ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Scribbled Arena: Cross-platform Multiplayer Warfare with Casual Vibes

September 2, 2015 — by Industry Contributions


ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Scribbled Arena: Cross-platform Multiplayer Warfare with Casual Vibes

September 2, 2015 — by Industry Contributions

Make way for some sweet multiplayer addiction: Scribbled Arena in the house! – as told by Laxmi Khanolkar, CEO of Apar Games. She calls it a dream project for all of them at the company, The game is a unique cross-breed between adrenaline-pumping action and casual unwinding gameplay. If you’re a person who really digs upgrades like cooler ammunition and vehicles, you will definitely be spoilt for choices! Like to keep it simple and classic? Don’t worry, you will enjoy it too because it can be as easy-peasy lemon-squeezy as you’d want it. 

In a nutshell

Scribbled Arena is a cross-platform multiplayer warfare game where you perform combat actions in real-time battles.
In Scribbled Arena, you get to beat your friends by navigating in our quirky scribbles together, snatching trophies from right under their noses and running for your life towards the exit. And if you don’t make it through… well,  then slap that courage on, mate! There’s always another round to get your guns going!

From the love for playing together

At Apar Games, we have a thing for multiplayer games. If you’re here in our office when the clock strikes 6, you will know what we’re talking about. Deafening cheering and screams, people laughing at jokes nobody else knows anything about. Lads and lasses alike, everyone is so engaged in playing these multiplayer games that they won’t even realize you’re standing there and watching them!

The Apar Games team loves multiplayer games so much that they wouldn’t notice you if you stood behind them watching.

That’s the magic of multiplayer games — and that’s why all my game developers have always dreamt of creating a real-time multiplayer game at least once in their lifetime. So we decided to turn it into reality. To my surprise, within no time we had a game concept that everybody could enjoy, not just friends but even family members can play together. In short, it’s a ‘truly cross-promotional, casual, real-time, multiplayer game” (Phew! Can’t believe I actually managed to coin that term!)

Dream concept come true

“I’ve had this concept of ‘creating a maze-based game where 2 players have to compete inside a maze in real-time & find a hidden trophy’ in my head for a long time, actually. But I didn’t even think in my wildest dreams that it would get approved by my organization so quickly and then also manage to get transformed into a full-fledged game someday!” exclaims Aditya, our young and talented game developer.

Maze art in testing phase – 20×20 tile art asset

Choosing technology from the very beginning

“When Aditya presented his concept, we were all excited to explore it further and make it possible. So when he suggested the Starling/as3/AIR with SmartFoxServer, I made him do multiple tests to validate his decision. We were satisfied with the results, so finally agreed on this technology,” says Vishwajeet, our ever-diligent technical producer. To which, a beaming Aditya adds “I was so excited when not only my concept got approved but also the technology I proposed got accepted by my technical producer! Talk about a double whammy!”

A ‘truly cross-promotional, casual, real-time, multiplayer game” (Phew! Can’t believe I actually…Click To Tweet

The small screen problem

No process can go all hunky-dory. So when asked about the hurdles that we had to face while creating Scribbled Arena, Aditya mentioned a rather tricky one — “The small screen size of mobile devices made it difficult for the entire maze to be seen at once. The other player was also not visible most of the time, hence the whole experience of solving the maze with another opponent was left futile. Our objective was to have a battle between 2 players, which was very difficult in a maze-like arena, and the game was becoming more of a puzzle than an action game.”

Maze created with the tiles.

How did the development team solve it? Well, here’s what Aditya had to say, “We removed the whole maze solving idea & made our arenas more open, although we stuck to the trophy collection theme, which is available in the current build.”

Client-side engine

We chose Starling/as3/AIR as our client-side engine. For 2D games, it is a very fast way to develop, it has an active community and is cross-platform, which makes the multiplayer experience easy and efficient. Another reason for this choice is that Aditya, (the developer) just loves Flash (personally).

Server-side engine

We had 2 options: Adobe’s P2P RTMFP protocol, or SmartFox & Photon. We went for the latter, since we needed a server which could give us the power to write the server-side code. We also discovered that SmartFox’s documentation with as3 is very detailed, unlike that of Photon. While Adobe’s P2P RTMFP protocol was not available for commercial projects.

What’s with the Scribbled Look?

Dipson, our art director, explains, “Aditya had a clear vision of the art style he wanted, and was rather particular about it from the start. He wanted scribbled paper art to give this action-packed game a very approachable and casual touch. And voila! A stunning game that has received a lot of positive feedback regarding the art style. So, we think it definitely worked!”

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Optimized tile set.

But just good design is not enough. To make a good-looking game workable and viable, a lot of planning is required. Dipson continues, “The prime task was to fix a pipeline, while the question was, 2D or 3D. Reverse planning always helps to make your work pipeline smoother, hence the technical hurdles were addressed first. The vehicle rendering was continuously tested on a device for detailing and accuracy, and even small lines and stroke details weren’t overlooked.”

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Free-form element added for breaking the repetitive tile pattern.

Testing and the problems revealed

To achieve the accuracy, the queries that arise during the process have to be tested quickly, by making quick rendering and prototyping before they go in to art production.

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Animated tiles. It was a challenge: to make doodle art in a 20×20 tile.

Jibin, the game artist, shares how they overcame a hurdle that threw the whole team off track for a while – “After conducting all the possible tests, I confidently started making the artwork and wow, did we hit a wall! We realized that the tiles, when repeated, did not get ‘the doodle effect’ the way we envisioned it!
We went back to our drawing board and, after multiple tests and observations of the line, color, negative & positive spaces, the alpha levels and probability of tile-based software, the art style parameters were defined. And then, finally, after hours of tests and debates over “coffee” (we said “coffee” for the minor readers but you know what it actually is!), we froze on The Art Style.

Rendering the vehicle with different shading style like, stippling, cris-cross etc.

Aditya feels very strongly that in order to give the best experience to the players, elimination of multiplayer lag and the quality of the graphics rendering is of utmost importance. He says that he had set his benchmark as 60FPS on their base devices. This is why they eventually decided on using “Tiled” for level editing. Then, from a single spritesheet of tiles, they used a quadbatch to generate the maps.

In the end, Vishwajeet threw light on a rather unusual but legitimate problem that occurs while testing the product. He says, “In order to load test a multiplayer game you need to have a lot of active users online, which is a bit difficult for an indie company. So we developed an in-house load testing tool. It simulates the load on the server as if real players are playing the game.”

With a multiplayer game, the team faced some testing challenges.

Phew! That’s a lot of efforts put in by so many people. But all the late nights, red eye mornings and the “coffee” sessions seemed worth it to the Apar Games team when Scribbled Arena started receiving fantastic feedback and reviews starting right from its beta phase. It even got nominated for the ‘Best Multiplayer’ category at Indie Prize  Singapore 2015.

The team is now working on an iOS version of the game to be launched soon. Meanwhile, you can already play Scribbled Arena on Android. The game got greenlit on Steam already, so they plan to launch the PC version of the game early next year.  More upgrades and customization will be added as well. 



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