Developing Recycle

Being a solo developer is no easy task, especially if you are coding everything from scratch. You need to code most of the features of the game line by line. And even if it’s just a simple game, it can render a huge task for a single person.

Not only you need to be constantly updating yourself regarding the different APIs when you want to add new functionalities. But it doesn’t end there. Sometimes importing those APIs into the current project may create conflicts within different scripts and even render the game useless and some

Furthermore, if you are not good at drawing like it’s my case, you need to use placeholders for the graphics. You need to find the help and aid of other persons that believe in what you are doing.

Fortunately, throughout the journey of developing Recycle I have found the support of Ram, a graphic designer from the Philippines who has been helping me with graphics and design on her spare time.

I started developing and prototyping the idea of Recycle in March 2019. I wanted to create a mobile game that would help anyone learn how to recycle certain residues properly and to raise awareness on the relevance of recycling to help reduce the effects of climate change and the impact that human activity has on the environment.

Did you know that the treatment and management of the waste and residues we humans produce greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere?

For this reason it is very imoprtant we all do our part to contribute in residue management.

Have you ever come up, while surfing the internet, with images of animals stuck in plastic residues? Have you ever come up with images of dead sea turtles that had ingested a plastic residue or that had been choked by it? 

I have and it broke my heart but at the same time, it became the motivation to start working on this project. It became my motivation to want to do something to produce an impact, to help realize that the problems our world is currently facing are the responsibility of us all, whether we like or not, and it should be our duty to do something to make the situation better. Every grain of sand, every little action we do to help to reduce the negative impact we have in our world counts. It matters.

I had always liked programming and I wanted to create games since I was 8 years old but I never got a chance. My motivation towards biology and the environment led me to study bioengineering and bioinformatics, leading me to know some programming. So, when I started creating Recycle, it was quite a challenge because I had to learn Unity and the grammar of a new programming language on the go.

In the beginning, the game had only one way of playing: dragging and dropping residues into the proper container. Later I added the pollution bar and its behavior to make the gameplay a bit more challenging.

I also programmed from scratch the experience and leveling up system, the upgrades system, the cheats system (to give users the chance to get some in-game currency for free).

After that was starting to work properly, I added the info menu that is meant to provide the players with the possibility to check where residues go if they get stuck with certain residues. This feature was recently improved: the residues initially appear in a dark-colored sprite that prevents the player to see the colored graphic until they have recycled it properly.

Sometime after showcasing the game to some people, I realized that I had to implement a way to show the players how the more complex parts of the game worked. For this reason, I programmed the tutorial notifications with basic depictions and animations that showed the players how the pollution bar, the upgrades system and other elements of the game worked. Later on, I implemented a simple tutorial selection within the info menu so that players could always have selective access to the tutorials in case they wanted to clarify how some aspects of the game worked.

I also included a daily rewards system, this one from a free asset in the Unity Asset Store, to reduce a bit the workload, but with the objective to make the game more engaging for players.

Next, I added a new game mode, a bit more casual, that consists of dragging a box to catch the residues that are falling into the sea. At the same time, I created from scratch a system to allow the players to select and to unlock different levels based on their player level at Recycle.

One of my old bioengineering colleagues helped me realize that on the initial version it took the players quite some time to level up and unlock new levels. And he suggested me to go through with one of the ideas that I had in store for future updates of the game. 

Thus, I decided to implement the combo system for both current game modes. This included the countdown combo bar, the combo indicator and the bonuses the player receives during the combo and once the combo is broken.

This part was quite challenging because whenever the player leveled up, went into the upgrades menu or a video ad would play, the combo would break. I had to review code I had writing some time ago to fix the behavior using some functions to freeze the combo and reactivate it when the player returned to the game screen.

I added a QR reader function for cheat codes and an indicator to help the player realize when they recycled properly and when they did it wrong.

We have a lot of more features to include in the game, including doing a revisit on the whole design but that will take a huge amount of time and resources that we currently don’t have because we are locked down in quarantine because of the COVID-19 crisis.

But as things return to normal I hope that we will be able to keep updating and improving the game. 

Here are some QR codes you can use on Recycle to get some free coins and gems!

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