Looking Back At Curve Ball
The idea behind Curve Ball was to make an arcade game that would feel like your are blasting through the levels with immense force, breaking stuff in your way and playing with gravity.
I started with the basic game, a bouncing ball and solid objects to bounce against. Pretty soon I had a level and it already felt like a lot of fun. The idea evolved into shooting a ball from canon to canon, so I had cannons, a ball and a goal to reach. So far so good.
The art still sucked though, so I made my first iteration in that department, ending on this:
Then I added more variation. I needed lots of levels so it was the logical thing to do. I added:
- Objects to collect that are worth points when you collect them
- More valuable objects that are worth more points when you collect them
- Objects that slowed down your ball
- Breakable objects that when hit would break seconds later
This made the game more fun, but I forgot to focus on what was most important: the core gameplay. All the variations worked, but the cannons were rotating at a super slow speed making the game super boring. So I fixed that, tweaking it until it felt like you still had time to aim / time your shots and that it would not take too long for the canon to go around an entire circle before you could try again.
For the next iteration I focused yet again on the art, that still looked like shit.
I decided on a theme: “gold jewelry”, which in hindsight wasn’t really a fun theme, but I wanted to make it expensive. So after hours of looking for references and photo-shopping, this was the result:
I was quite pleased with the result and accepted that this was the best I could do without an artist. Later, Rick O’ Shea would prove the value of an artist many times over.
So I let friends play the game and tweaked the levels accordingly, but something still felt off. They were not getting excited while playing and the rotation of the cannons was still super annoying. Whether I set them slower or faster made no difference, it just changed the problem from going too slow to too fast.
Then I showed the game to one of my fellow students at the time called Toby Hazes. He took a long hard look and then suggested I changed the starting angle of the cannons so they would already almost aim in the right angle when you would enter them. This was a brilliant idea and when implemented it improved the game tremendously. What held me back from seeing this solution was the notion that part of the fun was the timing, but this actually put more emphasis on the timing than before. Instead of continuously being slowed down, missing a shot and having to wait was now the players fault.
Now there was rhythm in the game and if you were really good, you could play it super fast, blasting through the level with immense force breaking stuff in your way and playing with gravity.
Curve Ball was born, and 24 levels later I felt like I had produced a great game. Even though this game would later turn into the far greater game Rick O’ Shea that had actual commercial value, I still think Curve Ball has a charm to it. It showcases my early days in game design and development and even though it did not make a penny, the game had taught me a lot and it was something that was truly mine and fun!