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Boj Smoothies

A Boj smoothie-making game for kids.

Winner of 3 BAFTA Cymru Games Commendations for Gameplay Design, Artistic Achievement and Sound and Music 2016.

We were commissioned by Pesky Productions to create Boj Smoothies as part of our official Boj app series. Tying into the animated preschool television series and its themes of creation and imagination, players of the game help Boj the bilby make smoothies to order using upcycled blenders.

Ensuring the gameplay was as entertaining and rewarding as possible was our main aim, so we included plenty of animation, sounds, music and unlockable bonus content in the game, plus specially recorded dialogue from the official Boj voice cast. The main game is also complemented with three mini games: Boj Says, where the player listens to Boj’s instructions and identifies the correct ingredients by type, colour or pattern; Twitchlet Frenzy, where the player must feed as many hungry baby Twitchlets as possible before the timer runs out; and Mega Smoothie, where the player adds more and more ingredients into the blender to make the biggest smoothie ever.

Boj Smoothies is designed to have an educational factor too; during the game, players follow patterns, identify colours, test their memory skills and reactions, as well as learning about a broad range of healthy ingredients and different recipe combinations.

Design

After finishing Boj Digs, we wanted to go in a completely new direction with our next app, making it bigger and more adventurous by including Boj and all his friends from the show. The basic game mechanic for Boj Smoothies is a memory management game, where you play as Boj to make and serve custom-ordered smoothies for his friends, the customers.

As the game progresses, the challenges for the player increase in number, and also in difficulty.

First the player is introduced to simply selecting and dragging the correct ingredients, then introduced to dealing with more customers at once, and finally introduced to customer orders disappearing from the screen, so that the player has to purely rely on their memory. Another level of difficulty is added in later levels by altering the ingredient selector to become a conveyor belt, so players have to wait for the needed ingredient to show up before they can add it to the blender.

To encourage players to keep progressing through the levels, we designed a series of unlocks, ranging from parts for Boj’s blender which the player could customise, to mini breakout games – Twitchlet Frenzy, Boj Says and Mega Smoothie. The customisable blender plays an important role in the game as it changes the engine, and therefore the way the user can blend ingredients together: bellows (player slides a slider up and down), bike (player taps a button) and motor (player presses and holds).

Development

Using Unity3D to create Boj Smoothies allowed us to easily edit and balance the game. Making full use of Unity’s masking features, the blender had to be a mixture of game sprites (the blender itself) and UI elements (the blender contents and liquid), which we could then use to mask the liquid from the blender.

We created a camera stack to manage rendering UI elements, FX, and environment and character art.

By default, Unity won’t render particle effects on UI canvas elements, so we rendered the UI to a camera rather than as a screen overlay. We also made some tools for particle effects to handle the rendering order so we could place particles either in front of or behind UI elements such as buttons.

Spine 2D also played an important part in the creation process.

Our challenge was to recreate the crisp vector graphics style of the Boj television show, but without using full-size sprite sheets, or even scaled-down sprite sheets, in order to keep the app size down and the images sharp. Spine allowed us to have as many animations as possible while keeping the file size down, as well as blending the animation together seamlessly. We were also able to replicate the functionality of the CelAction animation rigs that were used in the original series.