clans. And as I mentioned earlier, with the more robust and complex resources system, you do not just build soldier from nowhere but to actually build a blacksmith factory to produce weapons using resources like iron, wood which you produced by other buildings early on. (I haven’t played through the newest Townsmen but I think they removed this feature to focus on building)

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Townsmen 6

Why I liked it after playing it

However, due to the fact that we need to build a tycoon game this semester as a client project. Despite all the negative comments of Clash of Clans, I actually downloaded it and played it the first time. To be honest, I actually loved it and got really addicted to it. Not only because I tend to get addicted to any game with a “unlock more contents” feature, but also because I just liked how they captured the exact sweet spot of several different genres and made some really smart choices to make the game perfectly for mobile gamers.

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Clash of Clans

Born for mobile

It uses the typical long progress time for building and upgrading like we experienced with Farmville. At the first glance , this mechanism seems to be a sole effort to monetize the game with the paid time boost to finish the progress quick and easy. However, there is more to it. From my experience with Clash of Clans, it is the long period of wait made me to not hold my phone all day long, like what I did when I was playing Townsmen, and keep coming back when I have time. I would wake up in the morning and collect all the resources and start some upgrades and then I can just forget about the game. By bedtime, I would open the game again and collect all the resources and fire up another upgrade if the one in the morning had been done. If I have a little extra spare time, I will do one or two invasions with my soldiers and retrain all the soldiers. When I wake up in the morning, all the upgrades or building should be done and I start a new circle. Besides, If I have any spare time throughout the day, I will open up the game and collect resources and check if anyone have invaded my village. To my opinion, Clash of Clans hit every single mark that a mobile tycoon game should have.

You don’t just wait

Unlike Farmville, if you wanted to do something in between the long period of time of upgrading and building in Clash of Clans, you could. The whole new aspect of mixing tower defense and RTS really brought Clash of Clans to a whole new level. I could not stop thinking about strategies that I could use to place my buildings, my defensive weapons and my walls so I get a better defense when I get attacked by other players the same way I care in every single tower defense game. I would also think about how should I place my limited number of soldiers with different classes so I can break through other players’ defenses just like the way I played every single RTS. When I am not playing Clash of Clans as a tycoon game, there are still a lot of ways for me to get involved in the game. And of course, it is called Clash of Clans, they absolutely have the clan system for people to social. And that constant involvement just made the game more fun than simply a tycoon game and more suitable on mobile platform.

Conclusion

I still think Townsmen did a way better job being a tycoon village building game than Clash of Clan, but Clash of Clan did a lot of smart choices to extract the core of tycoon gameplay and brought tower defense along with RTS genres into the game to solve a lot of problems with tycoon games on mobile platform. All in all, if you like tycoon games solely, Townsmen is what I would say a perfect choice that is as good as SimCity. But Clash of Clans is something new.

Fail Faster

The last Game Design was to create a dice game, and during the process of making my dice game. I certainly experienced why “Fail Faster” is essential for game design.

The first brainstorming idea I had came from Jesse Schell’s comment of balance between skill and randomness during lecture. I thought that a dice shuffleboard game would definitely require players’ skill to play  well but the game would also depends on randomness from the dice. And I thought that would be exactly what I wanted and I decided to give it a go. I first thought about making the whole thing physical but I settled down the idea pretty late so I did not have enough time to design all the parts I needed for play-testing. I decided to go for craziness and made the game digital in Unity.

Everything felt very good in my mind until I actually made the game. I certainly didn’t realize the biggest “marshmallow” (obstacle) I would face would be the digital format. I could not get the depth from a flat screen so there was no way for me to actually accomplish the shuffleboard feeling and I could not get the collier to work and it was just so hard to simulate the magical feeling of rolling a dice in the digital world. Besides, as mentioned in the previous post, after conducting couple play-tests. The results from the play-testing were astonishing as well. And one comments from the play-test made me to decide this was a failure: “Why would you throw a dice? I feel like the dice doesn’t play an important role in the game that you could replace the dice with anything.” That is very true, why would I throw a dice knowing that the result would change from time to time.

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(Try the game at: http://tianweiliu.net/dice if you would like. Unity Web plugin is required.)

However, failing is not  a bad thing. I still have one more week to go and I was very glad that I realized it was a failure sooner than I usually do and I did not put any more time on a failed idea. I have plenty of time to restart from the ground up with all the lessons I learnt and make sure I would not do it again. A week later, I had a Human vs Zombie board game. And by the time I heard “This game is fun.” from the play-testers, I knew I did it better than the previous one.

I never thought of failing would be a positive thing and I never thought about failing faster would be so essential in game design. But the fact is, nobody would know that I had failed and it would only be a failure if I did not realize how bad my idea was that soon or at all.

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Play-testing is very important and magical. Lessons learnt from Global Game Jam

The theme of the GGJ was “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” During Global Game Jam 2014, my three fellow teammates and I made a side scroller platform game called Union which player controls three different shapes that each has its own unique property. Cube can attach other shapes, circle can move really fast on a slope and triangle can destroy every other shapes with its sharp tip.

