Paint Pop

I have never created a game before, so this was fun. I also enjoy puzzle games, and I thought back to the Princess Diaries where they popped the paint balloons with darts. Then I thought, "What if an artist came up with a way to make a whole portfolio using just paint balloons and darts?" That's basically where my idea came from. I thought it would be a fun way to do a puzzle while also being colorful. For how I made all of the pieces here, all of the graphic items were created in Photoshop using a Wacom Tablet, and then all text pieces were written in Word or InDesign depending on what I was working on. The moodboard was also put together in InDesign.

Introduction
A young, struggling artist loses all of her artwork in an unfortunate accident and needs help redoing all of it before her gallery exhibit opens in a week.
 
Background
The struggling artist, Laurelle, is a recent graduate from college with a studio art degree. While in school, she focused on a painting concentration within her major, but quickly found that she wasn’t too fond of the traditional use of a brush and strokes of paint when it came to that particular medium. She was so opposed to it that it almost convinced her to change her concentration or even her major. It was only when she talked to her father, who is somewhat of a self-proclaimed inventor, did she decide to stay where she was. He told her that if the way they were painting didn’t fit for her, she could mold it around so that it did. Because of her father, she wasn’t deterred from painting and instead, became more creative with her medium of choice.
 
After many experiments (most of them failures), she realized that exploding paint balloons on a canvas could make an interesting composition if they landed properly. However, since precision was necessary, her first tries with just throwing the balloons were complete and utter disasters (not to mention the fact that throwing a balloon full of paint onto a canvas created a completely different effect than what she was looking for, and it was just messy). Laurelle found that if she taped the paint balloon onto the canvas and then threw darts, the precision and effect she was looking for would be accomplished.
 
Throughout her college years, Laurelle continued painting with this technique, trying to perfect it in her own way, and by the time she graduated, she was very pleased with the portfolio she had created. It may not have been a perfect portfolio, but it still showed her personality and she was proud of how much she had accomplished in four years.
 
That being said, it was, of course, still difficult to book her own show in a gallery. After a little while and some hard work, however, she was able to book one for a month. This gave her enough time to put finishing touches on her paint balloon show, and add a couple of new compositions so that everything would be perfect.
 
Unfortunately, however, one week before her show was set to open, a fire from an unknown source ruined all of her artwork and she was left with nothing. Months and months of hard work was now lost, and Laurelle was in a state of deep despair. In a last attempt to save her show and her reputation, she called upon a friend to help her recreate all of her pieces in the week left before the show. Time was quickly running out, but she was confident that with their help, she would be able to scrap together a worthy exhibit in time.
 
Description
Laurelle booked a gallery a month before a freak fire accident ruined all of her exhibit pieces. Because of this, you will need to assist her in recreating all of the artwork using paint balloons, darts, and her instructions. Laurelle will give you an example of what the finished piece should look like and you will need to follow that to the letter. She will help you out in the beginning by giving you the color that she wants you to explode with your dart at any given time. Your job will be to take the color she is holding up and choose the balloon with the right color and orientation to complete the final composition that she wants. For example, if Laurelle wants you to make a flower with a yellow center, when she holds up the yellow color for you to explode with your dart, you would have to choose the yellow in the center instead of a yellow that would be by the edge of the canvas. While you gain experience, there may also be compositions where the same color appears twice and you have to decide which one would have been applied first (if a red on the left is layered with a yellow and then another red on the right, the red on the left would be below the two other colors, and therefore would need to be applied first).
 
However, keep in mind that you need to hurry! The gallery opens in one short week. You will have a certain amount of time to finish each piece of artwork, and if you mess up, you have to start over with the time still counting down. If you can’t finish it before the time runs out, you will be fired, and Laurelle will be forced to find someone else to help her with her art.
 
Also, Laurelle won’t always be around to help you – she has to continue working on her art as well. Once you start getting the hang of things, she will just be giving you the finished example without telling you what order the colors should be coming in. There are also, unfortunately, some pieces that were in the fire that she doesn’t have a picture of so you will have to attempt to piece it back together from a somewhat crispy example.
 
