How liberating has it been to create a game with this much freedom? You?ve stated in a recent blog post that you?ve been adding new enemies and level gimmicks as you?ve been tweaking the stages. Are there any drawbacks to this approach?
It's been really good - in fact that is how I work best; I have a broad idea of where I want to go when I start a project, then that gets refined and modified over the time of development as I implement stuff. I don't like the idea of creating a design ahead of time and then just coding to that spec. I need the freedom to be able to chuck out bad stuff that isn't working, and pursue new interesting stuff that emerges as the implementation progresses.
You're constantly refining and balancing the design as you're making the game - even down to the last few days you're playing thousands and thousands of games and making a tweak here and a twiddle there, just iteratively and obsessively removing any little thing that doesn't please you. I have to be able to do that; it's just how I work.
As for drawbacks, the main drawback is that it's a pretty frightening way to develop a game. You basically take a leap of faith and trust that you will end up with a great game at the end of it. Sometimes in the early stages it isn't quite gelling and it can feel like the game simply sucks, and that's when you get scared, especially if you've put in a fair amount of dev time by that stage. That happened in Llamatron
- which I almost stopped working on when it was just being resolutely sucky to play ? and in Gridrunner
when early tests of the game mechanic appeared to indicate intense suckitude, and also in some parts of SG
where I didn't have things quite right.
But in all those cases something "magic" happened, typically over the space of just two or three days; there's a tipping point where a game goes from feeling like suck, to the sure and certain knowledge that you've nailed it and it's excellent. It's scary when you're still on the wrong side of that point but it's so sweet when you hit it and you just know you've got it nailed. When that happened with SG
I was going round grinning like an idiot for a couple of days, because it just suddenly became so
excellent, everything just fell into place perfectly. It just coincided with the second alpha release to our testers and you could see it in their responses too, which were basically just, "fucking hell, that's awesome!" [smiles]
The classic Llamatron