As we’ve previously mentioned, our first iteration of Bloom Barrage (then called Ghostly Garden) was built very quickly to be played on a PC using the keyboard or controllers. When we showed off the game at a few events, we were able to put a controller into peoples’ hands and they were able to quickly master the game’s controls – at least the moving and shooting mechanics. We had to spend some time to explain how to plant flowers, but once that was done, players were able to enjoy the game.
For our conversion to mobile devices, it was apparent that touch controls are not as intuitive as the controller. This was also our chance to provide a little backstory as to why these ghosts were planting flowers. So we started the process of crafting a tutorial.
We decided on buying a tool from the Unity Asset store to get a jump start on creating content without a lot of technical overhead. We picked Tutorial Designer for its price and its ability to integrate into the gameplay itself. The first draft of the story Tim wrote involved the red ghost watching a young girl honor the dead by decorating a tombstone with a planted flower, then repeating her action on its own. Later, the blue ghost appears and tries to steal a flower, but the red ghost notices and thwarts it by throwing a seed. Throughout the story the player is prompted to follow along in the actions they’ll take when they’re in the game.
This deserves an Eisner.
This story was debuted at the Portland Retro Game Expo in 2017, though the little girl section was cut to get the players into the action more quickly. Many people who stopped by enjoyed playing the tutorial, and were amused by Tim’s crude art (for the record, he had planned to redraw and improve it). The interesting thing to note this time around was how people’s sense of gameplay changed drastically because of the format change – players were much more focused on planting and cultivating flowers, and shooting seeds at their opponents was diminished since it now requires a swipe. Plus because it was a single-player tutorial, there wasn’t any direct competition with their friends.
Building a Better Story
With the shift to Bloom Barrage, we wanted to emphasize our playful characters and their interactions with each other. While we’ve been taking some time to brainstorm and develop these characters, there’s been a lot of work going on under the hood, creating tools so we can more easily create content later.
It looks more complicated than it is…
We’ve been utilizing Unity’s Scriptable Objects for features such as keeping track of all the stats that occur during a match (seeds thrown, enemies hit, flowers collected, etc.). One added benefit to this is that we can trigger events based on these stats, which we use to drive our custom tutorial system.
However, the current draft is little more than guiding the player through the mechanics of the game – it’s rather bland and somewhat disjointed. We’re working on a cohesive story, and thanks to these systems in place, it will be quick work to revise the tutorial.