Don’t fret, however, as there are bonus items you can gain along the way to help you out! Every once in a while, you will gain enough points to be admitted to a bonus level that will, at the end, give you a certain amount of bonus hints, time freezes, and time adds based on how well you did in the level.
 
As for basic game functionalities, the level ends and the time stops when you pop the final balloon that will make the composition complete. At the end of each level, points are acquired, and the amount you receive depends on how much time is left on the clock. Penalties are taken from your score for each wrong move or if you use a bonus hint (Laurelle doesn’t have all the time in the world to always help you out). That being said, bonus hint penalties are still much less than penalties earned from failures.
 
Also, while the composition you’re working toward disappears at the beginning, you will be able to click an icon on the screen that will allow you to look at it again. The time will still be counting down, however, so you can’t stare at it for too long. A pause button will also be present on the screen so that you can stop your game in the case that you need to leave and do something else.
 
Features
Unlike some puzzle games, Paint Pop will have a few bonus rounds that allow you to go crazy with the paint balloons and darts while also racking up some bonus hints, time freezes, or time adds that you can use in future levels. Bonus hints, if you use them while playing, will tell you what color should be popped next for the composition to work – or if you’re really struggling, it will show you which balloon on the canvas is next so you can move on (this particular hint will detract a larger amount from your total score at the end, however). Time freezes and adds, on the other hand, either freeze the clock at the time it’s at for five seconds or adds seven seconds to the clock time (respectively). These bonus rounds only come around once you have gained enough points from the levels you have completed.
 
Also, because this game relies on exploding paint balloons, the vibrant atmosphere and colors of the paint will add to the fun of the game. Each pop of the balloon will have an exciting paint splash before it settles into place on the canvas and allows you to throw a dart at the next balloon. There will also be a great application of sound design that will help bring the game to life. The darts, paint balloons, failures, bonus items, and clock will all have a unique sound that will add to the music already in the background. It will be fun to watch the paint splatter while also being wary to the daunting sounds of failures squelched out at you while the clock is ticking down.
 
Another feature of Paint Pop is that while the basic controls are easy to understand, each level becomes more difficult to complete, so that once you’re comfortable with the difficulty you’re at, something is added to make it more challenging. Levels are made more challenging by decreasing the amount of help given by Laurelle, creating more difficult compositions, giving only partially visible pieces, and giving you less time to work with. This way, the game becomes an engaging activity that will never make you bored.
 
That being said, even though the difficulty level will increase, because of the time limit each level of Paint Pop is short so you will never be playing for an extremely long period of time. Every level is fast, challenging, and fun.
 
Each level will also save your high score so you will be able to go back to previous levels and play them again. This allows you to test yourself on something you’ve already done as well as attempt to gain a few extra points toward another bonus round by beating your previous score. Only the points that made it higher than your previous score will be counted toward another bonus round, however (the difference between your new high score and your old high score would be added toward a bonus round).
 
Genre
Because of how Paint Pop is set up, this will be a game in the puzzle genre, where the screen will show you one level at a time. Once you finish the level, the next one will be presented, but only once you finish the previous level successfully. Because it is a puzzle, each level will also be made progressively more difficult to complete. They will begin with a simple introductory level to get a hang of things, and then progress through the stages of difficulty. These difficulty stages include getting help from Laurelle, more complicated compositions, receiving no help from Laurelle, less time, and partially visible finished pieces.
 
 Once you finish a level, you are also allowed to go back and redo it if you want less failures and a better time. Each previous level remains the same so there are no unexpected surprises to encounter if you go back and play them again.
 
The bonus rounds in Paint Pop are their own kind of puzzle, completely different from the puzzles of the normal levels. In bonus rounds, you have to figure out which balloons have each of the bonus items by exploding as many balloons as you can. There are no clues as to which balloon has which item, however. These rounds give the player a little bit of a break, but remember that they only come around once you’ve reached a certain number of points.
 
