Mr & mrs pie

What if Coldplay’s “Fix You” song was about missing children?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

๐Ÿ‘€ Overview: features, goals and constraints

๐Ÿ’ก Game Design: Prototyping, Game Loop, Design solutions, thought processes, areas of improvement

๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป Programming: Implementation, bug fixing, areas of improvement

๐ŸŽจ Art & Animation: Mood board, character animation, environment, props

๐Ÿงช Testing: testing the prototype

๐Ÿคฉ Promotions & collaboration: Social media, missing people collaboration

๐Ÿ‘พ Play prototype

๐Ÿ’— Consider donating to missing people

Mr & Mrs Pie is an upcoming story-heavy platformer where you follow a couple looking for their missing child.

Features:

  • Go through a personal journey as you help Mr & Mrs Pie find their daughter.
  • You are intrinsically part of the game as you speak with Mr & Mrs Pie.
  • Trace a road map where their daughter was last seen.
  • Both characters interact differently to their environment.
  • Leave candles across levels to guide their daughter home.
  • Solve puzzles and speak to people to find clues.

Goals:

  • Create a fun and engaging game.
  • Raise awareness on how people are affected when a loved one goes missing.
  • Promote and fundraise for Missing People as an organisation.

Constraints:

  • I am the only developer on this project.

Game Loop:

Prototyping idea #1: Controlling two characters with the same controls

  • After prototyping on paper, I wrote some quick code to see it at work in a digital prototype:
  • My initial thoughts while testing this mechanic in Unity were that:
    • it reduced the control that the player had on the characters, since moving one character also moved the other one. This allowed for accidental death of one character (eg. if near a water body) if the player was not focusing on both characters at the same time.
    • the screen looked too busy. Too many movements were happening on screen that were not necessary.
    • coding for the camera movement was a nightmare. Mr Pie could be blocked by a platform and not move while Mrs Pie could walk off the screen (see programming).
  • I realised that the best way to control the characters would be to either change the game to multiplayer, or allow for a toggle system between Mr & Mrs Pie. I have yet to prototype this idea as a multiplayer, but recently tested the toggle mechanic in a game I made for a game Jam called ‘We’re OK‘, and toggle with a split screen works well!

Prototyping idea #2: Both characters interact differently with the environment

  • After prototyping on paper, I wrote some quick code to see it at work in a digital prototype:

Current Takeaways:

Level Design and the Illusion of Depth:

I kept the level design quite simple, adding only objects that helped to progress the story. Although I started decorating the level beyond the necessary assets (ie. wall plant), I think that I should lean in and add more to create a nicer level. I would like to add a parallax effect for the background as well. I used 1 bit dithering to add texture and depth, but I should add a foreground parallax effect to give a better illusion of depth.

I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling layers:
I heavily used layers so that each character interacted differently with platforms (and the candles on top of those platforms) depending on their colour. Although I somewhat got it right, I received feedback from several players that this wasn’t obvious until much later. I would have liked it if Mr Pie faded a bit (like losing XP) when hitting with platforms intended for Mrs Pie (and vice versa), to better signal to the player that the colour of the platforms affect the gameplay.

I absolutely do not want to make it too obvious to the player though, I intended for the game to have some puzzle elements, and want the player to learn while playing the game instead of being spoon-fed.

Future Levels Ideas:
In future levels, I would like to incorporate more vertical movement, such as falling into a ground pit, and finding clues about their missing daughter which they can pick up, and which in turn affects the ending.

I would like to add some dialogue between the couple to bring their emotions to life, and even some side characters (like a cop or a creepy drug dealer) along their way that would give them clues to move forward.

Camera movement:

Instead of using Cinemachine in Unity, I scripted the camera to calculate the middle point of the two characters, so they are both on the screen. However, if both jump, the camera shows too much of the sky instead of the platforms, leading to a potential death fall in future levels. I tried to play around with ground-detecting child objects to limit their jump, but it still shows too much sky than I would have liked. I also need to tweak the camera movement when adding the parallax effect on the ground, so that it looks like there is a bit of friction. At the moment, the ground moves faster than the objects when the characters move.

Takeaways:

In terms of scripting, this game gave me the opportunity to learn C# and Unity APIs. Having two characters, however, came with its own set of challenges. I had to understand how the animation and camera scripts work and implement my own custom scripts, instead of just following online tutorials, which are mainly focused on single character control. I also heavily used layers in Unity to create different interactions for each character. The scripting process took a lot of time, and I have gained a better appreciation of the benefits of working in a team with different specialisms.

Colour combinations:

  • Chose a black and white aesthetic to create a sombre backdrop, with red being used to reveal key pieces of information to the player.

Art style:

  • Fineliner pen/Sketchy aesthetic.

Animations:

  • I enjoyed creating frame animations for the characters and environment.
  • Currently learning how to rig 2D characters in Unity.

Art style & dual character control testing:

  • Contacting players on LinkedIn and Twitter to test out the prototype when it was published online.

Social Media Promotion:

  • Set up an official Twitter profile for the game, where I shared character concepts and snippets of the game.
  • Shared updates on my LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn indie game groups.
  • I plan to play part of the game on Twitch when the full game is completed.

If you would like to help vulnerable people in the UK affected by disappearance, consider donating to Missing People. They are the only UK charity lifeline for anyone affected by someone going missing.

For more information, visit their website: www.missingpeople.org.uk