Monday, October 30, 2006

Steal This Game Design: Balls!


All kidding and insinuating puns aside, Balls! is a cross between pool or billiards and games like Marble Madness, Marble Blast Ultra and Super Monkey Ball. It's essentially like playing pool in environments that look more like Marble Blast levels.

You start with a special cue ball, and a queue stick, similar to those used in pool, and there are other balls of varying colors and materials lying around the level. The goal is to find the best way to hit the cue ball so that most or all the balls in the level hit a goal (some levels can have more than one goal.)

There are two ways to play.

The first one is called Trick Shot: in this mode, you only get one hit on the cue ball, and you only win if you complete the level's goal (get a certain number of colored balls into their goals.) If you don't succeed at completing the objective, the level is reset, and you try again from the beginning.

The second mode is called Elimination: in this mode, you have to get all the balls to go into their goals, in as few hits of the cue ball as possible. Some levels may be completed in one hit, but doing so is extremely difficult to do and will be a rare occurrence.

Unlike most Marble Madness/Marble Blast/Monkey Ball levels, Balls levels will have fewer "drops into oblivion". Most platforms, ramps and floors will have borders, so that balls will generally have to jump for some reason before going overboard. When a ball goes over or drops off the level, the level is reset to how it was laid out before the cue ball was last struck. The exception to this is the cue ball: if the cue ball falls off or out, it is placed back at its starting point, and two "strokes" are added to the player's score.

After the first few levels in each mode, each level will have a special gimmick, somewhat like minigolf holes (windmills, merry-go-rounds, moving platforms, other gimmicks reminescent of games such as "The Incredible Machine")

As mentioned above, balls can have different colors and be made of differing materials:
  • plastic (like the plastic used in real pool balls) is the default type of ball. It doesn't break, has average speed and average weight.
  • metal (looks like a shiny ball bearing) is unbreakable, but heavier (might break through some surfaces (glass, ice) if the hit happens at a high enough speed. Its extra weight also means that it can go a little faster than plastic, but is harder to stop or redirect.
  • glass (looks like a glass marble) is breakable, so be careful not to drop these from too high, unless falling on a soft surface, as that would break the ball and require restarting the level. Average speed and weight.
  • rubber (a solid rubber ball, made from the same stuff as a hockey puck) tends to bounce a lot more (except on soft surfaces), is unbreakable and of a lighter weight, which causes it to have less speed.
The balls end up moving on varying surface types:
  • Pool Table felt: glass balls need to have twice as much momentum to break on this surface than on hard wood. Rubber bounces half as high on this. One of the two most-common surfaces.
  • Hard Wood: the other common surface, this basically feels like the most "normal" surface.
  • Glass: glass can be broken through with metal balls if the balls are moving (or falling) fast enough. A little more slippery than hard wood.
  • Ice: the most slippery surface, and also breakable when not thick (the difference is always obvious: breakable ice will always be clearly thin, while unbreakable ice will be made out of big, massive blocks of ice that are obviously very thick.
  • Foam: thick foam like that used for mattresses and such. Not very bouncy, it visibly compresses when a ball hits it with enough momentum, and most of that momentum is absorbed. Balls also slow down a lot when rolling on this surface. This surface is usually used to "catch" falling balls or as traps to stop balls from moving on some levels.
As the levels become more involved, their "solutions" should get more puzzle-like, but ideally, there should be more than one precise way to complete each level (especially if special bonuses are hidden in the levels, for instance.)

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