It struck me whilst developing Distant Orbit that the game was crying out for a more persistent challenge – for want of a better phrase.
I wanted people to be able to play the game for a little while and have progress saved after each phase. That’s a fairly standard thing and in a standalone sense using HTML5’s localStorage I can of course achieve this.
But I also wanted the player to have something to aim for that wasn’t directly part of the story within the game and that’s where achievements come in.
Achievements (or awards ) are a great way to give the gamer a reason to come back and have another go beyond actually completing the immediate task. In this case blasting the aliens to pieces and knocking out the tower.
I recently played Shuffle Party on the XBox Live Arcade on my Windows Phone. It’s a fun and very tidy little game that sees you spending most of your time trying to unlock content and gain achievements. I liked it so much I wanted to implement it.
So last night I spent a good couple of hours doing just that.
The results are certainly very rewarding and I think the overall appeal of the game has shot up 10 fold.
The plot of the game as stated is simple: destroy the enemy tower installations in each stage. That’s your primary goal. But within that, thanks to the introduction of achievements, you now have the added challenge of not losing your wingman, not taking any hits, completing the stage with full energy.. so on and so forth.
There are four planets to fly between each with 10 stages. Within each planet there are 6 awards to aim for with a special award handed out for destroying every tower on the planet. Currently (and most likely finally) moving between stages on each planet is sequential. Once the player has completed a set amount of stages and / or unlocked a set amount of achievements the next planet becomes available.
Each planet has its own name, tower range and of course its own look and feel. Again this gives the player something more to aim for. We are all naturally curious as to what the unlocked content actually looks like and how it plays !
I intend to create a little badge icon for each achievement. Furthermore I intend to structure the code such that the achievements can be portable and implement easily with a cloud service such as clay.io.
So far Distant Orbit has taken around 6 weeks. That’s 2 weeks longer than I’d anticipated. Thankfully the addition of the new features means that I get that in future titles and should hopefully rein the dev times back to a manageable month.