Total Eclipse

Game Development & Consulting

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Designing Speed Match

In the past years we have been traveling often; every one or two months, my brother Argiris and I, would go on a business trip to Athens or someplace abroad. In these trips, I always carry my bright orange notebook, as I’ve seen that time on a plane can be very productive. I guess it’s because there are very few distractions and you can focus more easily.

In one of those trips, I was trying to think of new ideas for mini-games, and I started looking around, in case I could get inspired by my surroundings. Then I saw the windows, and I thought “let’s make a game with airplane windows!” The idea was that the window shade would open, revealing an item, and the player would have limited time to tap on it before the shade would shut down again.

Speed Match mini-game from Prototype to Final version
Speed Match mini-game from Prototype to Final version

Description

This is exactly what the main gameplay of Speed Match is all about. Well, we didn’t keep the airplane windows after all, but the rest is all there.

There is an item you have to search for and there are 6 displays. Various items appear in and then disappear quickly from the displays. The player has to be fast and tap on the right items, ignoring the rest.

Game design

If this gameplay might sound familiar, it’s because it is; what I have described so far looks somewhat like a whac-a-mole game. Speed match, though, comes with a few important twists that really make a new experience.

First of all, most of the items that appear are different than the correct item. They stay for very little on the screen, so the player has to be very fast. But the main mechanic is a combination of pattern matching and good reflexes. In essence, the game is all about rapid pattern matching.

That is not the biggest twist, though. What really makes this game unique is the introduction of strong language elements. Apart from the image of an item, the player may be asked to find an item based on its name. For example, a level may ask for “Butterfly”, instead of displaying the image of a specific butterfly.

Last but not least, items may appear as black silhouettes instead of full-colored objects, which adds a new dimension to pattern matching and increases the game’s difficulty.

Prototyping

All games that require multiple taps in each level are more time-consuming to develop than the rest. The main challenges when creating the prototype were to synchronize all the animations and balance the durations of how long it takes for items to appear and disappear, as well as how long they stay put. It is not easy to find values that make the game interesting for all kinds of players.

Polishing

The exact same challenges we had with Scrolling Silhouttes are true for Speed Match as well. The ways we polished the two games are also identical. We used combos, which means that players get extra score and time if the tap on 3 or more correct items very fast. Multitouch is supported, so a player can tap on multiple items at once. And of course, we had to make sure that we do not show silhouettes of items of similar shape that the player could not distinguish.

Difficulty & Progression

The game’s difficulty is determined by the speed by which items are moving, how long they stay on screen, whether the item to find is displayed by its image or a word.

There are a number of parameters that define this mini-game’s difficulty: the number of stripes, the number of items on each stripe, the number of items to find, the scrolling speed, item rotation. As the game progresses, all of these parameters are changed with precision, so that the game is challenging enough for all players.

Mechanics

The game is a combination of pattern matching, language processing and, of course, speed. Players have to pay attention to the item, or process the word that describes it, and then try to match the image or the meaning of the word with the moving items (or their silhouettes).

Insane Round

During the Insane Round, items are moving really, really fast. There are a lot of words, instead of images and the player sees a lot of black silhouettes. And, of course, there are many more items to find in each level.

Tips

  • If a level uses a word instead of an item image, pay close attention to all items that come and go, because the word might describe more than one item. e.g. there can be 3 different images that can be called “knives”.
  • Try to make as many combos as possible, as they give you extra time.

Dimitrios Bendilas
Lead Game Designer
Follow me at @dimitriosb

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