it is on both!
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Thank you! I wrote a new post in this devlog series. Your thoughts were very helpful! Maybe I have something prototypable now.. https://han-tani.itch.io/shuffled-world-codename/devlog/498463/004-shuffled-worl...
Hi Chris! Thinking back on Anodyne 2/Sephonie/Game 5, I feel like we tend to do this 'dance' between different poles of focus - core gameplay (e.g... platforming in sephonie), 'secondary gameplay' (e.g., level design philosophy, how many levels, vibes, world design in sephonie), and the story. Often getting excited and brainstorming widely on one of these poles will lead to the 'practical concern' of one of the other poles. Depending on the time we might shift focus, or let time pass, and in the process, we'll forget a bit about one of the poles we had worked on. Over time, the more interesting ideas remain while the others tend to drift away.
Eventually though we do have to stop thinking widely and we try to solidify some aspect. So far this has always been the story or the gameplay-core - the systems tend to require a bit more concrete in story or gameplay-core in order to actually become tangible.
I would say that we kind of do this (often we try to brainstorm rough plots and characters when it comes to story) a few times (or maybe just infinitely, but in smaller magnitudes, until the game is done.
Brainstorming the secondary gameplay too much, I think, tends to lead to the most time wasted, but we also get a lot of wild/interesting ideas. It's kind of like the difference between designing "The Jump" of a game vs. "Where The Jump Happens"... any platformer inevitably needs a Jump, but you sort of need to think wildly about 'where the jump happens' to make anything interesting in the end outside of a tech demo. But if you only ever dream about "Where The Jump Happens" then nothing will ever take form.
I think the balance (which is hard to find as every project is different!) is to not get too invested in any one 'secondary gameplay idea'... since world design and like, progression systems or whatever, can change really quickly according to the demands of other things.
If I had any reflections now, as we're edging more into production of Game 5, I think we tend to waste too much energy with the really really early brainstorming? E.g. Late 2020 and early 2021. That's not to say it's a complete waste, but I do think I, at least, need some period of consistent time where I'm able to make progress on something concrete (a story plot or a gameplay prototype), while also being able to jump around to the wide brainstorming. Rather than focusing on one of these things, forgetting about the project for a month, etc. A lot of the extremely early ideas for Game 5 didn't amount to much, except maybe some thematic concerns, and maybe the visual style being 3D somehow.
I haven't talked about it yet, but we had a weird turn of events with the story in this game. Usually the story undergoes one major revision, after the gameplay has gotten its feet and we can figure things out better - but Game 5 went through one and is going through a relatively minor (though important) one. It's related to the setting which veered into the overly-realistic-historical, before we realized that it was causing issues with how widely we could think about writing and gameplay. So we've steered it back towards the more fantastical while trying to preserve the historical research/themes we're interested in.
When it comes to that, I guess it's a matter of philosophy... I think that when it comes to games, if a story or writing style is restricting the gameplay (e.g. "Wait, wouldn't this enemy acting like this seem too strange?") - if the gameplay is 'begging' to go in a direction, but it doesn't 'fit' the setting or something... then something in the story has got to go or change, and that's what we're doing with Game 5.
Thank you for writing! I appreciate you engaging with the design ideas here. I sort of got distracted with other stuff and stuck again, so I haven't thought much about the design of this project (although the story and themes are always on my mind).
I agree with you in that it'd be nice if a significant part of the game is the 'engagement with the world'... I wonder how to balance that. In my experience I've personally had a hard time in balancing games with two big 'systems' (in this case, mapping and exploration). Either one gets cut or they end up existing a bit independently (e.g. Sephonie's Linking/Platforming) But maybe it's a challenge worth approaching.
It's frustrating to not have many game reference points to go on. The closest thing to the 'trial and error' I can think of is Mu Cartographer - really interesting game, basically it's a procedural world you navigate by twisting strange knobs, and you can find treasure in the noise. https://store.steampowered.com/app/513360/Mu_Cartographer/ Of course, that game is pretty different in design goals from what I have in mind, but it feels like somewhat of a proof of concept that 'experimental exploration' could be fruitful.
Real life has a lot of great analogies with the game, now that I think about it - often google maps is just 90% and the rest is having to improvise based on street/outside conditions, street signs. Paths to a place are full of things that you didn't expect, pleasant surprises... hm.
