I want to make a short-form platformer

Started by VAgentZero, December 04, 2010, 09:00:41 PM

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What should it be about, and what kind of mechanics should I explore?

lazer bomb

I always liked the mechanic where you do something that changes the entire world. (Such as, in Super Mario World you hit a yellow switch and all yellow blocks in the entire game appear.)


Neat.  I'm talking like a ten-minute game, tops, so there wouldn't be too, too much difference between pressing one switch that adds one block and one that adds many.  That said, the idea of altering the environment fundamentally hasn't been one I've considered much.  Something like flooding an area with water, or changing gravity, or activating/deactivating traps or monsters, say...

Any other ideas?  I realize my initial post was rather awkwardly phrased, so the gist is I'm wanting to run a challenge for myself to see if I can still make games, since I haven't since like 2008.


I like lazer bomb's idea of changing the environment, along with your idea of flooding an area with water.

A few years ago I started writing a game where this happened. It was a turn-based puzzle platformer, where you had to escape a flooding cave. The cave was an abandoned research laboratory, so there was plenty of opportunity to manipulate the water. You could use switches to open doors, which would redirect the water. You could freeze the water, so it would stay regardless of changes to the environment. You could heat up the water to make it evaporate.

The protagonist was a spider, so he could crawl up walls and then drop down from ceilings using his spindley webs, which acted as ladders. The interface was super-simple, it was just ascii characters and the controls were the arrow keys.


This water thing is sexy.  I've been rolling it over in my head and came up with this:


Some guy (researcher, or whatever) wakes up from a coma in an abandoned research station.  The place is flooded, and crawling with robots of all shapes and sizes.  The only way out is a huge cargo elevator shaft -- only, the walls are sheer and the elevator has been destroyed, presumably by the robots (who can heal, change shape, fly, whatever).  The only way out is to flood the place using a series of panic switches left over for one reason or another.  The player can use consoles to adjust the waterline one level; by flooding it to the top they can get out.

The player gets a stun pistol which he can use to freeze robots in their tracks; he'll later get a tool kit he can use to dismantle a stunned robot permanently.  Some robots will even drop parts he can use as weapons in the short term.

Seem fun?  I'm pretty psyched about it.


Interesting! I'll write a proper reply, but I wanted to clarify one thing before I do that:

I'm probably misunderstanding, but are you saying the levels would be about manipulating robots and the water wouldn't be involved? The water is only contained in the elevator and is there for the story, rather than the game mechanics?


Fair question.  The idea of flooding the elevator shaft is what allows you to enter higher and higher areas.  However, everything below the waterline (including earlier locations) becomes flooded, which will change their makeup entirely:  what drones are active, doors that are open or closed, areas that you can now swim to (and areas that you can't make it to before you drown), and so forth.


Sounds good. I like the robots idea, because it'll provide a lot of variety and potential interactions. I also like the idea of dismantling robots to create new inventions.

I have a few questions, which I'm mostly asking to promote discussion of the available options:

What genre will it be? The robots idea is versatile, so I'm thinking it could be a puzzle, stealth, or action game, or a combination of those. Perhaps each level could have a different genre focus.

What do you think the best view is? I appreciate you initially wanted to make a platformer, but there might be merits to a top-down game instead. I think either could work successfully.

Would it be worth removing the water aspect of the game? Since this is you returning to making games, I think it would be best to keep it simple and focus on the parts that you are really motivated to make. The water doesn't affect the gameplay much, so I'd be very tempted to remove it. An alternative would be to show the floor number on each level, in a similar way that Portal shows the test chamber number.


The idea of a platformer is, sadly, non-negotiable -- the whole point of the project is my desire to make a platformer.  I have a working engine for player motion and interaction that works well, so there's near zero cost there.  The "test chamber" aspect you mentioned isn't too far off the mark from the image I have in my head, as each level is self-contained (connecting only to the main shaft), and the water is either on or off; there are effectively two sides to each level, one dry, one flooded.  So, like six levels, two versions each, and the levels will be succinct.  The overall "genre" ends up being light-puzzle mostly-action, essentially a mini Metroidvania (think Robot Wants Kitty) with limited upgrade options.

Verbs available to the player are:
Motion (run, jump, crouch, mantle)
Shoot (stun pistol or special weapon)
Dismantle (with tool kit, vs. drone or trap)
Interact (buttons, levers, consoles)

Upgrades planned:
Stun pistol
Stun pistol capacity
Grenade launcher (damages and dismantles robots -- "lethal damage" -- and blow open designated walls)
Tool kit (dismantle robots and interact with consoles)
Health capacity
Armor (absorb 25% incoming damage)
Oxygen capacity

The robot drops are instant things -- a shield, or a plasma arm with 30-odd shots; nothing permanent.  I really don't want to deal with crafting or something like that, at least in a game like this.  It's definitely filed away in the "consider this sometime" department though.  In truth, the robots were mainly so I didn't try to make another militaristic game about shooting humans, and the notion that being able to only stun enemies, with limited ammo, seems like a neat mechanic.

lazer bomb

The "stun" mechanic reminds me of Metroid: Zero Mission, which has a portion where you lose your weapons except for a stun gun.

Regaining your real weapons in that game felt great, and I see gaining even a temporary advantage over the robots in this game should make the player feel invincible.

So, the levels would basically be self-contained puzzles?


Got interested with this idea:"Some robots will even drop parts he can use as weapons in the short term."
Why not have robots leave 'power cores' when they get totally zapped; ONE big robot will leave a "big power core or chip" big enough to power an elevator to move 1 next level up, but the thing is you need to kill 3 other ordinary robots, to power your weapon to kill that big robot.

Just an idea...


This sounds interesting!
I hope you're still working on this!  :viridian:


I realize I have failed to "show the money" on this one.  Life got in the way -- fiancee, house -- but I'll get back to this soon.   :viridian: