Development Time: 4 months
Team Size: 3
Engine: Multi-Media Fusion
Position: Lead Designer
During my freshman year of college I was assigned to a team with two other people. I was the lead designer and we had an artist and programmer. We made a game in Multi-Media Fusion. The game itself is about a very unfortunate man named Larry, and in this story he has absolutely no luck. It starts off with him winning the lottery. Seems lucky enough, right? Well, the moment he leaves his home, things go horribly wrong. The main issue being that a skyscraper near his home has suddenly decided to give way. The player must now run from the ever encroaching storm of debris which is constantly at Larry’s heels. The main, and only, mechanic is running. This game is a simple 2d side scrolling platformer. From this game I learned the merits of proper design documentation and scope. We had envisioned multiple characters and extra levels, but that was not possible given the time frame we had to work with. I still enjoyed the process thoroughly, and it was my first real taste of game development. So, in a way, this first experience helped solidify my desire to be a game designer.
Despite the fact that the game was built early on in my college career, I still feel that it demonstrates some very simple yet effective design principles:
1. Simplicity- In Luckless Larry, the player must only avoid stuff, the goal being to survive, and to progress away from the rolling mass of death behind you. This simple goal gives the player a clear reason to act and keeps the player intrigued by the constant threat of danger.
2. Scope- This sort of relates to the first, but to reiterate; keep it simple. The larger and more complex a system, the longer it takes to create. In college we are allotted a very short amount of time. Feature creep is a killer for small games so keep the core mechanics to a minimum and make those core mechanics polished. Luckily in a platformer, the mechanics are already pretty simple so that wasn’t too much of a problem. However, I would have loved to have added a lot more content to this game.
3. Integrate the Story- I’m willing to admit that the final thing I learned from this game came by accident. We had a storyline and context for everything which happens to Larry, but showing it was difficult, considering our limited knowledge of the tool set and a lack of time, so the programmer added it to the background, which was visible between levels. I was very pleased with this because it didn’t occur in a cut scene, which is a tool much over used in my opinon. That simple act of running past the story board allowed the player to retain all evidence of gameplay while still delivering the story, even if it was just stick figures on a piece of paper.