The idea about having 'partial undo' items is really good, it definitely feels important for the exploration to be open to experimentation, rather than punishing for failure. Sort of like how Mu Cartographer lets you know when you're kinda close to a treasure, and you can keep unadjusting/adjusting knobs as needed.
Your comment also gives me an idea about 'solutions' to maps... sort of inspired by 'closeness' in things like recommendation engines, maybe the path to a treasure merely needs to be 'close' to the ideal solution (the analogy would be like, a game that's a 90% "match" to Anodyne 2). I kind of like that, it might even fit with the theming of the story.
I wonder how the exploration (on a granular basis) would stay engaging, but with a game like Yume Nikki in mind, maybe filling rooms with strange sights and characters is enough? I guess this is a case where overthinking things would lead to perfunctory design (e.g. if it was combat-based, and I had to kill enemies with a Red Weapon to get to a Red Room... etc).
Thanks for writing your thoughts on the themes! While I plan to use the visual language of 'towns', this very much is a story that's thinking more about subcultures and types creative circles. I'm glad to hear that it sounds resonant so far!
Like you bring up with the internet, I guess this game is quite inspired by the experience of living on the internet.. ending up in strange places with surprising ideas, meeting or observing people with totally different interests and priorities is in general an enriching way to live, I feel. Actually, there's an old story/game idea (that's a partial inspiration for Shuffled World) I had that's basically analogizing discord servers and their relative isolation and connection. The way that 'invite codes' are sort of like these special passwords or tunnels to different 'discord worlds', etc.
Anyways, time will tell if I manage to work on any of this stuff but I'm glad that these posts are interesting as-is!
Hi, I think Steam opening is a quirk of Anodyne being old and how it handles Steam - is the game still playable? Does it still open Steam if steam is closed? If the game works fine I generally don't give out Steam keys.
Oh wow, that's cool to hear! I like how this game's world feels like an interesting collection of platforming challenges/puzzles and how previous level mechanics will come back and be remixed into other ideas.
Thanks!! Yeah, it definitely does feel more along the lines of 3DS/DS - interesting technical restraints that nonetheless have neat ways to approach the art. I'm excited to make more areas with the autocuber tool!
Hi, today I published a project with the status of "in development" - https://han-tani.itch.io/analgesic-game-5-devlog
I have it set to "in development status", but when I made it public, it still e-mailed (unknown amount) of followers that we "released a new game".
- the UI should warn the user that (some? all?) followers are going to get an e-mail, and an example of what that e-mail will have a header of. (In our case, it said I "released a new game", which is incorrect)
- It would also be nice to be able to optionally not send out an e-mail notification
I'm imagining that constructing the 'solution worlds' is some balance of knowing when to pull back from the more RNG-y Keys (ones that merely increase the rate of certain rooms) and utilize the more guaranteed Keys (ones that spawn certain rooms). So theoretically, with the right Key loadout, you should have a pretty low chance of failure - part of making sure this is the case is the solutions being flexible (e.g. a desert being 4 contiguous Sand rooms, vs. an exact 2x2 pattern - allows for some failure with RNG. Likewise if a desert is 4 or *more*, vs. exactly 4).
That being said, I do feel like there's something off to the whole solution I outlined in the post. Namely, I wonder if I'm looking at the 3D section of the game wrong - I feel like there's little significance to the rooms themselves, if most of the time you're just playing a little card game with adding on the doors. There's probably some way to mitigate this (maybe adding some diversity to what you do in the shuffled world - not just trying to construct treasure paths. Maybe some more freeform exploration options), but it'll take some more thinking/testing!
And thanks for linking that game! It's interesting what can be accomplished through physical games in terms of randomness/deduction.
Really cool game. I think the camera switching mechanic is brilliant, it was a lot of fun to switch between exploring buildings carefully and running around the overworld. Flying up the steep-slope walls was a neat and unexpected twist. And the sound design/atmosphere did a great job recreating something from the DS era. I enjoyed looking at all the vistas of buildings and faraway areas and figuring out how to reach them.
loved it! (spoilers)
enjoyed those action setpieces with the chasing boss a lot, and the emotional world connections with the harmonica. Also lovely music and sound design. I thought the map direction was a smart choice, too.. the 2nd tower was interesting to explore, and I liked how it was still navigable by way of the item markers and your knowledge of the previous tower