Accessibility & Auto-aim


A lot of work has gone into the game since my last update here. I won't cover it all in this post, but I'll try to detail some more of it in the coming weeks.

For now I want to talk about accessibility. And by that, I mean creating a game that's accessible and enjoyable to people of all kinds of gaming backgrounds and varying skill-levels.

This is no easy task. Creating a game that requires a lot of skill, familiarity and practice to be enjoyable is a much simpler task. It reminds me of a quote from Angus Young of AC/DC fame (at least I think he said it :-/). He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "the simplest guitar riffs are the most difficult to write". 

I think that something similar could be applied to game dev.

Licky Lizard

Licky Lizard is a game that has a deceptively steep learning-curve. I think that a lot of people are surprised by how difficult it is when they first play it. This is probably at least partly due to the games presentation. Players see a cute, colourful cartoon character, and maybe assume that it's a game aimed at just kids. And for that reason it's super easy to play. I don't know though, that's just me theorising.

Whatever the reason, after having people test the game at various events like Eirtakon and DubLudo, I realised that I could do a lot more to aid new players. To make a good first impression. 

One of the things a lot of new players had difficulty with was accurately targeting platforms with Licky's tongue/grapple hook, by pointing the controller's right analogue stick. 

Other players have pointed out that when I play the game, I almost always point the crosshairs directly up and very rarely (if ever) move it elsewhere. Some suggested that for that reason the game didn't need the aiming at all. That the grapple should always shoot directly up. But that's not an entirely suitable solution - sometimes there isn't a platform directly above you (this game is procedurally-generated after all). Sometimes the player will want to target pickups, like health and rocks. Other times the'll want to throw those rocks at specific, breakable platforms.

Alina came up with a great idea: to add an auto-aim feature. So that the grapple would automatically target platforms. But which platforms? And what about the pickups and rocks. That's the tricky part.


First I added a new pizza slice-shaped collider trigger to the player character. This is used to detect all candidates - potential targets for the grapple hook. It's radius is determined by the range of the grapple hook.

Figure 1

We then have to decide which of these is the "optimal" target.

A ray is cast from the player character to each of the candidates. If the ray does not reach the candidate, then we know that the player character does not have direct line-of-sight on the candidate, and so it can be ruled out.

In Figure 1 these ray casts are illustrated by the black lines emanating from Licky towards each target within the detection collider.

I've used the following heuristic to determine which of the remaining candidates should be chosen as the optimal one.

Insert extremely complex technical drawing

Heuristic = |dy| - (|dx| / 2)

The candidate with the highest resulting value is selected as the "optimal" - the one that the grapple hook will be aimed at.

Let me explain the reasoning behind the formula above.

As previously mentioned, when I played the game, the ideal target was often the one directly above. So that's the thinking behind the |dx| component of the formula - the distance between the player character to the target on the x-axis.

But why isn't that enough? Why not just choose the target closest to the player character on the x-axis? Why consider the y-axis at all?

One of the tricks/skills that's core to the game, is one I call "the wrap-around". (Hey, stop laughing!) This is basically when you fire your grapple hook at the bottom of a platform, and then immediately move to the left or right in order to swing around the platform and land on top.

If the player doesn't swing around, they'll most likely collide with the bottom of the platform and lose all momentum. It then becomes much more difficult to swing around and land on top.

Grappling to a platform that's very close to you gives you very little momentum. It also gives gives you very little time to swing before you collide with that platform. For this reason it's almost always a better idea to grapple to a platform that's further away. And the goal of the game is to climb as high as possible before the lava catches you, so grappling to the highest platform isn't a bad place to start.

So that's where the |dy| component of the formula comes in.

What the resulting heuristic provides is a target that is both high and central, relative to the player character.


The next thing needed was to provide the player with a visual cue, so that they know what to expect from the auto-aim. Because not allowing the player to know where their grapple hook is going to fire at any given time would just be bad design.

The targeted platform is highlighted by a spinning white star-like shape


Lastly, I decided to retain the option to manually aim. The right analogue stick can be pushed at any time, and the original crosshairs will appear.

Because like I said previously, sometimes the player will still want to aim at specific pickups or platforms. And plus, some players really like that extra level of control.

I think that there will still be an advantage to using the manual aim, and that if the player is skilled they would generally score higher. No matter how good the auto-aim is it will never be able to read the player's mind. I like the idea that there will still be a natural separation in score between players using auto-aim and those using manual. But having the auto-aim there will make it much easier for new players to get accustomed to the game.


One other unforeseen advantage to adding the auto-aim is that it frees up the player's right thumb. They no longer need to use the right analogue stick, which means that they can instead use the face buttons. This means that X can be used for jump, as is traditionally the case in platformers.

So that's pretty much it. I hope you found all this interesting. I'll have some posts in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back soon.