The game was made in Unity by fully utilizing its physics engine to achieve the sort of natural and cute looking that we wanted. However, it turned out that since we wanted it to obey to the real physics, the game is quite hard to play and quite hard to make as well. And we took every second we could get to make the three levels that Yan designed, by sacrificing not only our sleep time, but also play-testing time. We did not think play-testing was a big deal until we threw our final game into the crowd. All kinds of problem occurred but none of us could test it out on our own hands.

Union Tutorial

For example, the tutorial trigger for jump was a tiny little bit too late so that pretty much every player who played would bump the roof and got confused about why we wanted them to jump. Besides, the changing role tutorial was also a little bit too late that players would shoot all the way to the spikes not knowing they could switch in between circle and square after they attached each other. The tutorial got to a certain point that no one could go through it without us giving our oral instructions. We then went upstairs and made some small changes and went back down again. I was really amazed by how a little change can go a long way. To prevent players from not jumping and ignoring the circle, I placed a wall underneath the circle, and switched the order of shape switching and spinning tutorial. And those two small changes led every player who played the new version to perform the tutorial exactly what we wanted them to.

All in all, a big lesson learnt from GGJ. Play-testing is very important and magical.

Visit: http://globalgamejam.org/2014/games/union to play our game!

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New portfolio site is up, tianweiliu.net

It’s about time for my portfolio to become a little bit more professional than a free WordPress blog. So I just got my new domain name: http://tianweiliu.net set up.

From now on, my portfolio will be on that site, and this blog will be my life blog.

Here comes the leg

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The leg was the most difficult part to disassemble and it was really a tight fit. I thought they glued those two piece together as it was so tight that I actually tried to find screws on the leg. After convincing myself that this part is okay to be trashed or else I will have to glue the entire leg on my light-weight fancy Gunnar Optiks, I used a flat head screw driver to crack it open, suddenly a clip pop out. I was so happy that I didn’t have to break my little toy into pieces. The last clip was incredibly hard, as the clip was in the thickest area that I couldn’t bend the outer shell using my hand, and the wire did not have any protection as my flat head could cut them into pieces anytime. Eventually, I made 3 of my nails bleeding, and I got the leg assembly apart WITHOUT BREAKING THE CABLE (MOM I DID IT!). Only taping and soldering left. Oh wait…battery still on its way. It’s my first time seeing that package from mainland China arrived before package from Hong Kong.

When my demon hands strike my Myvu Solo

My Torx screwdriver set arrived in the mailbox today, it’s time for me to do some deadly surgeries to my Myvu Solo.

Instead of following the “break every plastic part into pieces” procedure as shown in David Renoir‘s photos. I did find a “correct” way of disassembling the Myvu Solo.

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The screws circled in yellow were fairly easy to find. However, the genius engineers did not forget to give us some challenge of finding those two little guys circled red. The Myvu engineers designed two little pieces of plastic camouflage caps to prevent those little screws from being scratched by my Trox screwdriver.

At that point, my patient’s vital signs were still normal. But good things can’t just happen one after another, right? When I saw the glue that hold the little TFT screen to the lens, I thought Myvu was a very good company, and they must have used some industry-level strength glue. Therefore, I called my nurse to bring me the swiss knife. And that was a really really really bad decision. I somehow broke my left TFT as well as the left earphone wire. Image

Nothing looks bad from the outside, however, the little TFT won’t do anything but showing pure white back-lit when his brother does his job just fine. Fortunately, The two TFTs are interchangeable, and I detached the other TFT use my soft bare hand, and replaced left eye’s TFT using the right eye’s TFT, and it worked. By the way, when you see your little TFT only displaying pure while back-lit, don’t be panic at first, you will not be able to see anything unless you use that magnifier lens. If you still see pure white back-lit even with the lens attached, you can go ahead and panic like I did.

I might solder the earphone wires back since I have to solder the 2 LED pins to make it works with only one display anyway. But that’s not the thing I will do now, as I have the feeling that I will mess it up if I do it today.

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Another step of my wearable computer project – Myvu Solo Plus video glasses

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Inspired by Gregor Richards, I also wanted a monoscopic head-mounted display for my wearable computer, unfortunately, the company — Myvu no longer exists, and the fancier 480p Myvu Crystal is unreliable and pricey to get. Fortunately, the 240p Myvu Solo is reasonably cheap and pretty much as easy to modify as the Myvu Crystal according to David Renoir, though a little of soldering is now required.

The brain of my wearable computer project – MK802 II Android mini PC

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Here comes the brain of my wearable computer project – MK 802 II mini android dongle.

It packs with Allwinner A10 1.0GHz Cortex-A8 CPU, 500Hz GPU, 1GB of RAM and 4G of on board storage, but still only requires 5V of power from a simple USB source. Smaller size plus better processing power make it much more suitable to work as a portable computer than the often used Raspberry Pi.

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