Apr 302012

Why hello there. I’m going to kick off this whole blog thing by telling you about Zircuits, the game that we’ve been working on. I’ll also talk a little bit about defining the style of the game.

Zircuits is a puzzle game for iOS devices (iPhones, iPods, and iPads). The goal of the game is to fix your broken robot cat buddy Lambot by disassembling him and repairing his non-functioning zircuits (in our game a zircuit is like a circuit but with less c’s and more z’s). How you do this is by using your noggin to arrange the numbers on a given playfield in the correct sequence, thereby completing and restoring power to that part’s zircuit.

I’m sure that you totally understand what I’m talking about but here’s a visual example. This is a simple, broken zircuit. You can see that it is broken because the numbers are arranged incorrectly, preventing power from flowing through the zircuit. 3 is not greater than 5 and 5 is not less than two, so this zircuit is busted!

“What happens if I arrange the numbers correctly?” you ask? By arranging the numbers correctly and making the statement true you will fix the zircuit! Check it out:

5 is greater than 2 and 2 is less than 3. You’ve made the zircuit true and fixed this part of Lambot!

So, that’s pretty much the game. It sounds simple and for the most part it is but you’ll notice that there’s a lot more space on that board for more numbers and operators to confuse and bewilder your brain.

Our original goal for Zircuits was to create something with a fairly small scope that would be doable by us within a short amount of time. We wanted to focus on learning how to create an iOS game from start to finish (including the boring parts like dealing with getting the game on the app store) and knew that that if we took on too large of a project we would be in danger of burning out. As it is, Zircuits is a much larger game than initially envisioned. The early decision to add a story and have more puzzles than we were originally planning essentially doubled the scope of our game. Even a simple puzzle game like Zircuits could quickly grow into a large beast if we had continued to add features.

When I first started talking about what Zircuits needed to look like, the first thing that jumped into my head was circuit boards and modern technology. I started creating art with this style in mind but it felt wrong. The guts of a computer were too clinical and soulless and even though it’s a simple puzzle game, I wanted the player to feel some sort of connection with it. You can see the direction I was headed in with this original title screen:

I knew that I wasn’t into this style that I started with but I wasn’t really sure where I could go if I abandoned it completely. The game still dealt with electronics and tech-y stuff so it needed to have something signifying that. After some thought I realized that the old analog technology of CRTs and vacuum tubes, wood housings and bakelite (with a little make believe thrown in) might be a perfect fit for us. After redesigning the art elements I settled on a new layout that incorporated some aspects of early 20th century tech. You can hopefully see that reflected in the second iteration of our art style:

A problem arose, though, when we realized that we wanted the level layouts to be able to potentially get crazy and display a bunch of (read: more than 6) numbers. This new layout was too big to fit a lot of numbers on screen at once. So once again it was time to redesign.

I lucked out when I inadvertently saw a split flap display on youtube. I realized that with some reworking, the idea of a split flap display could work wonderfully with the aesthetic of Zircuits. You can see from the original example of how the game works that we’re currently displaying numbers on card/flap-type things. This has allowed us to fit more numbers in the levels and also lets us give the numbers some cool little animations. You can see how the style has been changed from revision 2 in the new title screen:

The blank space on the lower part of the screen is left empty for an animation of Lambot. This gif shows what the title screen animation is currently like (the letters animation doesn’t repeat in game, though) :

So, we’re well on the way to finishing Zircuits and we’re hoping that even though we’re not making a ridiculous, sexy, zombie killing, sci-fi FPS people will be willing to check it out. We’re planning some punishing puzzles for the end of the game. Thanks for reading! Here’s a picture of Lambot before he got broken:


 April 30, 2012  Posted by at 9:03 am Blog 3 Responses »