Branding | UX / UI | Web Design
Moon Game is a turn based physics strategy game. It is a game based in outerspace where you place as one of two factions. These two factions have the technology to build planets and moons. Mining existing planets for resources, players build solar systems which they defend and attack by building and launching moons at the enemy solar systems. The final game will have over 60 planets and many ways to play and win the game. Available on iPhone, Android, and desktop Moon Game is the strategy game for your busy life. This case study looks at the creation of Moon game.
Moon Game is going to be made available for both mobile and desktop. And as such needs to be designed Mobile first, but also usable on desktop. I am working with one partner who is an incredible dev. But the both of us are taking on a lot of responsibilities to finish the game as this is going to be actually playable and is not just a mock-up.
Create a mobile and desktop game that feels like an RTS but can be played at anytime. Should take strategy and thought process to beat and not have any instant win strategies. The game should be complicated enough that it stands out from the crowd but simple enough to have a learning curve that is easily understandable.
A turn based RTS game allows people to have the strategy and macro of an RTS game with the time restraints of a turn based game that you can play on the go.the game uses gravity and planetary physics to fire moons around a solar system. Three tier tech trees allow for a deep rock paper scissors situation where players can counter each other as they figure out each other's ideas through scouting. The game has a quick learning curve of firing moons around, but takes a long time to master learning the best build paths and locations to counter an enemy and master the solar system.
The original idea for Moon Game was created during a 48 hour game jam where Alex and I spend 48 hours straight coming up and building as much of a game as we could. When we started the game jam we received the theme of “moon.” We originally wanted to create an RTS based around firing moons, but decided that was too much of a task to take on in just 48 hours. So we decided to make the game turn-based.
The game ended up being a lot of fun to both create and play. And we decided that this project really had some validity to it. The original game had a completely different art style as we did this game jam before I had taken any design classes. But the base parts of the game were all there and they provided a really good place to start when designing Moon Game itself.
Our primary audience is 15-30 year old gamers who like rts games and want something that they can play on the road. These are primarily males who skew to the more nerdy side of the spectrum. They also often have a little bit of cash or come from a middle to upperclass family. Basically your typical gamer. Focusing closer we can also note that a good bit of our audience is not hardcore gamers but people who want to play games but don''t have a lot of time to do it. These are people that have a lot of school work or just work a full-time job but still want to play rts style games even when they don't have time to sit down and play for over an hour straight.
Now thinking about Scope we needed to come up with a timeline on this game. How long do we want to be producing it? How big of a game should it be? In the past we had worked on shorter games with less features that we can get out quickly. Knowing what our scope should be will influence how complicated our design decisions will be.
We decided that the scope in this game should be a little bit bigger than what we had done in the past. We want to be able to create a game that has a lot more to learn in it. The learning curve itself should, ideally, be fast to pick up and hard to master. We can do this by having simple game mechanics that have unique interactions that create skill. This makes it so people who are losing aren't losing because they just don't know that one secret to the game, but because the other player has a deeper understanding of the strategy behind the game. This means we have to design with the idea that elements of the game need to interact with each other in a way that allows for counters and combos. This will not only keep the game interesting, but also make it mysterious in that there are relationships in it that must be discovered.
Now came the fun part: coming up with the core elements to our game. We did this via one very large game design document that contained all of the information about our game. I won’t write about all of them, but our core sections in the document were: Game rules, Game start, turn mechanics, victory conditions, game mechanics, planets, tech tree / races, maps, graphic design needs, march making, and ideal game play.
Deciding what to write in each section took a lot of writing and talking to potential players about ideas and then rewriting. The point of this document isn’t to decide everything about the game, but instead to give us a base to build off of. If you want a more in-depth look at my design document and each section check out the Moon Game blog posts, but here I will write about what I thought at the time of making the design document.
These are the core of our game, they are what you make and what you destroy to win the game. Thinking about being able to pick up the game quickly we needed to have just a core set of planets that the player could understand. We ended up dividing this up into two parts, there are artificial planets, and resource planets. Each of which are fairly self-explanatory. The resource planets are broken up into two distinct planets that can be found already generated on the map. We really wanted to have resource planets exist around the map and not be something you could create yourself because it would force players to expand and explore.
The maps that people will be playing on are also very influential to the game itself. The size is something we can't decide on yet as we don't know the range of planets, but we do know that they need to be such a size that players must explore and find the other player. They also need to have unique sections, for example having an asteroid belt gives the players something to adapt to and play around. A little bit of controlled RNG can go a long way to giving a game depth. So we decided that resource planets and things like that will spawn randomly inside a set location. That way no player feels like they are being screwed over, but they also have to adapt every game that they play.
One of the best way to create a cohesive game is to have a mood board that you can follow for all of your game design decisions. The first step in starting the mood board is creating a list of adjectives that not only describe the mood of the game, but also the look and feel of the game. The adjectives that I came up with for Moon Game were: futuristic, simple, exciting, unique, mature, easily understood, deep, immense, high tech, and thin elements.
