I'm an indie developer, and also the main/sole developer/artist of an upcoming game called Sea Puppies. The game is a pet simulator with lots of choose-your-own-adventure aspects. Your goal is to take care of adorable mermaid/doggy sea creatures called Sea Puppies. You raise them, feed them, and teach them lessons about life and what-not, so they become good sea citizens and contributing members of marine society. Originally, I really wanted it to be some kind of "parent simulator" to help make better parents, but I'm not sure if younger players would like that, so I'm open to feedback.
After a comprehensive - but really short - personality quiz, you will be given your first Sea Puppy egg to adopt that looks like the one below. Depending on how you answered, you might get a more sociable, a very shy, or a rebellious Sea Puppy breed. Right now, I'm planning on having six breeds in the first release.
In time, it will hatch into a Sea Puppy that look like these guys:
Sea Puppies will eventually get hungry, and you need to feed it in order to grow. Sea Puppies have a very specific diet. They like to eat Kitty Planktons... and Kitty Krills... and Jellycats... and Cat Squids... and Neko Shrimps... and other cute-but-delectable feline-esque creatures of the sea. Here's a close-up of a Kitty Plankton:
As they mature, they will go out on different adventures, and seek your advice when they encounter life-changing events...
But sometimes their adventures don't always go the way they want it, so it's your job to make sure nothing bad happens to your Sea Puppies.
Your Sea Puppy will grow depending on which choices you make. So for example, if you make poor choices, your puppy might not finish high school and run away... and end up working in a job he doesn't like, or even run off to join the army because your puppy has no friends and always felt out of place in school!
But if you did take very good care of your puppy, they might finish Sea Puppy College and even graduate with a major degree! With enough TLC and parental support, who knows what your puppy can grow up to become!
Eventually, they will grow up into adults, and leave you to find their place in the world. But if you're lucky, they might even leave you with a little souvenir to remember them by, that future puppies can use to help them in their many, many adventures!
Currently, the game is being developed by a single developer/artist, so production is slow, but hopefully it will come out some time this year! Until then, I'll keep coding my life away, lol!
Dev Log Update #4
Remember that old acronym KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? It's easier said than done...
So this entire week was spent trying to add a simple minigame. The minigame is a simple guessing game. You are given two choices, A and B, and you guess which one is the correct one. It's a simple game of luck. Easy, right? Well, easy is a subjective word...
The First Draft
Above is the first draft of how the UI would be laid out. The top and bottom strips are standard to all menu screens. Their main function is to show a navigational road map of which screen the player is at now. I think I instinctively did that because I was originally a web developer, and this is pretty common practice when building a website with a lot of page depth. This however poses a few problems however:
1. It eats up screen space - This wouldn't be such a bad problem if the strips were actually pretty to look at, or at least functional. The top and bottom text are essentially redundant.
2. Bad placement - Sea Puppies is intended to be a mobile game, so chances are the bottom part of the screen would be obstructed by your thumb. Whatever text is underneath is probably going to be unreadable.
3. Lack of relevance - The game is all about spending time with your virtual pet. This screen doesn't really give the player that feeling. It would be better if it actually showed that you were playing with the pet.
The Second Draft
So I knocked down all 3 issues, but then midway I realized I needed a tally counter. The minigame awards prizes if you do very well, but if it's just a one-match game, then the player can just abuse the minigame. It would feel cheap. I needed to make the game last longer so the prizes feel more rewarding. So I decided to make it a best 3 out of 5 matches, hence the need to make a tally counter.
Initially, I wanted to go with a quick and dirty solution (remember KISS?). O and X are very common symbols in some Asian countries to symbolize correct and incorrect actions. So I can display a simple text string, for example - OXOOX - and it would mean I had 1 hit, 1 miss, 2 hits and 1 miss. It works, and personally I think even western countries would easily figure out what the O meant after one trial session. But there is a fine line between keeping things simple, and just being down right sloppy.
Also remember previous issue #3? Notice where the tally is located?
The good news in this draft is now it feels like I'm actually playing with my puppy. He even talks to me, telling me what to do (which completely eliminates the need for a tutorial).
The Third Draft
Now, I relocated the tally counter, made them into actual image sprites (with matching colors to further enforce a hit or a miss), and added a victory/defeat label. I'm relatively happy with the layout at this point, but then I realized I actually had to reward the player with prizes.
I have a couple of design options at this point.
1. Transition to a different reward screen after X seconds - this felt like a bad decision because it removes player control. If the player wanted to gloat and admire his super lucky 5-streak check marks for a sec while his puppy praises his bloating ego, he couldn't. Furthermore, how long is X seconds? People who want to grind this minigame for all its rewards would want to go to the reward screen asap, so it has to be short. But if I make it too short, then you wouldn't be see any of the victory sfx.
2. Add a confirm popup - I liked this idea because the player would have control when he'd want to leave. If he's in a hurry, he can simply mash the Next button. If he wants to celebrate his victory, he can wait for a bit and watch his puppy shower him with praises. The only problem I had was that the popup actually had to be on top of the entire screen, so it prevents the player from seeing any of the victory details.
3. Add a next button - Remember KISS? This actually took me a whole day to figure out that I could just simply add a "Claim Prize" button at the bottom of the screen and it fixes the problem entirely. No one gets rushed, no one is forced to wait, and nothing gets obstructed. This solution does not get affected by issue #3 as long as the button is big enough. In fact, it feels more natural because chances are your thumb is already hovering over the button if it was on a mobile device.
The Fourth Draft
So after being satisfied with how the current mini-game's UI looks like, I had the brilliant idea thinking, "Hey, what if I made the reward screen some sort of mini-game as well?" And that's why the reward screen has cards in it. The player gets to flip one reward card, and you get random cards in every batch - which means I needed to make multiple card artwork for however many card varieties I would have. It took me another whole day just to design the card template for 4 cards. I wanted to add more, but then I remembered KISS. In the first place, I haven't had any player feedback with this iteration. For all I know, the layout might still be confusing or *gasp* - boring. So whatever additional cards I wanted to draw, I think they can wait until I get an actual beta version playable.
The Current State
So after going through several iterations, adding more pixel art and particle fx over there and there, here's what the current mini-game looks like:
I originally had planned to finish adding this feature in a mere day or two. Evidently, I vastly underestimated this simple mini-game. Hope you like it! And if you ever run into any design problems, always remember: KISS.
Making the UI more pixel artsy! If you're really going for pixel art style, make even the fonts pixel artsy!
Working on the 4th Puppy Breed called Sea Chocola. This breed tends to be very curious. They love to explore the vast oceans, looking for sunken treasure...