woensdag 23 december 2009

Sword fighting

I was reading the old diary posts of ‘Prince of Persia’ by Jordan Mechner (http://jordanmechner.com/) It makes me feel really weird to read that a big shot designer as Jordan was once in the same place as I am right now. While developing Prince of Persia he was also hoping it would be a hit for basically the same reasons as me.

One thing struck me as very interesting and it made me think; the sword fighting. It’s really hard to image that Prince of Persia started out as a platform-adventure game without the action. The sword fighting was added after Prince of Persia was into development for months.

It’s a really significant thing that changed Prince of Persia from a good game to an instant classic.

It made me wonder; what is Flipper’s sword fight ? does it have a sword fight at all ? This is a really difficult question to answer at this moment, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. My short answer would be; the star item!

Let me explain why :

When it comes to big things, I think I struck gold from the beginning on. Blowing things up is fun. Even after one year of development, and countless hours of testing, I still love to blow stuff up in Flipper.

The star item got added into development quite late. And It made a huge difference on the gameplay. It made the game more interesting for players to play and (maybe more importantly) replay.

It also increases the difficulty of the game quite a bit. Because you need to spend your powerups to reach the star AND exit. This limits your possibilities, and requires totally different strategies.

It also creates three new goals for the player to complete.

The first goal is collecting. I think it’s a natural thing for humans, they like to collect. If you find a star it will show up in the level-menu.

The second goal is increase your highscore; the star is worth 500 points, so it boost the score a lot.

The third and last goal is extra content. If you collect all the stars in a world, a special star level will unlock for that world.

In most games the first two goals are enough to motivate the player, but there’s no motivator like extra content. It’s a big reward. Combine all these elements together and replaying the game becomes really fun.

I image that most players try out Flipper first, without going for the star. Since they are new, getting to the exit is a big enough task. After that they can replay the levels in each world to improve their highscores and collection, yet once every few levels there’s going to be a new level (star level) to keep things fresh and new!

This way replaying the game isn’t really replaying the game (since new, not-yet-played, content gets available).

I think this really makes for a strong game!

donderdag 17 december 2009

A hit game

Okay, the last few days have been quite boring on the development front. Hence the fact I didn’t post all that much. Basically I’m waiting for Nintendo to hand me a seal of quality for the USA version, I hope it happens before Christmas.

Today I finished the European version, which wasn’t really that much work. I had to edit the font for some German letters, included a new e-manual and I replaced the rating screen (pegi).

Tomorrow I’ll probably work on the website for goodbyegalaxygames.com which I haven’t spend much time on before, since I wanted to finish the game first.

The problem with being done with development is that your mind kicks in. Normally there was always a bug or an issue to worry about. Something that needed to get fixed. Now everything is done, and suddenly I find myself in panic mode.

I feel like I’m at a crossroad where one road leads to fame and a career as a professional game designer and another road to being a loser. I’ve dreamed all my life of being a game developer.
Now I feel like it can really happen…. Or not.

When I started programming and making games at the age of 9, I wanted two things for my game; that my friends would love to play it, and a good review in the Power Unlimited. The videogame magazine everybody in the neighborhood was reading at the time.

Things didn’t change much. I still have those two goals. But I also know that Flipper really needs to be a hit. I need to earn some cash with it. To pay the rent, but more importantly; for creating my next game.

Last few days I’ve been playing with a new game concept in my head. Hopefully I’ll get the change to create that concept into a full game as well. If Flipper brings in enough money, I can quit school and make a real career out of videogames.Please let Flipper do well… please.

zondag 6 december 2009

When rules try to kill game design

Okay, I haven’t been posting as much as I wanted. But it has been very VERY busy. Basically I worked on the USA and EU version of Flipper. And hopefully (if everything goes right with the lotcheck) the USA version is available around xmas (but probably January).

As you may know there are a lot of technical rules for developing a console game, but there are also gameplay rules. I’m sure that when they created them it seems like a good thing, in fact if you read the rules they seem good. The problem is, they don’t always work for every game.

Flipper happens to be one of those games. It’s a puzzle game. It’s normal for the player to get trapped. However the rules say a player should never be trapped. And this is where my nightmare game design begins.

In flipper, there’s a powerup which lets you build blocks. You can build staircases and bridges with it. However, if you build it on top of the player. The player gets trapped. This is against the rules.

There are few options that one can take to solve this problem :

a.) When the player is inside a block, just push him up (to the top of the block). But this sucked because it ruins most of the puzzles. For example, in most of those puzzles, flipper is on top of a hill. You build a block against it (while the player stands against it aswell) and the player gets pushed to the top. Now the player can get Flipper without solving any of the puzzles.

b.) Not being able to build blocks around the player. Which also suckes a lot because now there’s a invinsible boundary where you can’t build. And you need to move the player before you can. This is irritating. Besides that, it was cool to be able to lift the player up by building a block under him (this is different than building a block ON him).

c.) Let the player die instantly (well, after the dying animation). Which is still against the rules, but a little better then letting the player decide it’s over (and manually have to restart the level). However, it also doesn’t give you the change to free yourself (in case you have a destroy-powerup).

In the end I decided to go for C. I don’t wan’t to just pick a fight, but I feel this is too important for the fun of the game. I don’t want to kill the puzzles for something as stupid as this.

Just to get something visual in this post: here’s a look at the result screen. You get points for unused powerups (solving the puzzle with the least amount of powerups), you get points for trapping the enemies (letting them fall of the world), and you get 250 points for reaching Flipper and another 500 points for finding the golden star!