1. Problem Space
How do we create an engaging multiplayer experience?
I joined the Street Typer team as project manager after the game had already went through its first iteration. From there, we had a lot of broad-level refining to do in order to define our scope and game experience.
I will go over two of our main hurdles and provide some details on each.
1. Refining the Game Experience. There were flaws in the original gameplay, so we needed to restructure how players strategically interacted with the keyboard and each other.
2. Defining the Visual Experience - We lacked a consistent creative direction, so we focused on building a backstory for an ASCII arcade world.
2. Refining the Game Experience
From a terminal-inspired idea to an ASCII fighting-style game.
The original video game concept was a "hacking" game imagined in the computer terminal setting, a two-player typing game based solely on typing speed. Players could type anything they wanted to in their box. The problem with this game experience was that players could exploit each typing match against their opponent by mashing keyboard buttons to win, which we noticed was happening a lot during our preliminary player tests.
We wanted to create an experience that was more strategic and exciting, but also unlike current typing racer games whose win condition relied completely on typing speed.
After brainstorming ways to translate the original game format, we settled on a "shared word bank" mechanic where players must choose specific words to type. This allowed for deliberate competition against the opponent when coming up with various word combinations.
Using the word bank, players dealt damage to each other by "creating" attacks through wordplay-- typing in descriptor words before an attack verb. For example, typing "BURNING PUNCH" would deal some damage to the opponent, but typing "BURNING BLISTERING PUNCH" would give the opponent even more damage. On the other end, in order to block an attack, the opponent would need to accurately type a random phrase that shows up on their screen, with phrases varying in difficulty based on the attack.
We went through a number of iterations to polish the game UI after transitioning to this gameplay style.
A more preliminary UI design.
One of many UI iterations exploring ways of positioning player mechanics and information.
A cleaner UI closer to the final product, with no distracting graphics.
3. Defining the Visual Experience
In our first round of play tests, we noticed a lack of world-building and art direction. We wanted to create a more engaging sense of battling your opponent instead of mindlessly key-smashing.
Looking towards '80s and '90s arcade battle games and terminal graphics and for creative inspiration, we explored possible pivots to using pixel art, 8-bit visuals, bitmapping, or dithering techniques to communicate our visual language instead. Specifically, we looked to define our two battle characters, the players of the game.
However, we still wanted a way to create ASCII-style art, and went through various unsuccessful iterations.
These iterations were oftentimes too uncommunicative to make sense of what the ASCII conveyed, or too simple in a way that made animating attack sequences difficult.
A breakthrough occurred when we found an image-to-ASCII converter (DeepAA by OsciiArt) that worked perfectly for our needs.
We were able to convey our character illustrations as ASCII-format animations after modifications in speed and linework. Putting the animations in our game helped achieve our goal of giving the player a visual sense that their typed text translated to attack and block interactions with each other.
Original illustration frames for Player 2's ultimate animation.
Final ASCII-style animation for the same ultimate sequence.
3. Branding and Marketing
Designing our project page and preparing for the showcase. Our game is available to play on Itch.io here
Lastly, we also developed a variey of media to define our branding and make our game accessible to anyone interested in playing it. This includes logo work, posters, cover art, key art, merchandise, and other deliverables.