Making of an Android Game – Debugger: Brain Untraining

By on August 15, 2014

Debugger: Brain Untraining

‘Debugger: Brain Untraining’ is my latest app release and the first game I’ve created that I have any real hopes for (I’ve tried before but never really given it my all). This one I have confidence in, and that’s because I think it’s pretty unique, quite polished and a REAL challenge for your brain.

GET DEBUGGER: BRAIN UNTRAINING HERE

For other indie developers out there, read on and I’ll explain the process that went into making it and designing it. And for those interested in sharpening up their grey matter, read on to see how this game can really challenge your lateral thinking…

Objectives and Specifications


The original objective when making this game was to a) make something completely unique and b) create a game that could be played almost entirely in your head.

Playing in Your Head

Sometimes when working on a program, I find myself working out how to code certain parts while lying awake in bed. I love this because I’m essentially porgramming without being anywhere near a computer… I wanted to recreate this experience in a game so that I could challenge the player’s abstract reasoning. As such, many of these levels you can actually ‘play’ without touching a single button.

You control a protagonist called ‘Bee Boo’ and your job is to collect all of the ‘bugs’ in each level (the green faces). You do this by moving around a board and the number on the board denotes how far you travel. ‘+1’ tiles move you one space in that direction, and ‘+2’ tiles move you two tiles in that direction. ‘=1’ tiles work the same as the ‘+1’ tiles, but you can only step on them once…

So knowing only this, you should be able to solve the below puzzle in your head without actually having to play the game…

Screenshots_2014-08-15-14-54-02

Now try this one…

Screenshots_2014-08-15-14-56-45

 

Of course as you play the game, new ideas are introduced and things get a bit trickier. If the game is successful I’m actually thinking of creating a book of these levels that you could play just by staring at and writing down the button presses.

Unique Rules

The other objective was to make the game unique, in as much as it should have its own set of rules. I always found it a shame that computer games always seemed to aim to ‘recreate’ reality. If you can make your own entire world, then you don’t need to play by normal rules. Gravity doesn’t have to act like gravity, things don’t need to be the right colour… you can create your whole own physics and that would be a really unique experience for the player that would get them to change the entire way they thought. That’s where the ‘brain un-training’ part comes in.

I only achieved this to an extent with this game as it’s just a 2D experience (I’d love to see a 3D game that worked like this, or even better, something on the Oculus Rift). But still, as you play through the game you’ll encounter tiles that aren’t explained and you’ll have to work out what they do through trial and error. Once you’ve done that, you then need to remember the ‘rules’ (which do follow a kind of logic) and then apply them. By the end of the game you’ll see grids that just look completely mad, but you should have learned how to navigate them.

My hope is that this will help train your brain by getting you to think outside the box and in an abstract manner. By leaving preconceptions behind you’ll be ‘untraining’ your brain.

Design and Music

This is actually the third time I’ve released a version of this game. The first time it looked like this:

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Ugly right? This one was called ‘Germination’ and sold about 4 copies…

But this was my first proper Android app and one built using Java and Eclipse, which I struggled with. The new version I built with Basic4Android which makes life so much easier. At the same time, the new version came after Multiscreen Multitasking, which was my ‘breakout’ app and taught me a lot more about coding.

More to the point though, I realised (pretty late) that my game needed it’s own ‘style’ that would differentiate it and make it stand out. This is how a lot of indie developers compete with big games companies. They can’t create the most amazing graphics to compete with the likes of Call of Duty, so instead they come up with an artistic concept – whether that means using pixel art, or whether it means using only silhouettes etc. etc.

'Thomas Was Alone' - not exactly cutting edge graphics, but has an awesome design and personality that makes it really stand out.

‘Thomas Was Alone’ – not exactly cutting edge graphics, but has an awesome design and personality that makes it really stand out.

If you come up with a great design concept, you can make a game stand out and look interesting, even without the most ‘high end’ graphics.

So that’s what I was looking for, but my game still at the time just looked like a grid with colourful backgrounds. Then I was getting my buddy Nathan to play it while in the pub (I’m super fun to hang out with) when he commented that it was ‘a bit like Sudoku’. That’s when I thought I could use a minimalistic ‘maths’ look, and that’s also when I decided to make the tiles into numbers with ‘+’ and ‘-‘. That’s when the whole concept fell into place and I decided to use minimalistic, bare tiles using pastel colours. I wanted it to look kind of modern at the same time and to use lots of oranges and light blues.

Nathan having a riot, just before the breakthrough occurred!

Nathan having a riot, just before the breakthrough occurred!

I also decided I wanted to very slightly pixelate the characters and the text to give it an indie-look and the new game was born!

Later on in the game the levels get an even more unique look, but I’ll keep that as a surprise for those who download it!

Tip: Get everyone you know to play your game. This is a great way to get feedback! And people are much happier to play games than they are to try out dull productivity apps…

Third Time Lucky!

So I uploaded the game to the store, did no promotion and once again got no downloads.

The second relaunch then happened because a) I realised I could drive traffic to an app through this blog and through Reddit/Google+ (that’s what I’m doing right now, btw) and b) I added some new features.

Working with ColdfusTion on the Voxis Launcher, I learned a bit more about presentation and developed some new coding skills. This lead to me animating the backgrounds and transitions to make the game look smarter still.

Then I decided it needed some decent music, so I took to Fiverr and found a user called Mentalcacao. This guy absolutely blew me away with the music he created which is 100% as good as anything in any other indie game. I got three tracks and in total it cost $25. Nuts! If you’re making an indie game, I highly recommend you check him out. He’s a very nice guy and seems to enjoy what he does too.

In fact, why not listen to these tracks he made for the game right here?

Track 1 – I asked for a ‘bouncy’, happy and energetic track

Track 2 – I asked for a ‘tense’ and puzzling track

Track 3 – I asked for a spacey and ambient track

Brilliant right? The sound effects meanwhile I created using an in-browser tool.

Going Forward

So I just uploaded the game to the store, and now I’m going to actually try promoting it for a change. I’ll be posting here occasionally and to social media and I’ll see if I can drum up some interest. I’ll let you know how it goes!

And assuming it gets some downloads I’ll also be adding some new levels. I have some great ideas for things to come, and some will turn the whole concept on its head and challenge your brain in a whole different way. So check it out and spread the word!

Screenshots_2014-08-15-14-58-32

Once again, you can get the game HERE. It’s 60p ($1.20), but that’s for years of hard work and a completely unique game experience. Thanks in advance!

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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I'm an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I'll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.