Mighty Switch Force Hyper Drive Edition: Level Design Analysis.

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Incident 1 opens with a cutscene that says so much in a very brief amount of time. A crashed police vehicle creates an opportunity for criminals to escape. One criminal summons a bunch of monsters and then laughs. This opening teaches us our objective, who the bad guys are, the narrative, and who our hero is, giving us our motivation. It’s simple but very effective.
Tied together with the character’s cry “Stop! In the name of the Law!” gives the player
their goal for the entire game, catch these baddies.

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The first level, called Incident 1 begins. A lot is taught by simply looking at the interface without even moving the character. We have a timer, 5 outlines for the escaped convicts, three hearts likely for health, an icon pointing towards the direction of the criminals, and three blocks underneath the player, with one being transparent.

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When the level starts, the character has a brief animation where she rolls from the left side of the screen. This is one of the few cues the player has to guide them in the correct direction. Additionally, she faces the right, and we see the escaped convict’s icon pointing towards the right as well. Lastly, if the player moves to the left, there’s nothing to explore. Without ever having played a 2D platformer, the player will very likely know which direction to go with these cues.

If the player experiments with the 4 face buttons on the WiiU Gamepad, they can teach themselves what the game’s core mechanics are; jumping, shooting, and switching. Jumping and shooting will be acted out by the character’s animation, but what about switching? At the start of the level, there are three blocks noticeably underneath the surface the character stands on. The centered block is transparent, and by pressing the A button, the solid and transparent blocks trade places. All solid blocks become transparent and vice versa. Additionally, there is a blue flash that appears from the character’s helmet and a mechanical movement sound to correspond with the action. This teaches the player the switching mechanic in a safe space. Once the player runs to the right, they will continue to see a couple more block sets underneath the surface that can be switched as well. Above the third set of switchable blocks, we see our first escaped convict. She is high above and offers us our first platforming challenge. There are three platforms that we must jump on before regaining convict number 1. The first platform stands above a pit of spikes. There are small gaps on the left and right side of the platform that can cause the player to fall into the spikes and die. If this happens, the players loses one heart, giving room for some error without a lot of pressure. The challenge is very small since the jump arc covers much more space than the gap. The second platform is small, and offers the player the first enemy to shoot. The third platform takes our character right into the first baddie. Shooting her doesn’t work, so we must walk up to her. As soon as she is collected, the main character says “Gotcha” and the screen displays the icon for the next character, pointing to the right.

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Here the player will encounter two more enemies blocking the path. This provides a brief shooting challenge, followed by the first switching challenge. Shooting the enemies can commonly release an extra heart in case the player died before.

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The second criminal sits on a platform that can’t be reached with jumping. There are a set of three switchable blocks, followed by another set of three switchable blocks. They are opposite to each other, so if the top set is solid, the bottom set is transparent. In between both sets of blocks, there is enough space for the player to stand. Making the top transparent allows the player to fall through, and then must make the bottom set transparent, landing the character on top of a cute dog-disguised-checkpoint.

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Understanding how the switching mechanic works, the player must now jump towards the second criminal by switching a block mid air, becoming a solid surface to land on. If the player accidentally switches the transparent block into a solid, while the character’s hit box collides with it, they will lose a heart, and have to start over from the checkpoint.


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Heading towards the third criminal introduces the player to the bomb enemies. With a shot, they stumble momentarily and then explode. A few more enemies, another checkpoint, and now the player has reached the next main switching challenge. Six switchable blocks serve as a bridge over a pit of spikes. The two left and two right blocks are solid, while the two centered blocks are transparent. The player must switch the blocks mid jump two times in this challenge; once to the reach the centered blocks, and once more to reach the right blocks. This is followed by a slightly bigger challenge. A much longer pit of spikes must now be jumped over with separated switchable blocks. There is a gap, 2 solid blocks on the left, another gap, a single transparent block in the center, another gap, 2 solid blocks on the right, and a final gap. The same solution can be applied here. There is one final transparent block above a spike pit, however the gap for this jump is slightly longer.

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This culminates with another checkpoint. The third criminal stands on a high platform that must be reached by jumping on two switchable blocks. This sequence exists to further challenge the player’s grasp on the switching mechanic.


An icon point upright towards the closest criminal, but at the moment this is unreachable. The player must move rightwards where the next icon points. A group of flying and bomb enemies stand in your way without putting up much of a fight. Two columns of 5 stacked solid blocks stands in the way, turning them transparent and walking through will reveal two more columns of 4 stacked solid blocks, then two columns of 3, then 2, and finally 1.

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After this, the player cannot go further right and must jump on these switchable blocks starting with the single ones, jumping and switching mid air to jump onto the column of 2, and so on, until reaching column of 5. Here the player will reach the 4th criminal.

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Trekking up left now where the icon points, will give the player a few more baddies to shoot while jumping on small platforms, serving as a final test for shooting. Since the main mechanic of the game is switching, this shooting challenge isn’t much to stress about. Shooting becomes more a tool in later levels. A final switchable block challenge that remains operates the same as the previous challenges prior to collecting a criminal. The 5th one is now collected and a robot vehicle arrives right in front of the character, opening his chest, and pointing at it. Jumping in concludes the level.

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Incident 1 manages to teach a large portion of the main mechanics in its first moments. The player learns how switching, jumping, and shooting works in a safe environment, how the enemies behave, and how to defeat them, all while having a clear narrative to motivate your actions.

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Glider (Working Title) demo is online!

Working a full time schedule, attempting to have a social life, play with two puppies at home, study Japanese, and try to get a game design job are really hard to juggle. Now add making a game in the spare minutes you have left. Most of my designing time gets done on a notebook sheet of paper at my local coffee shop or ramen restaurant. Luckily, I managed to devote two days to developing this short game. It needs a ton of work and art, but it has potential. I have a million ideas for the gliding mechanic, and I can’t wait to implement some. For now, I figured I’d share what I’ve got. It’s a very very early version, but I think the demo is solid enough to give players an idea of what to expect. I’ve had about 8 users test it to a majority positive response. I hope you all try it out and please let me know your thoughts on it so far.

Thanks,
Edwin

PLAY GLIDER BY CLICKING HERE

A Game a Day Recap

When I first thought about tackling this challenge, I think I was a different person. I was negative and a prisoner to my depression. Sure, I wanted to devote this blog series to mental health awareness, and yes I love making games so I was expecting to have fun, but I had ulterior motives that I was blind to.

I was jealous and angry.

I didn’t know this going in until an incident on June 10th. I was upset with my stage in life, where I was career-wise, how overlooked I was at work, and how artists in my personal life didn’t take me serious. I wanted to show them what I was made of. I originally thought I’d prove my job that I was a worthy contender for a junior or associate game designer role, and I wanted the artists that I worked personally with to want to work with me even more. Deep down, and I didn’t realize this, I was letting my depression defeat me. It made me angry. I was viewing my self-worth as something only that job or those artists could give me. So, I worked extremely hard the first week and a half, losing an incredible amount of sleep to impress. I wanted validation. I didn’t know this, but that’s what I wanted most.

I was sleeping 2 hours a night for the first 10 days in order to finish a playable project, add art, sound, write the blog post, even make a video for non-readers, and finally I’d share on social media. I chose to neglect my health. I avoided the gym and I’d stuff myself with fast food. On the 10th day, I had maybe totaled 20 hours of sleep (I should have been at 80 hours), and I was out of my mind. I was obsessed with page views for my validation. My closest friend saw this and then realized how much of a mess I became. This friend stopped being my friend that day and left me to sit in the shit prison I made for myself. I lied to my friend prior to this project, and I lied to myself. I said I was doing it for awareness and for myself, to simply see if I could.

The day after, I decided to react. I got up, I bought a ton of vegetables, I grabbed my gym clothes, and I started a fitness plan. My depression had possessed me to push away the closest people in my life. It’s made me into a monster. I never do anything evil or criminal, but I’m a pain to be around. I decided to put my foot down and focus on my health. You are what you eat, so if my body is only taking in healthy foods, I’ll feel healthy. If I work out constantly, I’ll feel happier. If I sleep more, I won’t become the monster I’ve become in the past. I also decided to put my blog series in distant 2nd. I did always try to make a game a day, but rather than devoting 8-10 hours and no sleep to a project, I’d use 1-2. Often, I wouldn’t have art and sound, or I’d submit unfinished games. My blog entries all focused on my daily health accomplishments. And today, July 5th, I can say that my mission is working. I’ve lost 23 lbs, feel better, look better, and I got new glasses. I’m cooking more, making healthy meals for my family, and spending more time with my puppies. I’m trying my best to finally get rid of my depression, and in the process I’m creating the self-worth I lacked all along.

Shortly after doing this, I remembered what my blog series was supposed to be about. I was devoted to trying to challenge myself, learn new things, and have fun, while also making my happiness the number 1 priority. I mentioned this in every post. I want anyone who may come across the blog to understand how important mental health is. In the end, I was happy making games and I used the majority of my words to speak about mental health. I ended up doing what I should’ve been doing. I let go of the pain that I allowed my job or artists to give me, and I have been fighting as hard as I can to forever feel better.

I would consider it a success in that case. Maybe soon, “Anxiety Monster” will only be a name. I hope so.

Thank you all for reading. Please take care of yourselves. If you know anyone suffering from depression, know they can be helped. They can beat it. Sometimes you may not feel really helpful, but a simple “I’m here for you” goes a long way.

To any young designers out there battling depression, you CAN succeed. Keep making game after game until you get better. If you have questions, contact me. I’ll respond. I know the feeling. Things can feel overwhelming and impossible, but I know you can get through it like I’m doing.

Good Luck,
Edwin

A Game a Day: Final Day

Day 30 and Final Day

I spent the day devoted to my health and my happiness, but I managed to squeeze some time to make a game. I had plans to make something big, but I’d rather devote more time to that, without feeling the pressure of completing it tonight. Pressure isn’t always good. I have some great plans for July, so look for the games I’ll post then. Today, I ran with my puppies at the park, made breakfast and lunch for family, worked on the game, and I’m about to hit the gym and then celebrate the month. I saw a udemy tutorial about a skiing game. I gave it one glance and I felt I could try it out. I did manage to reproduce it within about an hour and a half. The game can be played with your mouse or even on a mobile device.

You have to drag your character (blue square) right and left to avoid obstacles as you ski down a mountain. You’re simply trying to gain a high score. The longer you last, the higher the score. The only difference my game has from the tutorial on udemy is that I’m lacking art.

That was the final project, but expect fully functional games WITH art in the coming weeks. I’m excited to reveal some projects that I hope you all play and maybe even download on your mobile devices. Please look forward to tomorrow for a recap of the A Game a Day project. It’s been a massive learning experience.

Thanks for reading these last 30 days.

Total time developing: 1.5 hours.

A Game a Day: Day 29

Day 29

Today I made a Flappy Bird clone. I honestly always wanted to, so I can check that off. I found an easy to follow tutorial on how to create one with art even provided. The game works well, although it can use some collision tuning. For those that never played Flappy Bird on a mobile device, the game is about tapping on a screen to keep your character in the air as long as possible while avoiding obstacles. In college, a lot of us would compete for high scores. I’d love to expand on this maybe at some point.

As for the rest of my day, I did a great job. My health was number 1 priority as always. I woke up and went for a 30 minute run. Then, I made breakfast for my family, went to therapy, got my new pairs of glasses, made my sister some sushi for lunch, went to see Incredibles 2, cooked chicken fajita burritos for my family, made my juice for the next two days, and ran for another hour. I’m spent! I’m only up late because I wanted to finish my game. Tomorrow is the LAST day of A Game a Day after all. I’ll do my best to end with a bang. But remember, HEALTH COMES FIRST.

Additionally, today is day 20 of my health/fitness program. I’m happy to announce that I’ve lost 20 lbs. I feel a lot better mentally and physically.

See you all tomorrow for the final A Game a Day blog posting.

Total Time Developing: 1.5 hours.