The name of our original 48 game was Shoot The Moon. This name was purposefully cheesy but didn’t quite represent the game that we wanted to create. The name of your game is arguably one of the most important parts. It is how people will talk about your game. It is how it will be advertised. A good name can make a game, and a bad name will break one. We came up with a short list of requirements for the name of our game: easily rememberable, unique, search-able, short, and indy.
We ended up coming up with Moon Game after a long list was created and tested for all of the things above as well as ran by our potential users for recognition and remember-ability.
In order to first create a good logo I create a list of Keywords and Necessities in order to make sure that the logo I create follows the mood and ideas that Moon Game should embody. The list is as follows: epic, futuristic, simple, fast to read / view, exciting, polygon, and needs an icon element. Using these I came up with this moodboard:
Using this moodboard I created a lot of sketches and the best of them was a planet that had a Moon Game M on it. I used blender to create this planet which fit that idea:
From here I realized that this logo needed something else to it and would need a black and white version, so I traced the planet and made this black and white version which ended up being used as our logo itself.
The game contains 2 main factions that are at war with each other. Deciding that was not an easy process, and we actually started with 3 different races we were considering putting in the game. What we really wanted in our game was a rock-paper-scissors style power system. Where each race is weak to another race in a roundabout type of way. I ended up deciding that this idea works even on a smaller level and I will discuss that more when I talk about tech trees. But know that we ended up only needing 2 factions and still feel like our game will have a rock-paper-scissors type counter system.
We came up with the main ideas of each race, and once we did that we came up with a list of potential names for each race that would fit their descriptions. We send out a survey with the description of each race along with the potential names and looked at the names that people liked.
From here it was clear that we had 1 winner and 1 tie. We ended up choosing Brath and Fortem as our two races. With the help of my sister Emma we created these descriptions.
Clean, sophisticated, streamlined—everything is exactly as useful and chic as it could be with the Brath. Truly the bourgeoisie of the cosmos, Brath are well versed in the language of politics, not afraid to double-cross or betray for military and economic domination. The Brath are an exclusive race in every sense and more likely to trim the fat than expand. Run like a cosmic corporation, the working class are pacified through wages quickly spent on designer drugs and the latest fashion trends. Arnuviin, Brath’s cold and calculating CEO, believes intergalactic power and technological advancement are synonymous: a moral code is just an excuse for mediocrity. Sly and cunning, Brath’s forces flank and outmaneuver enemies. With the right weapon and the right war tactics, any sized foe can be defeated.
Honor and family, fortitude and country. The people of Fortem are a proud (if not stubborn) race, grown from the unionized proletariat of the cosmos. Like a well-oiled machine, this race works together to build a powerful and egalitarian society. For the Fortem, strength determines one’s fate. In this way, sports are a communal and ritual part of civilization. Excess and beauty are evil things, inspiring jealousy and greed—utilitarianism is essential, assuring a world where there is enough for everyone, and everyone gets their share. The Fortem battle much like they live—constant and resilient, iron-fisted and siege heavy. Home is sacred and powerful, and to defend it is everything. Instead of spreading like a virus, the Fortem become impregnable.
Now I needed to come up with the logos for these two races. I went through a pretty long process for them, but visually it can be reduced to a nice flow.
The final logos are simple and clean and really represent the two races well.
One of the most important parts to a game is the tech tree. A tech tree is basically the list that tells someone what they need to build before they can build other things. It has all of the different things that you can build and how they all relate to each other. Before I started writing out the entire tech tree I did a good bit of research. I looked and the numbers of options that are in most games, and the numbers that they use and layers that are found in a tech tree based on how long the game usually is.
I ended up deciding that each faction should have between 26-30 planets that can be used in the game, and that each of those planets will fit under these 5 planet types: attack planet, mining planet, outpost planet, research planet, and defense planet.
When creating the tech trees themselves I made these planet cards which gave me an idea of what planet I was looking at and what these planets would do.
These cards were really useful and let me look at different combination of planets and how they would interact with each other. Something that is really fun for players to discover is different combinations that can be done to make powerful planets.
After I had an idea for all 30 planets I created visualizations of the final tech trees so I could get an idea of what I had created. These were simple and just had names, but behind each name was a planet card that had all the information you could need when creating a planet.
I took these two tech trees and ran them through some user testing looking for understandability and how fun users thought that these planets would be. I learned that: The descriptions I used of the planets were often not done well enough to be understood by a new user. I had some planets whose abilities closely matched another planet and needed to be changed. The numbers I used were questioned a lot and it is clear that a lot of theorycrafting is needed.
I took a break from the really hard parts of game design and made some t-shirts for anyone that wanted one. They turned out really well!
From here on out now that I had most of the game figured out it was important to start creating assets for the game.
Creating the planets themselves was a really long process that started with planets that weren’t that good but ended up with planets that I think really will look good in game. Here I will show the way planets changed throughout my time working on this game.
I have made a planet model for a lot of the planets in the game. Here is a collection of them:
This menu is what players would use to interact with planets inside of moon game itself.