Technical Designer

Game Design and Review

Tower Power: Critical Analysis

Menu Screen of Tower Power.

Tower Power is a game created for a 12 hour Hackathon at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater which earned 3rd place.  Myself (Design and Programming), Jennifer Collins (3D Assets and UI), Cole Luther (2D Assets and Animation), and Ryan Flaherty (Programming) worked together to create Tower Power, a 2D platformer wrapped around a 3D tower which the Player must traverse to the top.  It's been a little less than a month since the competition and I've had several thoughts about the project and how it could have been improved to take first place, even in the 12-hour time span.

 

Judges Explanation

After the ceremony and ending of the Hackathon, the team was able to find the judges and talk to them about what could have been improved, just to get a better idea of what we were missing.  We found several of the critiques to be quite helpful, most of which we agreed with.

Critiques:

  • Game Longevity
  • Game Difficulty
  • Lack of Creativity

 

Game Longevity

It was no surprise to me that we were docked points for the longevity of the game.  With the endless runner style it had, missing randomized modules or platforms hurt our overall score a lot.  If the time presented itself, our first order of business would have been generated platforms to create it into an endless runner, rather than a hand crafted level.

With the way the game is currently set up, after 4 short plays one would most likely know each and every path the game holds, which is a major issue.  Focusing more on longevity over small polish would have saved the team in the long run.

Tower Power is a 2D platformer wrapped around a tower which the Player must traverse to get to the end of the stage. Created in a 12 Hour Hackathon for UW-Whitewater.
 

Jump animation of the Character.

Game Difficulty

Tower Power in its current state has very little to offer in the means of difficulty.  I was in charge of building the one level, which I had about 10 minutes to create.  Excuses aside, I focused on creating a level that was easier to traverse as I was unaware how high the Player would be unable to jump.  As well, I felt that the game was much more interesting to watch when the Player could run off of a platform and continue on, which the current system allowed for.

What the current game is missing is traps or obstacles, items on top of the basic platforming to create dynamic challenge for the Player.

 

Lack of Creativity

This would be the only critique I had issues understanding for a few days after the competition.  But since some time has passed, I now believe I understand what the judges meant.  We were so focused on creating a polished project in a short time we forgot to add in the little quirks, the fun stuff that games have.

So much time was spent on creating something basic that worked, rather then reaching for the stars and having unfinished ideas that showed what our intention was.  This is always a gamble in competitions, sometimes judges look for polish and finished work, other times judges want to see what we had in our minds even if it is rough.  I think that is an important lesson to learn, especially in a field such as game design.  It's important to weigh polish against creativity, especially in timed situations such as the Hackathon.

 Unity view of Tower Power.  Everything in the world is 3D except for the Character and Coins.  The camera was placed into an Orthographic view, which helped create the aesthetic of the game we were looking for.

Unity view of Tower Power.  Everything in the world is 3D except for the Character and Coins.  The camera was placed into an Orthographic view, which helped create the aesthetic of the game we were looking for.

The Future

A few days after things settled down from the Hackathon, the team got back together and spoke about Tower Power.  We decided that we like the idea, and plan to expand massively on it.  Coming in a few months will be a mobile version of Tower Power with massive changes, fixing and adding the things we wish we could have for the Hackathon.  Using what we learned from judges and between ourselves, we plan to create a fun experience that challenges all of us as developers.

 

Final Thoughts

Tower Power had some fun ideas, and an interesting game feel to it.  I'm extremely proud with what our group was able to do in 12 hours, and I'm surprised to see how much I could learn from an experience such as that.  I learned an incredible amount from each of my teammates, and I feel much more comfortable under pressure than I did in the past.  Which is incredibly important to me, I enjoy knowing that I don't break under pressure and can hold my own against my peers.  I'm excited for the next Hackathon, and I'm ready to take what I've learned from this experience and take 1st place next year. 

If you're curious about the game, you can play it here!

-Zach McCormick