Matthew Lawrence Christy
UXD/HCI Student / Game Designer

Albertus's Potion Quest

The story of the development of a "Match Three" / Puzzle Quest hybrid Video Game using Game Maker Studio 2

by: Group 2

DIGM-530-001 - Game Design I
Westphall College of Design, Drexel University

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Our group was tasked with making a video game. We had the following qualifications:

  • 2 (Graphic) Designers

  • 1 UX Designer

  • 1 UX Designer familiar with coding in C variants.

The First Two Weeks

During the first two weeks, the class was divided into two groups, and each group was tasked with looking at games to draw ideas from.

We decided early on that color should be apart of our game design. We looked at several well-established video games to draw inspiration:

  • Puzzle Platformer

  • Puzzle Dungeon Crawler

  • Puzzle Simulation

After discussing our ideas with the class, we were advised to keep ambitions low, as we were to develop a fully functioning video game in just eight weeks.

Week Three: The Pitch
Albertus's Potion Quest

The "Match 3"

We decided to create a game based on a Match 3 game mechanic. Popular titles in this game genre include Candy Crush and Bejeweled. We drew inspiration from a popular Match 3 puzzle title called Puzzle Quest 3. but we wanted to include a "mixing" component, similar to the game mechanic included in the table top game Potion Explosion.

Albertus's Potion Quest

Albertus's Potion Quest (APQ) was born...

We developed a small story for the game, thought about the game play, and also the specific game mechanics. We arranged them into a design document, and created a pitch presentation for the class. The game was met with positive reception, and also some ideas to simplify the overall design.

Playtesting

We decided that it was important to perform playtesting during every iteration of development, recruiting testers through posts on popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The posts included a link to an informed consent survey that testers had to agree to prior to receiving a copy (via download link) of the game to test.

Each iteration (Alpha, Beta, and Final), was sent to all testers who agreed to the informed consent, along with a follow-up survey to give feedback about their experiences of playing the game during each version.

Testers were not required to play the game nor provide feedback, and could opt out of being sent future versions by letting us know in the follow-up survey of each iteration as shown below.

The following prompts were given in each of the three surveys:

  • In your own words, please describe what you liked about the game:

  • In your own words, please describe what you did not like about the game:

  • In your own words, please describe any problems you had with the game. This can include observations about something that didn't work, something that didn't work as you expected, or anything you think was a "technical problem."

  • What, if anything, would you change about the difficulty of the game?

  • Please give us any other feedback, comments, questions, or concerns below:

  • Please let us know if you're interested in playtesting the next release of the game:

Week Four: Alpha Release
Albertus's Potion Quest

Settling on a Game Engine

Problem: Nobody in the group was a seasoned coder, and we needed a simple solution to help us along. Several game engines were considered:

  • Unity with Bolt

  • Godot

  • Game Maker Studio 2

Ultimately we settled on Game Maker Studio 2 (GMS2) as it was the easiest engine for beginner game developers. GMS2 utilizes Game Maker Language (GML), which is based off of aspects of C++, C# and JavaScript. It also includes a Visual Scripting component to help with coding, and allows developers to flip back and forth between views.

Creating the basics

After settling on GMS2, we had to develop the basics of the game mechanics:

  • "The Grid" - The core of the game where players "Match 3" (or more).

  • The Time - The level is completed by reducing enemy HP to zero before time runs out.

  • The HP - Both Albertus and his enemies have HP that should increase or decrease depending on what potion mechanic is performed.

  • The Mixing - The potion mixing mechanic for mixing potions for additional abilities.


We used placeholder graphics for the most part, as the only sprites created for the Alpha were the potions, skulls, and first level background. A Match 3 Video Tutorial was followed for creating grid foundation and mechanics. Time, HP, and potion mixing mechanics were developed and added by us. We decided on a classic pixel art graphic style for our game.

Very early game development:
Alpha Game Play:
Week Six: Beta Release
Albertus's Potion Quest

The Beta included the following updates:

  • Albertus's sprite received a redesign from the original concept.

  • Borders for the time bar, HP bar, and the grid were created to be more congruent with the look and feel of our game.

  • Second and third levels were designed including backgrounds and three new enemy sprites. Each level increases in difficulty.

  • Secondary background sprites were added for depth in all levels.

  • Sound effects and additional music were both added.

Beta Game Play:
Week Eight: Final Release
Albertus's Potion Quest

The Final Version included the following updates:

  • Game Intro Screen.

  • Two types of game play: Story Mode and Continuous Play.

  • In-game game instruction manual (How to Play).

  • Game Over screen.

  • Game Finished screen.

  • HP Adjustments for abilities, enemies, and Albertus.

Final Game Play:

Reflections:

APQ was a great idea and we think we have a solid foundation to a good game. The game concept and execution, despite having bugs, has a nice interaction and is easy to understand as you progress. There are a lot of changes that we could have added to make this a better game, both coding and artistic wise.

DOWNSIDES:

  • If the game included more and consistent animation and art styles it might feel more engaging.

  • We could not implement some thing that we imagined such as an Enemy AI, a more fine-tuned grid, and visual indications of damage dealt, as we did not have a strong enough development team.

  • Communication and time management within the team proved to be an issue.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE:

  • Adding more abilities and implementing indications of what's happening to Albertus and his enemies.

  • More realistic animation to essentially make players more invested in the game and the story.

  • Tackling the coding issues we faced with more knowledge of game development.

KNOWN ISSUES AND BUGS:

  • Swiping “too fast” will cause the game to crash. The grid has to perform its calculations before receiving the next match, so swipe, ensure the match runs, then wait for the grid to update (new potions fall) before swiping again.

  • The grid does not solve itself – meaning that if there is a match three in a horizonal or vertical position, it won’t solve until a new swipe is made.