Chime is going through changes. If it’s time in The Lab here at Zoe was it’s birth and the foray onto Xbox LIVE Arcade it’s first day at school, then it’s safe to say that the game has officially entered it’s angsty teenage phase with the recent release on Steam.
It all started back at the beginning of 2010 when Chime was initially released on Xbox LIVE Arcade. We checked the leaderboards every day, watching people getting better at the game and catching up to the kind of scores our testers had all achieved. It was all going swimmingly, and we were chuffed; that is, until we loaded up the leaderboards one day and saw that someone had got a score of 99 million points. 99 million! We were shocked to say the least. The highest any of our testers had achieved was ~20 million points, and here was someone that had got 4 times that amount.
They’d done so well that they hit the score cap we had put in place months ago and forgotten about; we simply didn’t expect anyone to score that much! At first we thought it was just a one off, one elite super player, but then another appeared. And another. And another. Soon the leaderboards were swamped with scores of 99 million points. Clearly, something had to be done.
It turns out that, if you’re quick enough, you can actually play any level on Chime XBLA indefinitely. Take the first level, Brazil – For every stage you complete in this level, you are rewarded with just over 3 minutes in time bonuses. This means that if you can cover the grid in less than that time, you’ll be able to keep playing forever as the game never gets any harder. That was my first port of call in designing Chime for PC, implementing a proper difficulty curve that prevented people from playing through the game ad infinitum.
Time Bonuses in Chime PC are reduced every time you complete a stage. If you receive 20 seconds per time bonus in stage one, you will receive 15 seconds per time bonus in stage two and so on. This means that you’ll have to up your game if you want to keep hitting those big scores, and turns coverage into something a lot more meaningful than it was before. If you can reach stage 5 in any level on Chime PC then you’re doing extremely well.
The other major change made for Chime PC is a focus shift away from coverage and towards increasing your multiplier. Multipliers were originally supposed to be THE way to score big in Chime, but ultimately they were a bit neglected in the Xbox LIVE version, mainly because you just got such a big score bonus for covering the grid and completing stages. Not so in Chime PC; maintaining a high multiplier is now essential to success, and all it took a very minor change in the way quads and shapes function. As you know, shapes and fragments left unused on the grid lose life over time and eventually die, at which point the player’s multiplier is reset. By extending the lifetime of these fragments we found that
- It was a lot harder to cover the grid (there are more fragments on screen and they often get in the way)
- It was a lot easier to achieve and more importantly maintain a high multiplier (you can make more quads before the multiplier resets and have more time to use fragments before they die)
This was a key change for Chime PC. Chime has always been about coverage. That was always one of the number one facets of the game, “Cover the grid to gain time. Attain 100% Coverage”. But by putting more of a focus on multipliers, we have begun to move away from this mantra. Chime is now less of a musical toy and more of a full on puzzler, more akin to Tetris than Elektroplankton; it’s not perfect by any means, but it has opened up a plethora of options and new ways to play.
So I had adjusted the time bonuses and brought multipliers into play, but I wasn’t finished yet. Next up – Shapes, quads and grids…
Marc Tourle – Designer