Monday, July 30, 2007

Inspiration Wanted (apply within)

Inspiration comes from anywhere when you are developing games. Sometimes in the shower, a LOT of times from watching movies, and occasionally when you misunderstand what someone is saying and your imagination wanders. A short time ago I was inspired from an unusual place and it has stuck with me, probably because I have yet to act on that inspiration.

The inspiration came from 2 small independent pc games created by Nicklas Nygren, also known as Nifflas, a 24 year old developer from Sweden. The first is Knytt , a game based on exploration and atmosphere. You play as a small creature that can jump and crawl on walls. Your goal is to find pieces of a broken spaceship using a Shadow of the Colossus style light as a guide. Sounds pretty simple, but this game isn’t about introducing some new mechanic to defeat enemies. It’s about the details in sound, music, and level design. Ambient sound effects, music that fits thematically with each area, and background life are just a couple details that are focused on. You get the sense of being alone, on an adventure in this empty world. Much like as if you were to walk into the woods right now. You would hear the wind, see some trees moving, a small creature stirring here and there, and nothing more. This would continue as you explored the woods, and after a period of time you might find something unique, like a waterfall or patch of flowers. These moments are so much more rewarding and allow you to appreciate the simple things in life. Many games have achieved this feeling; Miyamoto often refers to Zelda as a journey into the woods when he was younger. Knytt just simplifies this concept to its’ core.

The next game is Within a Deep Forest , a more traditional game with similarities to Metroid. You play as a bouncing rubbery ball. You can move the ball around and change the ball’s density to make it bounce higher or lower. As you progress, you find ball forms that have different abilities and allow you to gain access to new areas. The game has excellent music and attention to detail. The unique thing about Nifflas’ games is that they don’t have the player killing enemies. In fact, they rarely have enemies at all. The mechanic in this game can be frustrating, but if you make it past the learning curve it has some excellent level design.

Nifflas’ next game has been in the works for a while now. It is a continuation of the Knytt series called Knytt Stories and will be out the end of next month. I hope his style expands and grows in this next installment.

Another small game that has inspired me is Everyday Shooter , a game by Jonathan Mak being published by Sony on the Playstation Network. It’s a mix between Geometry Wars and Rez. Every enemy you defeat creates part of the music, so every time you play you get a unique soundtrack. I love to see that our industry can still support independent development and lately I have been more and more into quick, casual, games like these.
We are still in some of the early phases of development at work. This portion of the job requires lots of inspiration, which comes in random bursts. Certain aspects of the game I can see clearly and can’t wait to get the ideas down on paper and into the game. Other areas are still waiting for that spark. But that’s the best thing about working with a talented team. Great ideas appear all the time and from all departments.

Other things going on….my eyes are doing well since the Lasik. I have headaches, dry eyes, and still some halos at night. All supposed to go away. I bought an iPhone today, apple makes some slick products, I was sold as soon as I heard about it. Before tossing my old phone I finished God of War: Betrayal on it. It’s the only cell phone game outside of Tetris I have played. It’s impressive how much of GoW they brought over. There are too many fights in the game as a whole, which reminds you how repetitive the combat can be. They also didn’t get any music or sound effects while playing, which takes you out of the experience. Still, impressive what can be done on a phone and represents the franchise well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Damnit...why am I the only one of the crew that doesn't have an iPhone?? Oh yeah, cause I have kids. Damnit, I wish they would make iKids...

John Edwards