Sector Chase Game Design
In the summer of 2012, I was approached by the fine folks over at DONE, LLC (no defunct) to see if I was interested in working with them to design and develop an iPhone game they had come up with (at the time called, 'The Grid') . Having never tried my hand at app design, I jumped at the opportunity to expand my skillset. The idea they presented was simple enough; take your basic pattern-repetition game (think of the 80's electronic game 'Simon') and add a bit more complexity. During the research phase of this project, they had discovered that most of the games in this genre presented the user with a 3x3 grid of squares in
which the pattern would be shown. The choice was made early on to increase this to a 5x5 grid, which would increase the level of difficulty dramatically. On top of this, they wanted to also reduce the amount of time the user was allotted for repeating the pattern as the game went on. Talk about a challenge! The design brief called for the complete design of everything from the user interface and gameplay screens to the game logo and app icon. They game me complete creative freedom to bring this game to life. So, with their idea in mind, I set out to see what I could whip up.
For this iteration, I wanted to explore something tactile. So, I opted for a grid of physical buttons and actual displays containing the information about your game session. I also wanted to go with something somewhat clean and futuristic. The overall layout is very much utilitarian and straight-forward; absent of any ornamentation that might serve to distract the user from the gameplay.
The user is shown a random pattern as the buttons illuminate in an aqua-blue color. The user will then try and repeat that pattern by pressing the buttons he/she believes were shown to them, in the proper sequence. If the user touches an incorrect button it illuminates red and plays an audio cue.
Whereas the first iteration is designed to appear completely tactile, this version would take the direct opposite approach. I wanted to portray something totally flat, lacking any dimension, and rely solely on shapes to convey all aspects of the gameplay and user interface.
The gameplay is exactly as described above, only this time the touched buttons are marked by the missing corners appearing in the bottom right. Once again, if the user presses a button incorrectly, the button illuminates red followed by an audio cue of some sort.
Having explored both something tactile and something two-dimensional in the previous iterations, it felt only natural to try a combination of the two with this final comp. The gameplay grid remains flat, while everything else appears completely physical. Also, while the first two designs were designed with cooler tones, this one would use primarily red.
As described in both comps above, the gameplay is the same. When the user presses the correct button, it is marked with a grey square. Upon an incorrect press, I wanted to have some sort of flashing of the interface rather than a change in color since I was already using lots of reds in this design.
After the initial comps were presented there were a number of discussions, but in the end the third design was picked. However, we had expanded on some previous ideas and developed new ones that would have to be incorporated into the final design. So, I went back to the drawing board and this was the end result. We ended up incorporating the HUD from the second design and the aqua-blue color as an accent color from the first design. All of this resulted in an excellent visual contrast between all the elements existing on the screen during gameplay.
We also worked together to develop an actual story for the game to follow; the premise being that an artificially intelligent computer (represented by the HAL9000-esque eye at the top) was trying to outsmart you by having you repeat increasingly difficult patterns on the grid below. I had even proposed that we have a gradual deconstruction of the UI (i.e. seams opening, wires showing, etc.), but that seemed a bit ambitious, so we settled on what we had. Now that the gameplay screen was complete, I moved onto logo design.
Since the overall concept for the game ended up being very futuristic, I knew right off the bat that I wanted the logo to reflect that. In my head I saw something clean and angular, with a hint of danger to it. I love to create letterforms from scratch, so I also knew that I wanted to make something custom. With these things in mind,
I got down to business creating a selection of iterations to present. I ended up developing 5 different ideas, some containing variations of their own. I felt I was onto something with a couple of them, but there was still a lot of work to be done. The comps below are what was presented during this round.
While all of the comps from the first round were well-received, only one could remain, and that was design number five. I received some interesting feedback on some of the angles and shapes in the letterforms (mainly that funky curve in the bottom of the lower 'S') and I was asked to continue to iterate to try and find a better balance for the logo as a whole. We were close, but I still had some work
to do before we'd finally have our logo. After some exploration, I ended up coming up with three different ideas. The solution, I found, was to incorporate the lower part of the 'S' with the crossbar of the 'A' which would loosen things up where they had been cramped before. After that, it was just a matter of finding the right letter-spacing and tweaking things to find that balance.
Out of the three ideas presented during the second round, version number four was the lucky winner. I took that design and focused on creating a style frame for how the logo would appear in the game itself. The obvious choice was to make it red, since that was the dominant color of the game. It also added to the menacing characteristic created by the sharp and angular letterforms. I also felt like adding
a slight 'scan-line' effect to it would create a bit of atmosphere. This atmosphere was also achieved through the use of particles surrounding the illumination. To date, this is probably my favorite logo of any I've ever designed. With the logo design finalized, I turned my attention to designing the app icon.
When trying to come up with ideas for the app icon that users would see on their home screens, it was important to make it as distinct and recognizable as possible. The first idea that came to mind was using just the 'eye' of our game's antagonist. Other ideas that followed incorporated the logo or the bits of the
game's interface. The logo options were tossed aside quickly due to illegibility at small sizes, and the UI was a bit too ambiguous. So, in the end we opted to go with the initial idea of showcasing just the 'eye'. I went back and fleshed out that design a bit more and ended up with the final design you see below.
I had a lot of fun working on this project and I want to thank JT Dimartile and Traver Phillips for entrusting me to bring their idea to life. I learned a lot during this process and I am forever grateful.
The video to the right is a nice little motion demo that Traver put together. It shows a really well-done motion concept for the game as well as a reimagined version of the logo.
Sadly, the game is no longer available in the App Store.