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Magnetic Billiards Apprentice panel

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Thu, 20 May 2010
Subject: Magnetic Billiards: Seriously Casual

Ste Pickford

After what seems like an eternity spent working on website stuff and back-end server code since we temporarily stopped work on Art of Soccer, I'm finally back doing graphics and design stuff for Magnetic Billiards again.

It feels really weird switching back to graphics after spending a few weeks programming. They are very different activities, and presumably use completely different parts of the brain as my overall mood and attitude this weeks has been completely different to how I've been for the previous month or so. Not better or worse, just different.

I've only really dabbled a bit with programming, so I'm no expert, but it feels much harder to stop work at the end of the day when I've been programming, and much harder to think about anything else between working hours. And however well or badly the work is going totally affects my overall mood - much like the weather.

With art or graphics it's much easier to dip in and out and switch tasks, or switch my brain off at the end of the day. Now I've started back on the graphics tasks I feel like I'm also able to consider other things not directly related to the task in hand. I've managed to reply to a couple of emails and do a bit of work on the company accounts. Trivial stuff, but stuff I couldn't think about when I was programming.

And best of all, I can listen to Radio 4 again while I work - something I find impossible when either programming or writing documents. Presumably the same bit of your brain that processes incoming language is also involved in formulating outgoing language, and it can't do two jobs at once.

I've had a smashing day today catching up on Radio 4 comedies I've missed, and doing some drawings for the in-game manual.

The image here is the work I did yesterday. John's come up with a completely new idea to replace the old tutorial system that's in the current alpha version, which got mixed feedback (well, some negative, and we were never really comfortable with it ourselves). He'll probably explain the new system better than I can, but it's more like an open sand-box mode where you can play around and discover each feature of the game at your own pace with the equivalent of a cheat-mode or infinite-lives switched on, and some context sensitive hints. You're free to completely skip the Apprentice section, and you can switch between the different Apprentice modes (how many of the games features are switched on to play with) any time you like, so hopefully this strikes a better balance between avoiding overwhelming players with new ideas yet not patronizingly explaining every trivial detail that the player can work out for themselves.

Hopefully this Apprentice mode will actually be fun too, rather than a chore, as there'll be infinite cards to play with and a chance to experiment with techniques as there are no lives or limits.

Initially we were thinking of hiding away parts of the user-interface in the Apprentice mode by draping cloths or towels over certain panels - rather like the way pubs drape towels over the pump when the beer's off - but (aside from the fact that fabric is a nightmare to model) we thought it might be a bit clearer to build an extra panel which covers up part of the regular score panel (hiding the features not available in Apprentice mode) and replaces it with an Apprentice slider, allowing the player to slide back and forth between different Apprentice modes as they play.

We're not happy with the word 'Mode' on the panel, so that will probably change when we come up with an alternative.

I did a quick couple of sketches in the morning. I started thinking about putting this panel on a hinge before deciding it might get a bit complicated to construct and animate, then I built and textured the model yesterday afternoon.

Job finished in a day! A satisfying change from spending weeks programming the same server system...


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