​Mid-mortem "Combo Critters"

We're now working on Combo Critters - definitely our most challenging project until now. Early December, one of our team members came up with the following prototype:

It's about making right combinations to get new creatures and surviving waves of enemies. We had a lot of fun playing this prototype, especially the part about combining monsters, so we decided to make it a full project after the release of Sky Chasers. 

Unfortunately, during development we noticed that people were not enjoying the first versions of Combo Critters as much as we hoped for. Looking backwards we believe we made the following mistakes:

Version 1: too unpredictable

We started with a grid screen where you were able to combine monsters. 

 
 

Once ready, it's time to go to battle:

Why did this version not work:

  • The grid screen led to confusion among players and observers. Observers thought this was a match-3 or puzzle game. Players didn't know why they needed to combine, when to stop combining, and what they were preparing for. 
  • On the battlefield players were tapping on the monsters expecting something to happen. 
  • Both grid screen and battle screen feel unpredictable and too passive.  

Version 2: too much grid

To solve above problems and get more live action into the game we integrated both battlefield and the grid in one screen:

 
 

There's a timer which gives you a new egg. Tapping the egg hatches you a new monster. After combining monsters, you need to tap to hatch faster. We also added bases as a goal to defend and defeat. 

Why did this version not work:

  • Players were too focused on the grid screen and don't see what's happening on the battlefield (admitting we humans can't do two things at a time). 
  • There's a limited amount of time to combine monsters since enemies are moving towards your base - combining should be fun instead of stressful. 
  • Initially we wanted to create a game where exploring, combining and collecting needed to be a central part of the game loop. 

version 2.5 even more grid

As a last trial we added an automatic coin system, expecting it to be more fun. We've seen this system before in games like Battle Cats and Metal Slug Defense:

 
 

Do you see it didn't solve the initial problem of being too focused on the grid screen? The grid screen seems even more hectic than before. 

At that time we were 6 weeks in development and made the tough decision to start completely over. This time we needed to concentrate on exploring, combining and collecting of the monsters. 

version 3 - currently in progress

Having the RPG genre in the back of our mind, we figured exploration obviously happens in 'mode7':

In progress: still needs to be integrated 

In progress: still needs to be integrated 

Explore planets and once you discover monsters, it's time to attack & collect:

 
 

Upgrade your collected monsters by combining them (currently in a separate screen): 

 
 

We play tested this version during #GDC16 and noticed that people are liking this version a lot. Finally, we're heading into the right direction! 

 
 

If you want to beta test Combo Critters, please join here: http://goo.gl/forms/uiLD6Mr1cc

Follow us on Twitter to keep updated: @luckykatstudios

Thanks! 

Best, Herdjie