The CALGARYcade Network is a collection of freestanding arcades that play games that were exclusively developed in Calgary. This project was created by the Calgary Games Developers Association as a way to showcase locally developed games to the general public. Currently there are 3 arcades, one in the Calgary Central Library, one at the Platform Innovation Centre and one that lives with the CGDA for events.
These arcades were intended to play a number of different locally developed games and I was in charge of designing a software launcher that would accommodate the selection and deployment of games. The launcher also had to be streamlined on the CGDA's end so that games could be tested, approved and added to the library easily. Below you can find a breakdown of the game launcher's design.
November 2021 – Present
It was important to keep the launcher user interface as simple as possible while still relaying all the information a player would need in deciding on a game title. All the information about each game on the platform had to be conveyed in a single selection screen. The main components of the launcher are the top banner, screenshots, game description, genre icon and player count icon. By scrolling right and left with any joystick on the controller board, players can view each game's information and choose to launch a title. The entire player facing user interface only consists of 2 screens the game selection screen and the player ready screen.
The only thing that's more fun than playing arcade games is playing arcade games with your friends. We wanted to give local developers the platform to create amazing multiplayer experiences so it was always the intention from the start to build 4 player cabinets. To make development the easiest for the game creators we needed to provide button mapping schematics that would align with each player's station. Developers have the flexibility to build any game that uses 1 joystick, 6 action buttons and 2 menu navigation buttons. These controller stations directly align with the user interface so that players immediately know where they can stand for any title on the platform.
The overall user experience for the CALGARYcade game launcher had to be so simple to use that anyone who's ever used an arcade could instantly walk up and choose a game to play. It also had to be compatible with many different types of games in relation to genre and player count as we never wanted to limit the types of games that could be submitted. The interface had to be very intuitive but still relay enough information about each game so that the players could make an informed decision on what to play. Everything also had to be totally controlled by the joysticks and buttons. To keep things simple the entirety of the launcher software can be controlled using only the joystick and two buttons, one for confirm and one for back.
As soon as local game developers hear about this project, the first question immediately asked is "how do I get my game to work on the arcades?" It was important to supply developers with specific instructions on how to build or convert their titles to work within the parameters of the system. Full controller button mapping diagrams are provided and an online submission form was built. On the form, any local developer can review the submission process and tailor their game to fit within the specifications provided. Once a game has been summited through the online form all the data is packaged for an internal review and if approved all the needed information, art assets and game files are remotely uploaded to the launcher.
Networked leaderboard functionality is a feature that was highly requested by local developers. We wanted to give them an API that they could push score data to. After a play session the score data is automatically pushed to an online server where the score will then be published on the CALGARYcade website. Each of the 3 arcades placed around the city all push the leaderboard information to the same server, so player can compete on whichever arcade is closest to them. By publicly displaying leaderboard score information the platform actively promotes competition and repeat play sessions.
In addition to the online leaderboards the platform is also tracking general information about each play session. The system keeps a running count of play sessions by title, and length of play session by title. Developers can see which games on the platform are being played the most and how long the average session length is.