Gaming HIITs different
When we are making a game for the Playpulse ONE, the development is vastly different from when making a traditional video game for phones and computers. The fact that the player is using his or her body to control the game, not just their hands, creates interesting challenges and possibilities for us as developers as well as for the user within the gameplay itself. I want to present some of these challenges to you and describe how we have chosen to solve them.
Let's start with the exercise intensity; while using the whole body to control the game, we have to be careful not to demand too much from the player. In traditional racing games, for example, the player is expected to drive at close to maximum speed for most of the time. Asking players to pedal as fast as they can for an extended period of time does not lead to a good in-game experience. Therefore, we have to implement mechanics that limit the amount of time we demand maximum velocity from the players. We also want to make this implicit and baked into the core gameplay of the games. A popup saying either “you are trying too hard, do less, or “you are not trying hard enough, do more” will not lead to very immersive gameplay, more about this later.
On the other hand, we do want people to have a good workout after using Playpulse, so we have to ensure that enough movement is required throughout the session.
In our game design, we are working hard to balance the activity level we demand from the player. In other words, you will be rewarded for staying active on a certain level, and be restricted when staying stationary for too long. In Pedaltanks, for example, players regain ammunition or resources by moving. They can stockpile this up to a certain limit, but staying stationary for too long will limit combat efficiency of the player.
By balancing the requirement of pedaling, we are trying to create a suitable physical challenge for the players. Not too hard, but also not too easy. When we achieve this, and the games have sufficient immersion, the player will enter a state of flow where they stop thinking about what the body is doing and become fully immersed in the game itself.
To create this immersion, we are very consciously implementing the physical aspect mentioned above implicitly into the gameplay. This means that we will never directly ask or tell the player to move faster or slower. Instead we will create gameplay that creates this behavior. In Pedaltanks, when a player picks up the enemy flag and tries to take it home for a capture, and is being chased by several enemies, no one needs to tell this player to pedal faster.
Collapsing road in Helios
When you can hear the road collapsing behind you in Helios, after failing a few obstacles, you don't need a trainer to yell at you to go faster, you’ll want to go faster to reach the end and get your new high score. This does work the other way around as well. When you are approaching a difficult set of obstacles and the collapse is far away, you’ll want to slow down a bit, give yourself a better chance at hitting the timings to clear the obstacles and pick up the coins.
Another important concept for our games lies in easy to understand, yet depth in gameplay. People who are interested in Playpulse come with a wide range of game experience. Some have played games their entire life, others are just dipping their toes into this exciting pool of experiences. We want to accommodate for all ranges of previous experience, which means that in our games it must be easy to get started, yet they must have layers that can be explored for when players are ready for that. This is both for creating greater challenges within our games, and for increasing the replay value. In Pedaltanks, every player controls a tank, represented by a card within the game. In the beginning, these start out quite simple. The Puppy tank has a good amount of health and damage, and is a great tank for learning the basics of the game.
Cards in Pedaltanks
After some games, the Mammoth unlocks, now we are introduced to abilities such as Shield and Doubleshot. Later more tanks will unlock (such as the Snowfox), with more complex tanks being unlocked later when players have grown more familiar with the game. Cards can also occasionally “mutate” a tank, where the tank is altered in a special way. Such as this Snowfox that will slow down enemies when it hits them, but deals slightly lower damage as a tradeoff.
Cold Snowfox card
An important point to get across is that despite increasing complexity and options, later tanks are not better than what beginners get access to, they are just different. They offer new strategies for people wanting to explore these options or perhaps are a bit bored of playing with the same tanks over and over. As shown here, none of the later tanks have better health, speed, nor damage than the modest Puppy we all start out with.
This is a concept we strive to achieve in most, if not all, of our games. Easy to play, but hard to master. With optional complexity, never as a requirement to succeed, but there to explore for people who want more.
Creating these mechanics mentioned here (and more), as well as carefully balancing them, enables us to create games that not only are fun to play, but also become a really good workout for the user, without them even thinking about it!