Starting in early 2013 I was initially challenged to create an android app without relying on a mainstream game engine or modern tools for game development. While my experience with android at the time was sparse at best, I readily accepted the challenge, and the results are what you see before you today.
If you have ever asked a developer about some of the unique challenges with developing on the android platform, they could probably list at least a few qualms. Some of these might include variables automatically resetting, screen rotations, supporting devices with limited RAM, processing power, and graphical capabilities; or even just variable screen sizes. Due to these uncertainties, it is important to test and support as much of the device spectrum as possible.
Regardless, I still wanted to create an experience that was both fun and interactive. Natively, android lacks support for frame drawing, much less frame-rate control. However, this can be re-created by implementing a series of objects to serve as a canvas, and then rapidly drawing over top of it. In this way, a game is somewhat like a flip-book.
Looking back, some of my early builds were rather simple. Back then, I was still figuring out how to implement a frame drawing system, so there wasn’t much content to speak of. There was just a circle which would move and a background which changed color based on how long the user pressed against the screen. Nevertheless, when I showed the demo to my professors and family, I was surprised at how long they played with it and how engaged they were. That is when I knew I had something.
A Rhythm Game
Right from the get-go, I knew that whatever I chose, this project had to focus on a simple set of game-play mechanics. With less than a month to create a prototype, I also realized that, for this app, I wouldn’t be able to draw on a large library of assets. The game-play needed to be iterative and addictive, yet still able to surprise the player.
At the time, I had just finished playing several lesser-known and indie titles, so of course series like Rhythm Heaven and BIT.TRIP were at the forefront of my mind. In fact, the more I thought about them, the more I realized that rhythm-based game-play might be the perfect fit for my new app.
Simple, Yet Scale-able
Unlike movies, games often happen non-sequentially. Due to their very nature, the interactions of the player on any given frame can impact the logic and and appearance of the next frame. In real life, we plan our actions prior to execution, but, for an unsuspecting program, it must repeatedly ask the question, “What comes next?”. Without this, a game can start to drift from the player’s expectations, and even feel unresponsive. For this reason, the animation must be set on a frame-by frame basis, while staying fluid and consistent.
The other concern with artwork on mobile platforms, is the need to support a wide variety of screen sizes, densities, and aspect ratios. What may appear large and detailed on one display, might be blurred and aliased on another. As a result, I decided to create the majority of Funky Factory’s artwork as vector graphics. After this shift, my artwork started to to take on a cleaner, yet simplistic direction. It became less about small details and the texture, and more about the elegance of the lines. This, coupled with the need to create each frame individually, led me to adopt a somewhat comical, cartoon theme.
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