An introduction to Helpful Hugsalot

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‘Helpful Hugsalot’ is a simple mobile game created as a gift for someone close to my heart. I started the project while in San Francisco for GDC last year and continued to work on it for a short time afterwards.

The game itself is a story driven sidescrolling puzzle platformer about a little bear and his adventures through a mysterious world of beautiful meadows, magical caves, and ominous mountains. He is a very kind and friendly bear who loves to share hugs and help others as he travels the world in his hot air balloon.

Almost all the in-game art was initially created using Sketchbook Pro on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 tablet device. I was very busy at the time, so this meant that I could still create content for the project no matter where I was and then refine it later on, when I had access to my Surface and larger development PC.

It’s also worth noting that you can run UE4 on a mid spec’d Surface Pro 3. Not only that, you can use it to comfortably create the foundations and core mechanics of a simple 2D game.

So, that’s what I did! Networking and GDC during the day, crafting games at night.

The project also provided me with an opportunity to brush up on my game development skills, as well as learn some of the new and existing features of UE4 with which I had little or no experience.

An insight into designing simple systems for games

A snippet of blueprint code from the butterflies in Helpful HugsalotWhen it comes to creating things, sometimes it’s all about the little details. This is definietly the case for Helpful Hugsalot and although it’s only a very early prototype,a lot of time has been spent creating small well designed little systems that can be built upon later down the track. We will leave the code(bar the above image) and specifics of implementation for another post, however in the meantime, let’s have a brief high level look at one of the systems. In this case, the butterflies and flowers.

When building a level, you can add all sorts of objects into the scene. You can add rocks, and grass, and trees. You can add bunnies and flowers and bees. Each has been designed to behave in a certain way, and each has its own properties that you can modify when putting a level together. These properties include things like, the name of the object, its colour, its size, etc. Some objects can even spawn other objects during the game.

In HH, you can place flowers in the world and specify the number of butterflies (up to a max of 5) that will ‘spawn’ and flutter around them when the game begins.

The colour of each of the butterflies and the flowers is randomly chosen from a list of numerical values that can be modified in code. As such, each time you load into a level you will have a different number of randomly coloured butterflies on randomly coloured flowers.

During the game, each butterfly will move to one of the flowers on its home bush and then dance around before moving to another flower on the same bush.It will then repeat that process for the duration of the game.

Now, one could have just left it at that, but what if you wanted to create a more immersive experience for the player? Surely a majority of butterflies would not spend the entirety of their short lives drinking nectar from a single flower bush. Instead, they would probably move between flower bushes of all different types within a larger area.

So, after some further consideration and design,the butterfly logic was expanded, giving a butterfly the ability to choose flowers from their home plant as well as jump between flowers of other plants within a specified range. When they find a flower they like, they move to it and begin their dance again.

The system worked well and looked good but there was something missing. A little bit of magic . An unexpected delight that would reward ‘exploration’ in a fun and memorable way. Now, rather than giving everything away, let’s just say that some things are best left as secrets to be discovered 🙂

You can see the system working in the video below.

So there you have it! A very brief look into the world of ‘Helpful Hugsalot’.

Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges at the moment with a few bugs here and there, but it has the makings of a fun little adventure game with plenty of heart 🙂

Be sure to keep an eye out for more detail in upcoming posts.

-Chad Mulroney

NOTE: The cloud shape, fonts, and music shown in the version above were sourced as placeholders from the internet. As far as I can ascertain, they are free for personal or commercial use. Should you have information to the contrary, please let me know via email. All other content and code was designed and created by Chad Mulroney.