This is post #4 in the series “Designing New Mechanics”

Intro // Communication I // Communication II // Communication III

In the last post we went over the details of the unique mechanic of Color Balls, and the challenges in communicating it to players, namely:

  • Color Balls’ speed mechanic a bit similar to traditional racing powerups, but combines different types
  • The state of colors is relevant during all gameplay, and using it well is critical to winning/losing
  • The effects of player environment change constantly, and have multiple parts that need to be kept track of
  • The way colors mix, while “natural”, is unintuitive and takes time to process unassisted
  • The pace of the game requires split-second state evaluation despite the above challenges

These challenges meant that we couldn’t convey all the factors by leaning on conventional racing game UX/UI. In this post we’ll talk about the relevant information that needed to be presented, and how we addressed each of the challenges (hopefully) better with each iteration.

Note: The UI for the Color System described below is still in active development, so the final state may differ from whatever we describe here. Some of these may look familiar from our visual evolution post

Color System At-A-Glance Necessary Information

We needed to present maximum information as quickly as possible to a player with a single glance at any given time.

Over various internal and external tests, we arrived at this information priority list:

  • Colors Impact: Positive/negative effect of each of 7 colors given current ball color (we can assume white/none has no effect all the time to be intuitive)
  • Primary Levels: How much of each primary color is remaining
  • Change Threshold: How close the player is to losing current color
  • Critical Color: Which depleting T1 color is the limiting (critical) ingredient to maintaining current color
  • Next Color: Which color the ball will become after losing Critical Color or adding a new color

Iteration 1: Prototype

We pretty much just exposed the underlying numbers utilized by the color management system as text on the screen. What did you expect for a 2-week prototype?

The ‘ball color’ was visually reflected on, well, the ball color. However, this much was surprisingly unhelpful to keep track of the relevant information, even beyond our expectations. The ball color feedback immediately assisted with only 1/7 of Colors Impact. Turns out trying to look at 3 random floating point numbers labeled “C”/”M”/”Y”, all in white text in the corner of your screen and figure out the remaining 6/7 of Colors Impact gets ridiculously difficult. A more dedicated and UI became mandatory even for our internal testing.

Iteration 2: First Alpha

We created the first pass of a visual color meter. Additionally, the visual speed guage is also colored the current ball color, providing some redundant information. Despite somewhat simplistic implementation, it was a massive improvement. Now with a quick glance,

  • Colors Impact is up to 3/7 or 4/7 (if ball color is T2 or T3)
  • Primary Levels are clear

The information for Change Threshold and Critical Color exists in the UI, but isn’t immediately obvious at a glance

Note that in this iteration of the game design, you required to pick up a certain threshold of a T1 color before it was included in the ball color, i.e., changed its state for Colors Impact. This is why there were two layers to each primary color on the color meter. This requirement was since removed, and having any non-zero value adds the color to Colors Impact.

Iteration 3: Closed Alpha

// more redundancy, spinning for Change Threshold and Critical Color // Cons: spinning confusing

Iteration 4: First Beta

// Colors Impact up to 7/7 via level shader

Iteration 5: Onboarding Beta

// Next Color! - more complicated than expected, better Critical Color, Change Threshold

This is post #4 in the series “Designing New Mechanics”

Intro // Communication I // Communication II // Communication III

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Color Balls has been Greenlit on Steam. Thanks for your support!

Coming soon for PC and Mac