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» Game Design

On Monday, the first day of GDC, I joined Scott Sharkey at 1UP and a dark cloud of indie developers for a roaming thunderstorm. Topics include respectful vs. jerky design, challenge/difficulty, inspiration, and more. There is also a lot of giggling. It’s more Judd Apatow than Charlie Rose.

There are two parts:

Starting at 5:30 Scott Sharkey, Derek Yu (Aquaria, Spelunky), Brandon McCartin (TIGSource, Balding’s Quest), Cactus (Psychosomnium, inappropriate hugging), and me

Starting at 38:30 Scott Sharkey, Tommy Refenes (Goo, Super Meat Boy), Mark Johns (Space Barnacle, Shit Game), Mark Essin (Flywrench), and me

Go to this page to download it.

Zelda Games Petty, Domineering

September 10th, 2008

Remember the first Zelda? Yeah! That was a cool game.

These old guys would give you clues. You’d walk into a room and he’d be there, and just spit out two lines. Never with any further explanation. It was cryptic, sure, but we liked it that way! More to think about. More mystery!

Like I said, brevity. Dropping the article, here.

Well, the Zelda series has come a long way since the mid-eighties. Last year The Phantom Hourglass was released for the Nintendo DS. It got good reviews. I’m only just getting around to it. I used to be a big Zelda fan, but the Gamecube installments forced me to confront certain grim truths. I’d grown, yes, but Zelda had changed as well. A series that started out rugged, minimal, nonlinear and downright mystical had become crowded, cloying, authoritarian and formulaic.

As Tim Russert liked to say, “Let’s watch!”

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Tim, the protagonist of Braid, visits various imaginative worlds during his journey, but in between excursions, he always returns home. Home serves several functions, and as a result was a complex and interesting area to design. It is the “hub” which links the different worlds, a place of repose and reflection, a “status screen” representing progress within the game, and a reflection of Tim’s character.

Here’s what it looked like when I joined the project. Each door leads towards a different world; within those worlds, Tim grapples with the laws of time and earns jigsaw pieces as tokens of understanding; he brings those jigsaw pieces back home and assembles them on the puzzle boards you see paired with each door.

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Kyle Gabler Draws!

May 5th, 2008

More and more indie game artists are sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses. The most recent comes from Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy, creator of the Wii killer app World of Goo.

This entry is nominally about the title screen, but Braid doesn’t have one in the traditional sense. Most video game title screens are just like DVD menus: they show the title, usually some kind of collage or splash image, and present a list of choices: play, select chapter, configure this or that, etc. Braid starts immediately into the game, with no preamble. The game launches, and you are Tim.

This is what the title screen looked like when I joined the project. The protagonist, Tim, appears in silhouette on the left. The sky flickers gently with subtle particle effects. The music sets a calm, contemplative mood. (There’s also a ladder to the right of the sun, leading down to an unseen place. That’s a super-secret thing that’s been removed.) A billboard briefs the player on the controls.

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Rest assured, this installment of The Art of Braid contains much less Bloopi-ness.

Each of Braid’s six worlds ends with a castle. They’re backdrops, visual treats to acknowledge the player’s progress. They’re also throwbacks to the famous/iconic/beloved castles of Super Mario Bros. (To my shock and dismay, five minutes of Google image searching did not yield a clean, straightforward screen capture of a SMB castle. So tap your collective consciousness for that one.)

You guys have said you like seeing rough drafts leading up to a finished version, so let’s take a look at how the World 2 castle developed.

A far away castle with a big wall.

Maybe it should look like a house?

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Dan Paladin Draws!

April 8th, 2008

I just discovered via TIGSource that The Behemoth have their own development blog for their upcoming medieval cartoon hack-and-slash, Castle Crashers. It’s quite interesting! Of course my favorite entries are the videos showing Dan Paladin creating the play environments.

Dan draws the way non-artists expect all artists to draw: coming up with cool stuff, making it real, making it look fun. Zippity doo dah zippity ay.

Two more videos after the break. And of course don’t miss the Castle Crashers Development Blog of Love.

Marsh Land Construction from The Behemoth on Vimeo.

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