TEAM

  • Eunice Lim - design, code, art, producer

  • Ernes Railey - design, code, art, sound

  • Yitong Hu - design, code

  • Zac Emerzian - design, code

MY RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Lead a team of four and guided overall creative direction.

  • Designed the debt system, event system and UI.

  • Scripted event and spawn mechanics.

  • Managed production schedules.

  • Created 2D clothing art.

Game Jam:
CatWalk

Survive the cat modeling industry. It's not all rainbow and sunshine, you have to a debt to pay.

Created in 100h for ExtraCredits Game Jam 2019. We are continuing to work on the game and bringing it beyond GameJam!

I wanted to express the brutal reality of the modelling industry through the game's vicious debt system. CatWalk is a cute face with a heavy message. Much like how models are lead glamorous lives on the surface, but actually can't make ends meet.

GENRE

Memory, Business Simulation

GAME ENGINE

Unity, C#

POST-MORTEM

​​What went wrong

  • Feature creep

  • Not planning the code with the team - My mistake cost us some precious time refactoring on the last day, although everyone was very good natured about it.

  • Letting tasks run overtime

  • Pitching a business plan to create a common vision - instead of unifying the team, posing long-term ideals actually stumped their creative juices.
     

What went right

  • Prototyping using Powerpoint

  • Playtesting a powerpoint UI mockup - Everyone was able to explain the game just by looking at the mock-up, freeing us to work on other things.

  • Explaining and asking 'Why' - it really improved understanding, teamwork and morale.

  • Prioritizing Nice-to-Have VS must-have

MANAGING THE TEAM AS A LEADER

I spent a majority of time during the 100h managing the team, guiding the design and ensuring we were on-time.

  • Created a timeline and projected it on a large screen

    • Communicated a clear, quantifiable Goal and Scope: "7 really fun cat days"

    • Enabled work to be done in parallel

    • Set content lock cut-off

  • Asked teammates to write their current task on a whiteboard + their time estimate

    • Creates accountability​

    • Empowers them

    • Since they have to walk to the whiteboard, the entire team is aware of the change (compared to trello)

    • Allows me to immediately rearrange tasks and priorities

  • Asked teammates to draw a star whenever they finished a task​​

    • Ensure visual clarity on progression​
    • Extrinsic "feel-good" dopamine motivation​​
    • Walking to the whiteboard also forces them to take a short break

DESIGN CHALLENGE: WHERE TO PLACE GOLD OWED?

Debt System:

At first, the team suggested grouping all gold-related numbers together (image above). I can see where they're coming from, but after I explained my reasoning, the team agreed to this design (image below) instead.


 

I felt clear communication of our unique Debt System took precedence over reducing the player's eye travel distance. Using proximity, I presented the information as a Quest instead, choosing to present gold owed as a quest objective on the timeline.

Overall, I grouped the UX according to Gameplay features.

  • Player - avatar, gold owned

  • Debt (Quest) - money required, time limit, current day

  • Shop - shop icon, inventory icon

I based time bar's design itself off food delivery feedback bars, leveraging on existing biases.

To confirm my hypothesis, I ran playtests using this powerpoint mockup about 10h into the Game Jam. I asked users to tell me what they thought the game is about just from this UI screenshot. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone explained our game back to me with 90% accuracy!

DESIGN CHALLENGE: PROGRESSION & ECONOMY

I designed the first seven in-game days to be an invisible tutorial by balancing the numbers to be very forgiving.

The player needs to complete at least one job to clear the first week. This means that players have a lot of breathing room to make mistakes, more purchasing power to buy outfits to try them out, and more time to go for parties (to gather hints) instead of jobs (to get more gold). I wanted to encourage them to go to more parties because they will need to collect hints, discover styles and unlock more jobs. Information gathering is key to successfully managing the rest of the weeks.

By trial and error, I'm expecting the player to realize:

  • Buying clothes costs gold

  • Wearing different clothes gives different results

  • Jobs give you gold

  • Jobs and parties cost time

Also, since player investment is relatively low with these numbers (in terms of clothing owned, coins owned), restarting isn't punishing at all. This gives CatWalk a rouge-like style.

After the first week, the debt spikes exponentially.

  • Week 1: 20 gold

  • Week 2: 80 gold

  • Week 3: 150 gold

  • Week 4: 250 gold

Although the player is allowed to make many mistakes to pass the first weeks, if they do not fully understand all the mechanics, they cannot pass the second week. Passing the third week requires them to also have some sort of strategy. To pass the final week, they have to make nearly no mistakes. The numbers are designed to give the player a feeling of extreme struggle.

Second week teaches:

  • Parties give you important hints

  • Parties give you more jobs

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© 2023 by Sasha Blake. Proudly created with Wix.com

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