Alien Worlds Explorer - Game Post Mortem
Development on "Alien Worlds Explorer" began around September of 2011 and ended around July 2012. It was to be a toy/sandbox game app intended for tablets. Users would have been able mix and match a variety trees, rocks and skies and change the colours. Certain arrangements of scenery elements would trigger animals and insects to appear. All the scenes would have been animated; wind blown leaves and clouds, animals moving around, etc. Unfortunately, the coder had other obligations and could no longer work on the app. As I'm not a programmer, I was forced to halt development on the project.
 
Here for the first time is a complete overview of how the app developed.
Early Concepts
 
Alien Worlds Explorer (A.W.E.) was originally conceived of as a minigame for a 3d exploration/adventure game. I felt it was strong enough of a concept to be a stand-alone game. With the emerging market for tablets, it seemed a perfect fit for touch-based mobile gaming.
Very first set of prototype assets for testing early code.
World concept sketch. I wanted lots of colour but these early sketches were eye searing!
World concept sketch.
Flora concept sketch. Ah, that's easier on the retinas.
Flora concept sketch.
Early UI concept.
Another early concept for the help & settings screen.
Loading screen/transitions concepts. Influenced by the psychedelic blobs of colour often seen on computer sceens in old scifi movies.
Assets

Below are mockups using final assets that would have been available in the game. Also included is a timelapse of the creation of a set of assets.
Click to watch.
User Interface
 
The UI went through a few different iterations. I originally wanted rich, realistic textures but admittedly, it's an overwrought and confusing interface.
Main screen.
Options screen.
The original settings panel was a big dense block that covered up half the screen and wasn't contextual.
I then tried splitting the individual settings into separate dialogue box...
...but that was still less than ideal. It was clear this wasn't going to work.
Revised UI
 
I decided to completely rethink the entire UI and simplify it's styling. The new design shifted the focus from the UI widgets and chrome to what the user should be looking at, the actual game.
Main screen.
World and scenery settings would appear in expandable menus on the left or right side of the screen, depending on where the user touched and what element and it's position. This was to give the user the best, least obstructed view of the scene from sky to ground. The menus are also contextual depending on what the user clicks on.
New improved scene control. Contextual; easy to use; out of the way. Note the expandable/collapsible pallettes.
Tree controls. It was important that button and sliders were large enough for even large fingers.
Scenery elements were to be outlined to make it easier to identify which element was selected for editing.
Save screen.
Screenshot screen.
Screenshot zoom browsing.
I originally thought that icons alone for the menus would make localisation easier. On further consideration, I realised that the icons alone wouldn't necessarily convey what they were for so I added an option to turn on text. This option would likely have been the default.
Settings screen.
Early Alpha Video
 
There's a very short snippet of video from the first alpha in this first development video. The video after that includes a much longer demonstration of the second alpha.
Animation
 
The following are videos I created in Adobe After Effects to demonstrate how animation and particle effects should look in the game engine.
Demonstration of wind, cloud and particle effects.
Demonstration of a spaceship's movement and particle effects.
Demonstration of a meteor shower effect.
Final Thoughts
 
I put a lot of thought and work into "Alien Worlds Explorer". While I'm glad to finally show it, I'm also sad that it will never be released. It would be easy to be disheartened by this experience but I choose to think of it as an invaluable learning experience. And you can't learn without failure.
Alien Worlds Explorer - Game Post Mortem
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Alien Worlds Explorer - Game Post Mortem

Alien Worlds Explorer was a 2d scifi landscape creation sandbox game for iPad.
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Published: