..and somehow it’s August already! Keeping this blog from collecting too much dust is becoming increasingly difficult lately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, however we’ll do our best — we have so much more to give!
This past month has been a bit hectic.. the original plan for N+ on DS/PSP was that we would only “consult” about level design, leaving us enough time to make all the levels for the XBLA version as well as getting something Robotology-related ready for the Independent Games Festival in October.
(Aside: it may seem like we’re working on a single game called “N+”, but in reality it’s two separate projects: one that we’re in charge of (XBLA), and one that Atari’s in charge of (DS/PSP), with us providing “direction”).
Sadly, the original plan was flawed in that it contained the implicit assumption that just anyone could make N levels that were as good as ours. “As good as” seems arrogant — the quality of our levels is subjective, but regardless we definitely have a distinct style/aesthetic which we think is an important part of N. Aside from matters of taste, we’ve also got years of experience, so we know what works and what doesn’t…
To cut a long story short (for once ;p), we realized that the only way to make sure that the DS/PSP version of N+ would be just as good as the XBLA version was to make the levels ourselves, which is what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks. We’ve actually been coming up with a lot of new/weird ideas too — it’s amazing how much room for creativity and invention there is in the level design for a simple tile-based 2D game. After 4 years we’re still finding new tricks and concepts to play with. Crazy! Why anyone would jump to 3D when there’s still so much to figure out in 2D is beyond us 😉
Anyway, the titular “best of times” good news is that we’ll be making single-player levels for all versions of the game; we’re actually doing all the levels for the XBLA version (single- and multi-player), while for DS/PSP we might not have time to make all of the multi-player maps — but since we’ve never made multi-player maps before, it doesn’t seem like as much of an issue.
Sadly, the blurst of times is that as a result of all this level-making, Robotology has been languishing of late… aside from the odd day or two of tinkering we haven’t done any real work on it in the past month, as we’ve been too busy with these damn levels — in total, across all versions there should be over 1000!!
As a result it looks very unlikely that we’ll be able to get something ready for the IGF deadline — this is itself another best/blurst scenario as it means we’ll (hopefully) be able to judge games for a third year, which is always very exciting/rewarding/inspirational. Still, it’s very demoralizing and spirit-crushing to have to sit idly by when we have so much energy and motivation to put into Robotology. However, we really want to avoid having N+ be a blemish on our immortal souls, so we made the agonizing decision to put the new game on hold for a bit, yet again.
By mid-September all of our milestones will have been completed and we’ll be able to return to Robotology in full force; currently it’s little more than a collection of design/graphics mockups, gameplay prototypes, and one bitchingly awesome simulator. We still need to do a lot of work in many areas, especially AI and animation (which are usually intertwined anyway). Damn it, writing this just makes us want to work on it all the more!! CURSE YOU, DELICIOUS N+!!!
In the meantime we’ll do our best to keep this blog going with more “development backstory” posts — now that we’ve finished covering the history leading up to our physics system we can get to the really good part: the simulator itself (which is fanatically awesome-tastic if we do say so ourselves).
But that will have to wait for next time… there are still more levels to be made!