Thursday, September 4, 2014

Particle Strain: Another Family Project

We had so much fun with our first family project that we decided to do one more before the end of the summer.  The kids -- if I may use that term to describe two awesome young men in high school -- decided it would be fun to do a software project as a family; a game, to be exact.

It's been a long time since mom and dad have worked on a game, so it sounded like fun to us. We did add one stipulation, however: it would have to be done in two weeks and at the end of those two weeks we had to have a complete, finished game that could be accepted into the various app stores.

The kids' response?  Challenge accepted.

Particle Strain title screen.
Two weeks to make a technology decision, design and program a game (along with all of the various art and sound assets) made for an interesting constraint. We were also constrained by the fact that we're programmers first and foremost, with not a lot of artistic or musical ability among us.  This definitely shaped the type of game we could make.

Me not doing so well at the whole "make patterns" thing.
We eventually settled on a action/puzzle game where the player flies through wormholes collecting particles to make patterns on the screen.  Pretty much everything in the game such as levels, textures, and effects are procedurally generated.  We ultimately decided on Unity3D as a technology framework, mainly for its built-in asset pipeline and its ability to target a variety of mobile platforms.  This also gave us the chance to shake the rust off of our C# skills.

And don't forget about all those little things like app stores, code signing, and even a little website to go along with it.  All in all we had a really great time doing this project.  We even met our programming deadline with 20 minutes to spare, getting the last bug fix in at 11:40 PM on the last day.

As of yesterday, Apple finally approved Particle Strain for the iTunes store.  It is now available as a free download in all of the usual places: iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.  There is a big difference between writing code and developing a complete, finished product.  I'm glad we were able to help the kids experience it, even if in a small way.

If you end up trying out Particle Strain, we hope you enjoy our little game.  I, for one, can't wait to figure out what our next project will be!

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