Platforms
As for the platform this game will be played on, it will be made primarily for mobile devices – either from the Apple store or on the Android market. Paint Pop needs a swipe function where your finger drags from a dart at the bottom of the screen to the balloon you want to pop, so it is ideal for any touchscreen device that can download apps (since Paint Pop will be an app for these particular platforms). Also, since this is a game with short levels, it would be convenient if you could carry it with you wherever you went. This way, you can open it up, play a level, and be done if you have only a few moments of down time.
 
That being said, however, this game can also be played on a computer, since, in place of a swipe, the game could be functional using a simple mouse click to choose the balloon you’re intending to break open. Unlike the app version of the game, however, if it were played on the computer, it would be a game you can only play on the Internet. Everything else about the game would be the same, just the mouse click and platform would be different.
 
The only platform it really wouldn’t work for is a console like the Xbox or Playstation. It would take too much time to move around the joystick so that you could pick which balloon you wanted to pop next. Paint Pop could technically work as a console game, but it wouldn’t be as exciting and would take too much time to boot up for a game that you can play in short spurts. As stated before, a mobile device or even a computer would be a much better fit for a game like Paint Pop.
Paper test showing final composition that the player would be working toward.
The rest of the paper test, where functionality is possible. Drag the dart up to the balloon to "pop" it and then peel off the balloon to show the splatter behind.
Paper Test Feedback and Responses
The first piece of feedback I received - and probably one of the most important ones - was that, for color blind people, it was a bit difficult to tell which color is which on the board, which in turn makes it more difficult to play the game.This was pointed out by Charlie Volz, who is color blind, and couldn’t tell the difference between the blue balloon and the purple balloon. I definitely believe that this is an issue that should be addressed, so I looked up a couple of articles on color-blindess with games as well as a color-blindness simulator because I wasn’t entirely sure what Charlie was seeing when he saw my paper test. What I saw when I entered in my color palette (looking at red- and green- color blindess, which are most common) was that all of the other colors were different shades of yellow while the blue and purple were pretty much the same hue. The richer colors in my palette showed a little more of a differentiation, but it’s hard to tell how easily those who have lived with color blindness their whole life will be able to tell each color apart without their direct help. However, another thing that I learned that may help with this problem is if each color of balloon had a specific pattern on it to differentiate it from the others. It’s an interesting dilemma for me to have to think about, but I think that it is necessary since this is a color-based game.
 
Another issue that was brought up by Ian Karlovsky was about how difficult it may be sometimes to figure out which color comes first in the sequence when the color hints are taken away. For instance, in the first level, it’s not clear as to whether the green balloon or the red balloon would be popped first since they’re not touching each other. It is somewhat easy to see that the blue, orange, purple, and yellow are on top of the red and green splatters, but as the red and green colors aren’t overlapping and they are both below the rest, it is a bit difficult to gauge which one comes first. In hindsight, I definitely could have created the level better so that it was easier to tell, but Ian also brought up an idea where I could make it so that the player could pop either the green or red balloon first without penalty since both would technically work. However, I could also make it so that when the composition is shown at the very beginning, it quickly goes through the order by putting the paint splats on one at a time, and then you would have to remember this order (especially if the cards aren’t helping you when you’re actually playing) because it won’t happen again during that level.
 
Other than these two points, other things that were mentioned were to make sure the freeze and add times were limited, and to keep in mind the difficulty of the levels so that the user remains interested in playing the game.
The level screen. You have to play the levels in order, but the green dot shows which levels you have completed. You can go back and replay levels with a green dot.
A revised version of level one. The hint, add time, and freeze time buttons are faded out so the user knows they can't be used. Also, some colors have a pattern so that they are more easily differentiable for color blind people.
An example of a bonus level. The goal is to pop as many balloons as possible in a given amount of time. You can receive bonus items in these rounds, as shown above. By popping that orange balloon, the user received a freeze time bonus item, as shown by the button flashing once and the number going up from 0 to 1.
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