Friday, June 27, 2014

the ux of 99 bricks wizard academy

A while back I participated in a One Laptop Per Child physics game jam. The game my team made, Babel, had two phases: the second part was a slingshot game (NOT UNLIKE ANGRY BIRDS BUT YEARS BEFORE THANK YOU VERY MUCH) and the first parts was a "make as high a tower as you can" game.

My game used a pleasingly springy mouse joint tool to grab the bricks, but it was difficult to control. So I appreciate the cleverness of UX shown by "99 Bricks Wizard Academy":

At it heart it's a Tetris-like game, with the same set of 7 "bricks of 4" tetrominoes and the same idea of stacking them as the descend. However, rather than completed rows disappearing, 99 Bricks keeps all the bricks, and you build as high a structure as possible- but the physics matter. An unbalanced tower will fall in short order.

The UX is really smart. When a brick is falling, it plays just like Tetris, except the tetrominoes can be moved in half-steps, not just full 1x1 block spaces. Once it lands, THEN the physics take over. The result is very satisfying, and less frustrating and more educational than what I made in 2008.

There's a lot of other smarts in this game: spells to make things a little easier, rival wizards interfering, and a good set of specific challenges/achievements that move the game beyond a simple "how high can you get?" play mechanic.

Angry Birds (and to a lesser extent, Flappy Bird) are probably the most famous physics-based popular games, but I feel like both of them suffer from poor repeatability. It's not trivial to reproduce the same shot in Angry Birds, so it's more random and less thoughtful than it could other wise be.

Another excellent physics based game with very think-y puzzles is Red Remover -- you can get it for iOS or play it online. (Actually you can also play the original 99 Bricks online, but it plays more like a technical demo for the Wizard Academy game. Plus, the bricks feel less wobbly and fun over all.)

Finally, my all time favorite online physics-y game might just be Fantastic Contraption where you build little machines that really kinda work!  (Unlike the other 2 games, I found it better on a laptop than on a touch screen device.)

No comments:

Post a Comment