Tuesday, August 30

Mars:Mars - Positive "Freedback"

Mars:Mars is a tremendously fun casual game.

Mars:Mars was a real surprise.  It held my attention for two strong reasons.  It is incredibly beautiful, with a stunning colour palette similar to that of Monument Valley, and its gameplay has such a well-crafted simplicity to it.  

Mars:Mars is both beautiful and fun.  Well done to Pomelo Games for getting both of those things perfectly right. 

I love the game's small details as well, like: the real-time day-night cycle, (which took me around 3000 platforms before I noticed it); and the animated moons orbiting Earth and Mars in one of their menu screens.  Small things like that tell me there has been some real love put into this game.    

One of my favourite parts of Mars:Mars, however, is the Graphic User Interface (GUI) which is simply brilliant.  It's SO clean, and SO consistent in it's hexagonal theme that it blends perfectly with the game's low-poly aesthetic.  The UI nerd inside me is giving you guys a slow clap right now.  

I call this blog Positive "Freedback" because if I'm really inspired by a game or movie I like to spend some creative energy to comment on what else I'd like to see from it.  It's fun for me to do this.  It is NOT criticism.  It's simply my way of wanting even more from the current experience and these comments come from a place of great excitement.   The reason why it's called "freedback" in particular, is because this is my way of giving back to a "freemium" game.  You give me greatness for free, I try to return that greatness, also for free.  

Pomelo Games, if there are any ideas you see in this post that you would like to adopt as is, or adapt, or whatever, please feel free to do so.  That is the entire purpose of why I have written this blogpost to begin with.  All the ideas below are the result of my imagination having fun with your game.  Enjoy.  

--- M:M ---

At the very start of the game, you could enter the year you were born...

...so that when you came to the platform of the same number the game wished you a Happy Birthday.

--- M:M ---

(Below is my favourite suggestion).  
If you leave the game idle for more than 5 seconds...

...the camera angle slowly changes...

...to a more dramatic perspective, and stays there.  
(It's a chance for us to get up close and personal with our favourite characters)

As soon as the player touches the screen, the character launches as per usual, but the camera quickly moves back...

...to it's default position...

...so the game can continue on as normal.
(Seeing our character up close and watching them launch into the air from a dramatic angle would be coooool!)  

--- M:M ---

When the player reaches every 1000th platform...

It triggers a pop-up screen with a simplified landscape of the last 1000 platforms...

...along with a small animation of these platforms becoming "activated"...

...which allows for the "auto-construction" of a new monorail for the Earth colony of Mars. 
(If the player doesn't jump to the next platform before the one they are on is activated the monorail stops slightly short until they have moved).

The top of the monorail is simply at the top of the play area.  
(This idea gives the game definite milestones, but it also provides the player with a sense of purpose which encourages them to get to the next milestone, and, ultimately, the end).
Note: [SPOILER ALERT!] Even though I had this idea before I saw the Martian monorail at Platform 3994, I think this idea can fit comfortably with both monorail ideas in the game.  One monorail belongs to Martians, the other to Earthlings. 

--- M:M ---

It would be nice to see the number always appearing above the coin icon as a standard format for whenever we see a money amount.   
(You'll notice that I've done this to all the screens on this post).

--- M:M ---

The story can be told through the short messages our hero receives...  

...which are always very short, (the length of a tweet), with the ads still being present at the bottom.
(A story would add a lot to the experience, providing chances of exposition about our hero's bad landing at the start, the creatures of the world, the Martian culture, etc).  It's a way for things to be slowly revealed to the player, but it would also provide a golden opportunity for comedy.  Let's face it, some poor guy being stuck out on a desert planet activating platforms all day, every day, while all the good parts of his life are happening elsewhere- that's pretty damn funny).  

--- M:M ---

If you skip a platform six times...

...coins become fuel canisters, (and where there are no coins, canisters will appear)...

There are only 5 canisters to collect, which means you can skip about 5 platforms, but only if...
...you can land on a platform successfully at the end of this run.  Crashing will return the canisters to coins again and make you start back from the platform you launched from.

--- M:M ---

Introducing Numerical Love.

Small titles appear over their relevant platforms (and then fade away after a couple of seconds) that describe the type of number the platform has.  

Synchronous numbers: 111, 222, 333, 444, 5555, 7777

Binary numbers: 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1011
Palindrome numbers: 101, 313, 2442, 3883, 4114 

Prime numbers: All prime numbers up to 8000  (1 is not a prime number)

Twin numbers: 66, 88, 1212, 3232, 4141

Ascending numbers: 12, 56, 89, 123, 345, 7890
Descending numbers: 21, 65, 98, 321, 543, 987

(Getting to platforms that were of a certain type acted like mini-milestones when I was playing).

--- M:M ---

When you collect a coin from the sky...

...we hear a satisfying chime sound, but the coin only appears next to your collection, not in it.

You only get this coin (and a new satisfying sound effect) when you...

...complete the landing.

--- M:M ---

The more successful jumps you make in a row, the more you are rewarded with a coin prize.

Platforms jumped = coin rewards
Platforms x10 = 3 coins
Platforms x20 = 9 coins 
Platforms x30 = 18 coins 
Platforms x40 = 27 coins
Platforms x50 = 50 coins 
Platforms x60 = 50 coins 
Platforms x70 = 50 coins 
Platforms x80 = 50 coins
Platforms x90 = 50 coins 
Platforms x100 = 100 coins 
Platforms x200 = 200 coins 
Platforms x300 = 300 coins, etc...

This character has already made 30 successful jumps, and his reward is 18 coins.

Once they've crashed, their reward is waiting for them at the next platform.
(Jump rewards can simply be landed on to collect).  
(Ranks would still apply, of course.)

--- M:M ---

Here is a hellmouth over Platform 6666.

Landing on the platform reveals a new & unique description for this number.  

The number 3.14159265359...

The monolith at Platform 2001, with a unique numeric description.

Mat Brady is a Senior Storyboard Artist at Artrix Ltd (a game development studio) in Auckland, New Zealand. The views and opinions expressed above do not necessarily coincide with those of Artrix Ltd. This blog has been posted independently of the studio.

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