Tag: Making games
I was talking with my family over dinner about my process for walkthrough creation, and it dawned on me that there are 3 very specific steps in the process.
Step 1: Exploration. The first time through a level or game, it’s all about figuring out HOW to beat it. Whether it is a tricky level late in a game or a point and click adventure, the first step towards showing others how to beat it is to do so yourself. This is not always easy, and I often find myself trying many different methods in an attempt to find the correct one. For point and clicks, this usually involves randomly clicking everywhere in the game with everything in my inventory, along with trying to combine anything with something else… whatever I can do to progress in the usually linear nature of the game. In level-based puzzle games, this means trying every route available or clicking pieces in every possible combination or firing a projectile at many different angles/strengths. The goal is always the same… find a way to solve the level/game.
Step 2: Memorization. Once you know how to beat a level or game, you need to do it in a way that clearly shows others how to do it as well. In a level-based game, you want the solution to each level to be fluid. You do not want pauses, mistakes, backtracks, misclicks, or extra moves shown… this will confuse someone trying to copy you. The same is true in a full-game video. To do this, you need to run through the game or level multiple times until you have it memorized and can do it without making a mistake. I will often record my memorization playthroughs, as I will do them without a break to keep the solutions fresh in my mind. Then, when I have it down, I easily transition from memorization into the 3rd step…
Step 3: Optimization. This goes hand in hand with memorization, but merits its own step. Memorization has no specified number of attempts to it, but when it is done correctly, it IS the Optimized run that I will upload. It is also during the memorization runs that I will look to fine-tune my method, so that the final optimized product is as flawless and close to optimal as possible. A walkthrough should not just show the solution, it should be of a level of success and mastery that people strive to match or surpass it. Anyone can record themselves beating a game; a walkthrough should be something you’re proud of… an accomplishment of your victory over that particular game.
Well, that’s at least how I do it.
Ever wondered what it would be like to work side-by-side with one of your favorite developers and create a game? Well, with This Is The Only Levels 2 slated for release tomorrow, these are my thoughts from the process:
Developing games, when you don’t have to do any of the grunt work, is REALLY fun. I got to come up with a ton of really fun levels and assist with the entire creative process throughout development… without having to do any of that pesky “work”, like coding or making graphics.
A lot more goes into a game than just code and art. Besides all the creative stuff, which we pretty much hammered out on the 1st day, all of this stuff needed to be done as well: UI for the menu and other off-menu screens, game save system, high scores, bonus modes, and API implementation.
It’s amazing how many bugs pop up in the oddest areas. This is something I already know, from all the testing work I do… but that is all AFTER the dev QAs his game. In a game as simple as TITOL2 (same engine as last game, just new levels), we easily found 20 bugs. From a certain level having an unexpected exploit to the save file not wiping deaths when you clear your level progress, and everything in between.
You can’t get too attached to any one idea. Given unlimited time, John could code any crazy level that I came up with… but one level we wanted to use left gravity for the level, so you’d have to jump from left to right on the edges of the platforms to reach the exit. Sadly, the engine (which John said could DEFINITELY handle left/right gravity) did not like this idea. I wasn’t given the full explanation, but it would have taken a lot of time to mess with the engine to get this 1 level to work. Better solution was just to use a different level idea that didn’t make the original cut. One other level that we liked wound up not being nearly as fun in actuality as it was in my head… so again, we tweaked it… and now it’s one of my favorite levels.
Don’t rush the process. The first TITOL took John 12 hours, start to finish. So going in to this project, I thought it would take 2 or 3 days, tops, for this one. It’ll wind up being released on the morning of the 10th day. There’s a lot more extra features in this game, and my level designs are a bit more complex than what was in the first game. Combine that with the AS2 to AS3 conversion… and a 1-day game becomes a 2-week game. At the same time, you don’t want to take TOO much time… when you think everything has been found and is ready, let it loose. I’m really nervous that we’ve overlooked something, or some major bug will pop up as soon as it’s released… but, if that happens, we’ll know about it soon enough. Not much more we can do about it now.
Altogether, this was so much fun. I hope that all of you guys wind up enjoying the game as much as I’ve enjoyed working on it. And give insane props to John… all the little things he puts into games are what makes them great, not my level designs. The UI, the elephant, the polka music, and a dozen other things that I won’t mention so that you can discover them all tomorrow.