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Save Santa is a javascript game created by our group for our Digital Media class. The purpose of the project, as I understood it, was twofold. First, to simply teach people to work in groups. Secondly, to learn to demonstrate a tangible trail of idea and design development, as well as to briefly summarise the project to expediate the complete understanding of an application by an outsider.

Save Santa screenshot

Target Market

Our app, a game that we nicknamed “Save Santa” was aimed at commuters; as something to do while on the bus or train. From this large audience we decided to create a game aimed at people between the ages of 7 and 25, focused primarily towards the younger end of the spectrum, with a simplicity that allows almost anybody to enjoy it, if only for a short time.

Bright and friendly colours are used to go with a festive christmas theme, as well as to appeal to the younger audience. Simple instructions are used to explain the game, meaning that even less literate people should be able to figure it out. We also found that many commuters prefer simple games, as they are easier to get to grips with and often allow for shorter sessions. We also tried to make the game cute and add a humour to its visuals.

We considered that if you are on public transport you will not always be able to concentrate on your phone, thus made the game turn-based so you’re safe while getting off the bus or while changing trains. This also removes any frustration or pressure the user might experience having to pause the game in a rush,  pausing too early, or alternatively rushing to pause the game at the last moment, and perhaps dying because they failed to pause.

No internet connection is required to play, the game has been packed as a standalone app; the game simply needs downloading while connected to the internet.

Critical Thoughts                               

When tested, users reported that we’d been a bit too subtle with telling them how the controls work, but everyone caught on in a matter of seconds. We noted that a few users attempted to jump off ledges, not just climb ladders, probably because many other games allow this. In retrospect, this cognitive bias should have been catered to.

We have opted not to include sound. We felt that people will either not want to put on headphones just to hear a few sound effects (bearing in mind public transport isn’t quiet) and others would rather listen to their own music in the background.

The controls occasionally glitch. We’d not been able to accurately replicate/determine the cause in the amount of time we had. This would have been worked on if we had more time. We also would have put a slight delay between the player moving and the enemy moving. A delay would make it much easier for players to figure the game out, but we had no success in applying this and opted to spend time on more achievable features.

Better planning and communication would have been ideal between team members, as there were moments when we thought we knew what we wanted/expected from each other, and found out there was a misunderstanding after the task was done.

To simplify the development process, the game was optimised to work on 3:2 displays, as that’s what was readily available for us to test the game on. The game might not display properly on other devices, but they should all be playable.

Our artist found it challenging to come up with character designs, mostly because of the decision to opt for pixel art. Subsequently, she had to learn how to make pixel art, looking at tutorials and searching for inspiration. Working closely with the programmer (myself) allowed her to determine what she needed to produce, and in what dimensions.

Another issue she encountered was colour scheming. Initially, the colours used did not match and were contrasting. After creating some rough drawings, she found a style and scheme that was attractive and suited our theme.

The original enemy design didn’t fit with the theme, and was redesigned as a snowman at the last minute. Finally, the artist opted to create a Santa graphic in the place of a decorative tree, thus giving some credibility to our name “Save Santa.”

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