Design Philosophy and Inspirations Pt. 1
Happy Friday all!
As we move towards the end of Week 1, we have not yet ceased to be amazed by all the momentum our awesome fans continue to generate for the project. We've pulled past 20% funded, and our humble, weird little game is starting to get coverage on all corners of the internet, including Destructoid and Kotaku! On top of that, we're almost in the top 20 games on Steam Greenlight! Wow. On behalf of Serge and myself, another massive 'thank you!' to everyone who's helped get us here. I'm sorry guys, the gratitude isn't going to stop anytime soon. Our love for you is endless.
Design Philosophy and Inspirations Part 1:
Before we begin to take a closer look at the individual mechanics and their implementation, in today's update I want to take a small step back and speak a little bit about the genesis of Wanderer, as well as briefly explain some of the rationale behind key design decisions. It's a bit of an odd hybrid of ideas, so I just want to take a moment and walk you through the thought process behind it and the inspirations that have shaped it from a game design perspective.
If I were to craft a clumsy and slightly pretentious metaphor (and I will in fact be doing so, precisely at this very moment), I would liken the project to a carefully, delicately layered video game 'collage'. Wanderer is made up of ideas and mechanics from my favorite games and fiction both classic and modern, all tactfully assembled into a love letter that pays homage to all of it's inspirations while at the same time leveraging the synergy between those inspirations to become something unique in it's own right.
Of course, while simply taking every 'totally rad' idea you can find and throwing it into a blender might create some cool concepts in theory, 'theory' and 'reality' are two different things. We're a small team with big dreams. Dreaming big is a good thing, but if you can't actualize it then it doesn't do anyone a whole lot of good. That's why the driving force behind every design choice from top to bottom in Wanderer, from the art style to the structure of each mechanic, is about working smart and not just hard. With that in mind, let's walk through some of the thought process behind Wanderer's design.
At it's heart, and at it's very core, Wanderer owes its existence to Éric Chahi's classic gaming masterpiece 'Another World'. Another World is a huge inspiration for the project as beyond simply being a fantastic game that was way ahead of its time, it serves as a masterclass in how to do a lot with a little. As a game development team consisting of two core developers, that philosophy is extremely important, and Mr. Chahi's accomplishment (made with such limited resources and comparatively primitive tools) is astonishing and incredibly inspiring to us.
Knowing such an immersive and atmospheric gaming experience could be made with such a minimal amount of design complexity, Another World made the ideal blank canvas for the project to be built upon, and fundamentally Wanderer plays the same way. You control a character on a 2D plane and can walk, run, crouch, and climb through a world that's broken up into screens that you transition through one at a time.
To update and modernize the formula for 2015, we've added lots of small touches such as completely analogue movement (as opposed to the 'step' or tile based movement of many cinematic platformers), analogue weapon aiming, doors and paths in the foreground and background (as opposed to just the edges of the screen) and screens with variable scaling (the camera on each screen can have it's own custom level of zoom) to reduce the limitations and repetition of level design.
So with that basic fundamental layer established, we've got a character that can organically move and explore a 2D world. That's a good start, and as demonstrated by 'Another World', there's enough there to make a really engaging gaming experience. But since we're aiming for something with a bit more scope, lets keep going!
Some means of interacting with that world in a context sensitive way would make the process of exploring it even more interesting. Again, the most extravagant solution is not the one we're after. What we're looking for is solution that's light weight to implement, and offers us a lot of mileage, and for that we might look to the classic point and click adventure for inspiration.
Aha! A simple 'verb-coin' style interface is exactly what we need. By 'looking' at points of interest in the environment, the player is presented with an 'examine', 'talk with/about', 'use/take' and 'use item with' option. It's simple, and adaptable to a wide variety of circumstances, giving players multiple ways to interface and interact with objects and points of interest in the environment. And as an entire genre of games is built around this single mechanic, it's an extremely valuable tool to have in our arsenal as it offers tons of room for puzzle design while simultaneously adding a lot of depth and interest to the world in a relatively low impact way from a development perspective.
So at this point, we've basically got an adventure game with the controls scheme of a cinematic platformer, and I think there's a lot of synergy to be found there. The platforming based movement breaks up the static nature of a classic point and click and adds to the sense of exploration, while the adventure game style interactivity inherently makes actually exploring that world that much more rewarding.
We could stop right there and we'd have a lot to work with, but other games have already done that, and from the start Wanderer has been about creating something new. We've still got two more layers to add and two more genres to borrow ideas from before the formula is complete and conceptual harmony is achieved!
But to keep this wall of text from becoming too insurmountable, I'll be breaking this update into two parts, so come back tomorrow and I'll dig into the rationale behind Wanderer's Western and Japanese RPG influences!
Before you go, I'd just like to take a moment to point you over to the awesome folks at SWDTech Games and tell you to check out their awesome JRPG-inspired detective game Pixel Noir. We love the retro vibe, the beautiful pixel art, and the classic JRPG inspired combat and we think you will too! They've already cleared their funding goal by a healthy margin, but they're in their final week and just about to hit the $50,000 stretch goal for a Nintendo DS release, so go check it out and show them some love!
Have a great weekend all! :)