Staying on Track, Geometry Wars


Great Games I'm Playing

There's a couple really fun flash games I'm enjoying right now, they already have like hundreds of thousands of plays but I just want to recommend them anyhow:

Redder Screenshot REDDER - A game about exploring mars.

...and

Robot Wants Kitty Screenshot Robot Wants Kitty - Which brings Data to tears over Spot.

PLUR

These are by two very different people, the first is Anna "Auntie Pixelante" Anthropy who you might know for her excellent games but also really insightful technical analysis, especially with level layouts. The second is by Hamumu, who you might know for his endearing Behind the Dumb video blog and distinctive cute style, which comes through wonderfully in this game.

So, it looks like "the scene" is big enough for all of us!

Staying on Track - a BUDGET!

I've developed enough discipline to avoid wasting (too much) time. One thing I am still learning though is to stay on track.

The other night I sat down and actually drew up a budget. What a terrible, non-indie thing to do! Actually, this budget is going to save my life and here's why:

- Texas is a really elaborate, complex game.

- I've always got interesting ideas that I want to put in.

- I'll never finish the game when I'm just implementing interesting ideas, and not the core game track.

The budget is a "Super Sketch" which outlines what core parts of the game are missing, and allocates time.

This way I don't put too much detail into one place, but instead build a coherent whole.

Geometry

I recently made another dev blog video, actually this was a couple weeks ago.

WARNING: Spoilers for "INTO THE WILD".

(Obvious) Case in Point: Zelda I

I want to elaborate a little bit here. Do a google image search for "zelda screenshots" and you are going to see something like this:

Legend of Zelda Screenshot... is Geometrically laid out!   Legend of Zelda Screenshot... is Geometrically laid out!   Legend of Zelda Screenshot... is Geometrically laid out!   Legend of Zelda Screenshot... is Geometrically laid out!

(Thanks IGN for the borrowed images...)

Notice how things have an overall shape, e.g., but within this shape things are laid out geometrically. There is an idea expressed and it's expressed by grouping together patterns of tiles.

I remember the Zelda 1 overworld pretty well. Perhaps you do too. Whatever part of my brain is responsible for finding it's way around spatially does a good job of understanding Zelda 1. Maybe you find it's the same.

Now think of a (sorry) fangame. Not a great fangame, but a typical Super Mario World romhack or something along those lines. These games usually have very arbitrarily-feeling laid out levels without much rhyme or reason, beyond just frustrating or entertaining (in a sort of non-sequoiter).

You probably first remember the difficulty, but the question is: do you remember anything else?

If you do, you probably remember those large, coherent shapes. Maybe there is a really long section with a large grey square block and a thousand spiders.

You might remember other sections that are chaotic. But I wager that you'll mostly remember that they are chaotic.

Hey man, it's just a tool!

So my advice is to use geometry to your advantage. It's easier to find your way around a space that has some geometric regularity to it.

Of course this doesn't mean that you need to make every area this way. But why not at least add it to your designer toolbelt?

2010-03-12


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