GDC 2016

I've been home from San Francisco 3 days now, and I'm still in bits. My stomach is in knots and my sleeping pattern is completely messed up. But it was totally worth it :-)

It was my first time going to GDC, so I didn't fully know what to expect. Every time someone asked me what I was hoping to gain from it, I wasn't sure how to respond. I just said that I was hoping to learn a thing or two.

And I did. I learned a lot! My schedule for the first 2 days was packed with the talks I thought would be most relevant to me. Like the following, to name just a few: 

  • Practices in Procedural Generation
  • Polishing the Boots - Designing 'Downwell' Around One Key Mechanic
  • You Don't Need a F-ing Publisher
  • Balancing Accessibility Against Depth in 'Assault Android Cactus'

Some were good. Most were great. It's a fantastic way to spend a week - learning and talking about your craft, with people equally as passionate as you.

It was inspiring too, in a very literal sense. The talk from the Downwell developer got me thinking a lot of Licky Lizard, and provided some solutions to problems that I'm not even sure I was fully aware of before. I'll go into more detail on the specifics of that in a later post.

On the 3rd day, the conference becomes a different beast all together. The big, AAA devs and publishers arrive for the Expo.

Here, I got to play some great upcoming games such as Abzû, Rez Infinite and Severed. I also got to try PlayStation VR for the first time. This was a real highlight. I've heard a lot of talk about VR in the last year, but it truly is an experience that you have to have first-hand to appreciate. I have high hopes for the future of gaming and VR.

Another high point for me was meeting and talking to some of the devs from Media Molecule. I've been a huge fan of their work since LittleBigPlanet, so it was fantastic to discover how down-to-earth and open they were. Whether I was asking them about their previous work, or probing about Dreams, they were always courteous. And Dreams also looks like it's going to be another classic. I can't wait.

At the GDC Play exhibition, tons of indie devs got to showcase their games. Including a whole section dedicated to games with weird and wonderful input devices. 

Here's a game that uses a cushion as the controller. Squeeze it to interact!

Here's a game that uses a cushion as the controller. Squeeze it to interact!

It was hard to return to the "real world". The whole week was truly an eye-opening experience. And it leaves dent in you. "The post-GDC blues", they call it. I can't wait to go back next year :-)

~ John

GDC Scholarship for BezDoesGames

BezDoesGames got lucky this year - for the first time we are going to attend the worldwide biggest Game Development Conference (GDC) in San Francisco! All thanks to Imirt, The Irish Game Makers Association, who provided us with a scholarship worth €1845.

We are very excited about this first experience coming soon: Alina with all-access-pass to GDC, John - with the Indie Pass. Looking forward to a great time in California and hoping to use the opportunity for new discoveries!

Stay tuned and know more about LickyLizard traveling to San Francisco in March 2016.

~ Alina

Eirtakon 2015

BezDoesGames presented Licky The Lucky Lizard Lives Again game last weekend, at one of largest Irish anime and manga conventions Eirtakon. Wuff, it was busy there. And a great FIRST public experience for Licky, who got as much as 599 playthroughs! We enjoyed being part of Eirtakon and will definitely be back.


We also ran a little competition, giving a PRIZE of a 20 Euro worth game voucher to someone who achieved the highest score over 3 days. The lucky winner Joe was working reeeeeeeeeeeeally hard by coming back to our game and trying to beat the competition. And well done: he had a great success when reaching nearly 7000 points! Only the developer achieved a little higher result. Joe could choose any platform he wants his game voucher for – and is now buying new games with it on iTunes:).


Giving a fair chance to participants that were not able to play the Licky The Lucky Lizard Lives Again game as much as Joe we decided to issue a SECOND PRIZE. This is a 10 Euro game voucher to a random player who entered his or her email address after playing the game. By the way, if you are one of them, email us back asap as we informed you about the prize already :).

To all the others: thank you very much for all your feedback and comments as we want to improve. And watch out for the release dates of the LickyLizard game early next year!

~ Alina

The big day has finally arrived

Eirtakon starts today and runs right through Sunday. We'll be in Croke Park all weekend with Licky The Lucky Lizard Lives Again. So stop by and give it a go. There are tickets available at the door. For further details go to We'll have a prize up for grabs for the highest score achieved over the 3 days. And I'm pretty sure that if you can match this score I set last night you'll almost definitely be in with a fighting chance ;-)

~ John

Business Cards Have Arrived & One Day To Go

After some hassle with the printing company the business cards for BezDoesGames have arrived! And very timely too - just before Eirtakon, which takes place this weekend. Do not forget, it is only 5€ entrance for tomorrow afternoon. And it's definitely worth it, it's going to be a tonne of fun! We do not want to reveal everything just yet but there will be prizes at stake for playing LickyLizard. Want to know more? Come and see us in Croke Park tomorrow! Details to the convention on EIRTAKON.COM.


~ Alina