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Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint


Clear Bonus and Parting Shot logos

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Mon, 06 Dec 2010
Subject: Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint

Ste Pickford

I finished off a couple more in-game logos on Friday, which more or less wraps up my graphics work on Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint for iOS, for now at least.

No doubt they'll be the odd alteration and fix as all the graphics are implemented, and we're bound to come up with new ideas that need graphics in the next couple of weeks, but for now I get to do admin work this week instead of drawing. Woohoo!

The Clear Bonus graphic is just a bit of decoration for the window that pops up after you clear the last ball on the table, with a bit of a score bonus based on remaining lives, and a couple of other factors (I'm not actually sure what formula John has come up with, as he's been tinkering with this over the last few days). The idea is that you get a bit of a final boost to your score after clearing the table, in proportion to how many lives you have left.

The 'Parting Shot' graphic is a separate idea, and is nothing to do with the Clear Bonus (I've just put them together for this blog image). This is related to a new idea that John was playing with last week. He's been experimenting with altering the length of the 'preview arrow' - the arrow which gives you a preview of the projected path of the ball before you take a shot.

When he first implemented the preview arrow in the iOS version he made it really long, pretty much showing you the whole path of the shot you were about to take. We talked about reducing this length to increase the challenge, but eventually talked ourselves into leaving the arrow a very generous length as it was enjoyable to see where your shot was going to land, and much of the game is about the strategy of *how* you clear the table (the order of shots, the cluster shapes you create, the best ways to wring extra buzzes and bounces out of each shot) rather than the difficulty of actually taking shots successfully.

We were both happy that the game was a bit easier with the long preview arrow, but we still felt that maybe we were missing a trick with this feature.

After tinkering with the scoring and grading algorithms, John felt it was perhaps slightly too easy to get the very highest grades - or slightly easier than on the full PC version at least - and we aiming for some kind of parity between the two versions, despite slightly different feature sets.

John came up with the idea of slightly reducing the length of the preview arrow as your score increased over the course of clearing a table, so the closer you got to achieving an A or S rank, the more difficult the game would become. The only problem was that often the very last shot (with a mostly clear table) was the best chance to get the highest bounce multiplier (by bouncing the cue-ball 10 or more times off the cushions before connecting with the remaining ball), and reducing the size of the preview arrow meant that this last super-bounce shot became harder and harder as you earned higher and higher scores. We were removing one of the most enjoyable shots in the game.

The answer we came up with was a bit of a bodge, but at the same time a bit of a fun event in the game. When you get to the last shot on the table we flash up the 'Parting Shot' graphic, and no matter what score you are on we make the preview arrow the maximum possible length, just for this shot, which means you always get the chance to go for your bounce record with the last shot on the table.


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I ended up tying the length of the preview arrow to the Tariff rather than the score itself. It reaches minimum length when tariff hits 150. Works quite well as if you lose your tariff the preview goes back to maximum length as a consolation.

It didn't work so well tying it to score as the exponential nature of the scoring meant a disproportionate amount the score was earned in the last few shots. Tariff increases in a linear fashion (10 per shot).

This also means that tables with few balls are easier as the tariff never gets very big and later tables become a bit more challenging.


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Magnetic Billiards is a fresh family of puzzle games by The Pickford Bros.

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