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  • Postmortem: Trash Invasion

    - Vesko Tenekedzhiev
  • I have always made prototypes and small games in ActionScript and Flash and then switched to Unity3D. None of these projects really made it to the public. I have even started on a complex 3D project and I had quite some progress with it - 2 levels, dialogue system, houses and characters models all made in 3D on my own. I still have that project on my list as to do "when I have time". The project is quite interesting, but is massive how much content it needs.

    Here is an example of one of  my Flash games: "Buzz Bee"

    Here is an example of my 3D World Unity Game: "Hitar Petar"

    Then I decided that I need to get experience with self-publishing a game, any game, anything that doesn't take long time to do. My goal was to just put something on the Google Play Store. That's it. So, I had a good structure for a game at my disposal already - it was a waste sorting project, which I had done before for a job interview (didn't get the job, but a default answer: "we will not be progressing with your application at this time"). The whole game was actually made in a week during my spare time and the concept was really simple: you have 4 bins on the scene and some trash on the ground and some basic animations like moving the bins and opening. Drag and drop, would make the trash jump inside the bin, the wrong bin won't open. I was looking at this game, I liked the code base and how simple and good candidate for going to the store actually was. But was not fun enough and very boring.  So I needed a way to make it more interesting...

    I started making the trash items move away and try to escape the screen, make them feel more "alive" and the whole thing more dynamic. I added ability to tap to destroy. And that actually felt quite fun when I was testing it. I love bonus levels - those special areas where you can just release yourself and collect items, gather points without punishment or game over. I try to put such an area in most of my games now. So I added a bonus level to Trash Invasion as well. In this level, you have only one bin and you cannot lose if the trash escapes or if the wrong trash is thrown.

    I am not an artist, but I know my way with tools like Photoshop and 3D models, but due to time constraints, I looked at some free models and assets and from my side I only adapted and modified them (I credited the authors in the game). I was probably two weeks away from releasing this to the store, when my wife one time casually looked at my screen and said "wow that is good". She is not a gamer and from all my prototypes and trials, she has seen, this one captured her. So in a later conversation with her about the game we decided to take the time and make it better.

    But it took 2 years (working during the evenings, maybe 70% of the times) after my day job as a game developer at a games studio. I became greedy, hah. In a way that I had so many ideas and features, that I wanted them all in. Started adding more levels, different behaviors for different levels, monsters, achievements, difficulty system for game progress, collection of coins, complex dialogue system, localization system (the game currently supports 5 languages, some of them I or my wife knew and it is very easy to add more, if I open my pocket for localization), rating&feedback system, in-game shop with IAP and ads (which I removed and never gonna use those again in this project, I promise), in-game messaging system, and many more in-game utilities and other well crafted code (I am proud of it), mobile optimizations, mobile touch, and many more...

    Changes to the game

    The game had complete rework of the main mechanic. Since the feedback I got was that the bonus level was really fun, I decided to make all levels with similar gameplay as the bonus level. This took quite some effort to update the whole concept and code. Many other things I worked on, like achievements, got dumped as well. I even had a feature, in which the player could feed their monsters and this was increasing their abilities and gave more bonus. So the more you play with them the hungrier they get and eventually reduce their ability. Sadly, it did not fit well, was not easy to understand and was removed. Other features like it were also removed or reworked. The whole process was: get an idea how to make the game more interesting and fun, implement something quickly with boxes, show it around, if fun, polish on top of it. If not fun, re-iterate on it, brainstorm, rework, show it around, get the idea.

    Example of the Monsters Feed Dialogue


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