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Lessons from the coin-op

As I mentioned in my last blog post I’m taking Kairo to the Develop Indie Showcase and PAX Prime. These will be the first time Kairo has been playable at any kind of public event and this presented me with some problems. Kairo is designed to be a a solitary experience, as much as I love co-operative and quick action games that’s not what Kairo is about. It’s designed to be played patiently in the comfort of your home as you soak up the atmosphere. So I’ve had to do a bit of work to make the game a bit more show floor friendly.

Shiny Attraction

Step one is what old arcade games called an attract mode. This is when you leave a game running and it starts to play either a video or a chunk of gameplay. This was to draw you to come over to the game and encourage you to put your money in. Apart from the money bit this is just as true now as it was back then. Leaving the game on a static screen may look okay but it’s not going to entice people over to check the game out.

As I don’t really have a traditional title menu screen I’d not really planned on adding any kind of attract mode until now as I simply don’t need one for the final release version of the game. Though now I’ve made one I might include it as an extra in one of the menus for the curious.

For my attract mode I picked a handful of rooms from the game and have animated a camera doing a birds eye fly through of the room. It loops between those rooms and the animated intro sequence. It’s fairly simple but I think quite effective. As it’s all done in engine it does mean these sequences will be updated if I change the rooms over time and I can add in new rooms as the game gets closer to completion.

The Vertical Slice

The other problem with Kairo is that the opening few minutes are a little slow paced and very linear. This is intentional for the normal player experience, I wanted to give them a little bit of time getting accustomed to the world and the mechanics. However with people potentially only playing for 5 minutes I would imagine a lot of people would never get past that initial acclimatization process.

So what I’ve done is setup it up so once the game is switched into show floor made it starts players off in the first hub room. Dumping players straight down at the heart of the game for them to explore in whatever direction they choose. I also blocked the door that leads backwards towards the start of the game.

This demo build is rigged so it can quickly be reset back to the attract mode and wipes player progress when it does so the next person can start afresh. Also in this mode the quit button has been removed from the menus, so I don’t spend all day relaunching the game when people accidentally hit it.

Simple and Sweet

Finally I wanted the game to be really easy for someone to pick up and play instantly and while the keyboard and mouse control isn’t complicated just giving people a 360 pad seems even easier and more welcoming. On top of which I’d always wanted to add pad support eventually anyways.

I took the opportunity to basically rewrite most of my input code. So the game can now be played on the typical keyboard + mouse, mouse only or with a joypad. Incidentally getting my options screen to work with a pad proved to be the most tedious coding task I’ve had to endure since starting Kairo.

The other benefit to come out of this is I made sure to hook into Unity's Input Manager a lot better so players can now reconfigure all the controls before starting the game.

Ready To Launch

This all might seem a little boring and I guess some parts of development are like that. While doing it the most frustrating thing was knowing I was putting in a few days work that is mostly not contributing to the final game. However promoting the games at these show is important and means more people will get to try out Kairo.

I’m now away for the weekend at TIGJamUK5 to make games with awesome people, then next week I’ll be away in Brighton to demo the game. Then I will get back to actually working on more content. Busy times.

Welcome to the home of Locked Door Puzzle, the independent game development studio of Richard Perrin located in Bristol.

My primary focus is on creating expressive games that explore different forms of interactive storytelling.

For contact details check the about page.