Project type: Indie9000 game jam
Made: October 2010
My fields: Game design, Level design, Programming
Time spent on this project: 48 hours
Tools used: Unity 3, PhotoShop CS5, Ableton Live, Visual Studio Express 2010, sfxr
About this project:
Co-op platform game where each player is dependent on the other, since the two are tied together by a bouncy string. Using funny physics, they have to help each other reaching heights that would not be possible alone. And snails!
The game was nominated for the prizes Best Technology and Best Game.
The overall theme was “pumpkins”. We wanted to have a cooperative experience, and we wanted to make a fun 2D platform game in Unity.
We spent a lot of time discussing what game we wanted to make. We knew that we wanted to make a somewhat simple 2D game in Unity, and we knew that it should have a core feature that didn’t work as anything we have seen before. We did not want to have a thousand different features and powerups; instead we chose to focus all our time on one single gameplay mechanic: the interactivity between the two players who are linked together via a springy rope throughout the whole game.
We enjoy playing co-op games where teamwork is necessary to complete the game. The players have to communicate verbally if they want to succeed, since one player can’t win the game alone. If one player makes a mistake it will effect both, which makes the game tense and exciting.
Making a Unity game
Since Unity is a 3D game engine, the game is made in 3D, but with an orthographic camera view which gives the effect of a 2D game space.
By using various scripts, mainly written in C#, the two characters move around using ‘WASD’ for Player 1 and the Arrow Keys for Player 2. One important mechanic in the game is the ability to increase the weight of the pumpkins. By default, the bigger pumpkin’s mass is higher than the smaller pumpkin, but if one player hits the down key, his mass will increase. This feature can be used in various situations. For instance, if one player are hanging down from an edge, increasing the weight will make the rope longer, and when letting go of the button, the pumpkin will fly upwards.
Teaching the mechanics to the player
We found that this mechanic could be used to make the gameplay deeper, but it was also important to educate the players about the feature. Most importantly we made the pumpkins turn red, showing that their mass have increased. Feedback like this is very important. We also tried implementing sound cues, but in the end it didn’t work out very well.
During gameplay test sessions we discovered that the players didn’t really use the “increase mass” mechanic, which made the last part of the game hard to understand. Therefore we worked out a simple puzzle which forces the players to understand the mechanic, before they can proceed. In the beginning of the first level the players are presented with a wood sign showing the controls. Besides is a simple seesaw. The idea was that the players could try positioning themselves in each edge of the seesaw. By default it would tilt to the end where the larger pumpkin was placed, since his mass is bigger than the small pumpkin. But if the smaller pumpkin increases its mass, the seesaw would tilt to the other side.
In theory this was a simple and easy solution, but in practice, almost nobody did as we wanted them to. We found that the most common thing was indeed not to read the sign nor try the seesaw, but rather just keep on moving to the right. Therefore I came up with this idea of a bridge puzzle. The bridge will only move, if the players demonstrate that they know how to use the increase mass feature. They have to stand on the button and press down together to increase their mass, which will make the gate open. To help the players understand this, we also painted a new wood sign showing a feather (“light”) with a red cross, and an anvil (“heavy”) with a green tick. We wanted to address this further by showing some kind of scale symbol, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to implement that.