Posted on 20 November by Derek Elliott – Producer, Compulsion Games
If you were born in the ’70s (as I was) or have watched Arrested Development you will know the song The Final Countdown. It is cornily (is that a word? Spell check thinks so!) appropriate when your game is close to launch status. It can pump you up (listening to it right now) and can also bring you back to all the good and bad that was the ’80s – much simpler times when two programmers would make all of the design, art, animation, sound and code for a game. And back then game design counted for something. Be damned you kids these days and your fancy save games and discs you don’t have to blow on to play.
Games like Paperboy, Dig Dug, and one of my personal favourites Racing Destruction Set were profoundly FUN because they were simple. But simple didn’t mean easy. These games somehow got made because of a genuine fire to develop something new and have fun in a brand new industry. These early godfathers of video games were passionate because they accomplished something special, were published, and people responded to their creations.
Just as I suspect these early developers found, we learned really quickly that it was difficult to create puzzles with a new mechanic — in our case, being able to shift in and out of your shadow, swapping from 3D to 2D and back again. This was not only because the designers had to retrain themselves in a different way of thinking, but had to also better understand how the player will interpret and use the new mechanics. Some puzzles became too hard, some were just completely insane, and some even we couldn’t understand what to do with them.