Ninjas Don’t Like Trains (Android, 2012)

Ninjas Don’t Like Trains (Android)

Time-frame of project: Fall 2011 – Spring 2012

Project status: complete

Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.NDLT

Gameplay Footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GUzAqHyQ-s

Site: http://vgdev.org/games/

Role: Lead Designer and Producer

About:

Ninjas Don’t Like Trains is an action game for Android phones. I led a team through the student-club VGDev to complete it over the course of 2 semesters. I started the project by myself in my spare time over the summer of 2011, and pitched it at the club in the beginning of the fall semester and a group was formed that has been working on it ever since. We reached our first target prototype at the end of the fall semester semester, and in the spring semester continued work. We released the game on the Google Play market at the end of the spring semester 2012 and currently the game has over 20,000 downloads.

The basic idea of the game is that the player controls a character by making different swipes across the screen, which the character follows. The player-character is constantly dashing left and right trying to hit different targets that go across the screen, essentially creating a mix of precision and timing gameplay as seen in Fruit Ninja in a format of progression and problem-solving similar to Zuma. Originally I wanted to use an abstract art-style and theme, but it became clear that by giving the game a theme (albeit quite outlandish), the gameplay becomes much easier to understand for newcomers. Soon after a theme of trains and train tracks seemed to fit quite nicely into the gameplay, and we chose a ninja as the player character because there’s just a nice resonance of swiping across the screen and seeing a ninja pull out a sword.

This game offered me the opportunity to really get down into the nitty-gritty of game design. I designed all five enemy types and tweaked all of their variables throughout the design process (health, speed, hitbox size, etc). I was also the sole level designer and constantly iterated level designs based off of playtesting (such as seeing which sort of train combinations were too challenging or not challenging enough, figuring out how quickly the difficulty need to be increased over the levels, etc). Doing the level design for this game was probably the most fun I’ve ever had while working on a game before. I also had to make a lot of sound and art decisions for the game, making sure that important gameplay concepts came through in the look and sounds of the game (such as weak-points on enemies or having the player flash white when hurt).

As the project lead, I was not only responsible for essentially all design decisions, but I also organized five different team members through the project (which is still ongoing). This project has shown me a lot about making compromises to make everyone making the game happy as well as learning how to work around people’s shortcomings and fully utilize their strengths. This game has so far been the best realization of any game idea I’ve had, and I’m extremely proud of the game that we put on the market.

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