Monster Debugger the Game
The third version of our open source app Monster Debugger for Flash, Flex and AIR users gave us the opportunity to solve a big issue we have with much of the current tech software today: Explain how a tech driven product works without forcing anyone to read a long manual or go through a boring tutorial.
Monster Debugger 3 is packed with new features aimed at both experienced users that are familiar to the Monster Debugger and coding, but we also added features for less experienced developers who might need a little help to get started with the Monster Debugger. Thus, challenge accepted:
Introduce Monster Debugger 3 to new users while making sure that the current users who don't need an introduction still have a good time exploring what's new.
The claim that tutorials are boring and the average manual more than just annoying is supported by our entire team. So we started by making 'fun and useful' our key focus points for this project. At the same time we knew we had to get our users acquainted with the main elements of the Monster Debugger. This means that we have to use the three main categories of interaction with applications that Monster Debugger supports:
- It lets you explore your application while it is running so you can understand what is happening.
- You can change the variables of your application at runtime and instantly see the effects.
- Functions that are programmed in the application can be executed from the debugger without the need of any interface.
We sometimes refer to this set of tools as hacking and this hacking aspect was soon chosen as the theme that we wanted to use for the introduction of the new Monster Debugger. And what is more fun to a developer to hack than a game? So we set out to design and create a game that would not only be fun to play, but that you would actually need to hack with the Monster Debugger in order to beat it.
How & Why
The concept for the game is simple, the little Monster Debugger monster is trapped in a cave and has to walk through a door at the end of each level to get back to his fellow monsters. But each level has at least one object blocking your path which can only be cleared by using the Monster Debugger.
There are six levels in total and with each level we introduce either a new feature or a new way to use a feature from the Monster Debugger. Of all the Monster Debugger features we chose the most important features to get you started and made sure these would have to be used in the first levels.
During the first levels you also use a stripped down, simpler version of the Monster Debugger so you only have to focus on the features needed to solve the puzzles. After completing each level the Monster Debugger interface would grow and become more complete. This way new users would be able to get acquainted with the main interface while existing users could run through the first levels with ease and stumble upon more complicated puzzles in later levels.
Still we wouldn't want anyone to get stuck in a level, so we added hints to help solve each puzzle and linked the hints to specific parts of the documentation where a detailed walkthrough of every level can be found.
After creating the game design focus shifted to the visual parts of the game. Each time we create a Monster project we make sure that we use the existing graphical style and add something new. This way each new business card, icon, wall art and now the game is an upgrade to our visual identity.
The game became the perfect opportunity to visualize the world in which all Monsters live, something we weren't able to do before.
We created storyboards and decided to show both the inside of the deepest Monster caves as well as the clear sunny outside of the Monsters world. Since the main part of the game is located inside the caves we used different lighting effects to add details.
Another graphical detail are the wall paintings, drawn by the old Monsters, that not only fill up the background but can also be explored using the new 'highlight and inspect' feature. They actually tell a story of our next Monster product: Blackbox.
Monster Debugger the Game got nominated in the category 'Best Serious Game' at the Dutch Game Awards 2011. But the best feedback we received was from users. Many users told us about how surprised they were that even after years of usage they figured out new ways of using the Monster Debugger. New ways that help them on a daily basis with their projects and that's what counts.
The game can be played on http://www.MonsterDebugger.com/game/ where it is also available for download. Just make sure you also install and run the Monster Debugger.