Design Blog 6 - Card Garden

Good evening friends,

The ending of any project of this type really is just a consequence of each of the steps taken prior. If we had fallen behind, this would be our moment to catch up. If we had to change something, this would be our moment to focus on fixing and testing as fast as possible to ensure that any new decisions made were the correct ones. Fortunately, that has not been the case for us. Sprint 6 had us comfortably in feature lockdown with only a few things left to complete and our focus shifted mainly to fixing minor bugs, cleaning up our UI, and implementing any final remaining assets. For a more detailed view on every step we took, our most benevolent producer, Alex, has created a very informative producer blog here. Her hard work and dedication, along with the excellent efforts made by the team as detailed in that post, are why we are in this comfortable position at the end of the semester.

On a surface level, it almost feels like the steps we've taken since feature lockdown are straight forward and my own work as a designer is consequently lessened. However, in reality I believe that the work done at this stage is just as important, if not more important, as all of the steps we took to get here. Had we not reached this point, there would be a lot more to do and many more fires to put out. However, they are not so different from the fires we have already fought a thousand times over thus far. It is easy to lose perspective, but the most important thing here is to maintain standards and to continue to push to deliver the best possible user experience. The main piece of advice I would have for a fellow designer reaching this point is that if it looks like smooth sailing, it isn't. If it looks like a time to panic, it isn't. This particular stage of development is like any other. Keep the goals clear and explicit and then deliver on the goals. As long as those goals fit the scope of the remaining time, then they are good goals. If they are not, adapt them. Stick to a high quality standard when verifying work, as more than just getting it done to have it be completed. Fight for every last iota of user experience quality possible.

Our main focus this sprint, as derived from player feedback, has been to deliver information to player in pieces when they need to know it. In practice, this involves three UI systems that the player can access at different points. The first is a "How to Play" section in the main game menu. This covers all of the core concepts and the most basic elements of play for anyone who is not familiar with the genre components of the game. It teaches goals, resources, and an overview of the units in the game.

While these panels are extremely helpful for new players, they can be quite wordy, even with graphics, and tell rather than show. The second means of delivering information to the players is via a tooltip that the player can access by right clicking on any building, unit, or enemy in the game. This will display the name of the object, the level, and all relevant stats. This provides on-demand information for the player in a way that does not clutter the screen when they do not need it. Although this is the best way to get quick information, we discovered that not all players realized they could do this and that we needed to make it clearer. 


The final component, shown on the right above, is an in-game tutorial panel that can be accessed from the in-game menu. This allows the player to get detailed information about the functions of the game whenever they have questions. This was found to be the most helpful of the three, but with the same problem of lack of understanding on how to reach it. Fortunately, that is simply fixed by extending the UI element that creates it and by adding a label. Each of these components are constructed from the same selection of UI panels we received some sprints prior and the modularity of those pieces has proven to be invaluable. 

It is important to note that each of these components, along with our save system, card unlock system, and so on from Sprint 6, were in-progress features prior to feature lockdown. They were just primarily represented by placeholder default Unity UI elements up until now and have finally been given the love that the player needs them to have. One feature we did have to readdress, however, was our card UI template. The one we had been using for the entire semester was always intended as placeholder, and the one we received early in development no longer fit our art style or our informational needs. Our very own producer, Alex Figueroa, took on the responsibility of creating the new template herself. Along with the "How to Play" panels, she has really gone above and beyond in this sprint to ensure that we never relent in our pursuit of quality.

The new card template delivers all of the information we need to display to our players by creating pockets where information can be placed without a label and still be clear. This consistency is a crucial component of card design as the players have expectations when looking for information and anything that takes longer than a glance will cause frustration. Importantly, I was able to verify that this template delivered on those notes by testing it with card game veterans and card game newbies alike. Every single player reported this version to be the best aesthetically and in clarity.

As a developer, there are many moments in a project where it suddenly feels "real" and that can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Usually those moments are major milestones, big changes in graphics or animations, or those precious moments of peace where every team member knows what they're doing and is working at the same time in unison. These moments are special and likely the memories that will stick with us long after this project is over. For me, none struck quite as hard as our Anatomy of a Card panel. This is the moment, more than ever before, that I looked at our game and said, "Wow, this is real. We really did this."  I can think of no better way to end this post than by sharing that moment with you.

Annyeonghi gasyeo,
Arjun Gambhir
Game Designer

Files 122 MB
Nov 17, 2020

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