Being a beginner game developer, it’s absolutely awesome to find useful articles and videos about game design, especially when written by other more experienced game developers. In consequence, it’s been my desire give something back to the community and share the thinking behind some important aspects of our design in Office Chair Deathmatch. These are not based on any kind of magic formula, of course, but the more we advance on the development, the more we realize there’s no such thing. However, it’s always good to keep in mind what have made other games relevant and of course, what have made other games fail.
Today I want to talk about the basic movement in 2D games. Movement is probably the first thing you do when prototyping your game. Even more, it’s the first great achievement when you follow a “how to make a game” tutorial and finally you get something to move on the screen. Now, making that movement engaging for the players is something completely different. If we all follow the same tutorial, which is going to be the differentiating factor for the players to decide which game to play?
So “move” is what player does almost during the entire game—with a few exceptions, like the recent smart change on The Darkside Detective (a point and click adventure game) where they removed walking to save time after they realized it was consuming a third of player’s playtime and it wasn’t relevant for the experience they wanted to provide (1). Anyway, if you’re making for example, a platformer or a racing game like us, movement is absolutely relevant. The main idea here is that movement must be fun by itself, without adding obstacles, enemies, weapons, etc.
One of the decisions I made on this topic for Office Chair DeathMatch was to (kind of) simulate the impulse movement on the office chairs, meaning that force is not applied constantly as if it was a car. This simple Idea changed in a radical way how movement is perceived. It was so cool when one of my friends playing the game for the first time said that he felt like he was actually racing with chairs, just by the way it moves.
But movement is not only a good chance to make your game feel different, it’s also the opportunity to turn it into a deeper mechanic that requires some skill to be developed by the player. I will mention here Flinthook as an example with some caution since it’s basic movement (walk) is not what you do the most. I would even say that the basic movement is the actual use of the hook and that, my friends, is a master piece mechanic. You will find yourself using it on an empty room because it feels great. But more importantly, it requires the player to gain some knowledge of the distance it can reach, the reaction speed it has, when not to use it, etc. And it also get some other uses later, like exploding the shield bubbles, so it’s a mechanic that has multiple uses. I’d love to talk about that in a different post since it’s one of the pillars of Office Chair DeathMatch, too.
So you can complement movement with other mechanics, like damage (how is movement affected by it), power ups (is movement improved somehow?), and typically level design where player’s movement skill is tested by levels that increase in difficulty as the player advances in the game.
Last thing that I’d like to share about movement comes from an Extra Frames chapter (2) where Dan plays Shadow of the Colossus and makes a very important critic on the run animation. Long story short, he gives a great advice: the run animation must be tuned to its best since it’s the one the player will be watching the most, so it needs to feel good in terms of playability but also visually. Take in consideration Super Meat Boy. I hate the game for how much pain my thumbs have suffered and I’m not really a fan of its visual simplicity, but its movement mechanic not only plays amazingly, it looks good. It matches perfectly how it is played and that’s enough to make it interesting.
Well, that’s all for today. We will keep sharing more thoughts on game design in the next entries so stay tuned. Feel free to follow us on twitter. We’ll be more than happy to hear your thoughts on the subject and know about your project. Also, if you join our mailing list you could win the chance of becoming one of our testers!