Okay, so I was thinking about it, and 2 things occurred to me. The first is that the game will probably be shorter than I thought at first. Honestly, I was thinking that 4-5 hours would be a nice short game. Then, after dong some running in my own levels, I found that when I do it, I can clear a screen in about 12 seconds. So, 12 seconds per (on average) X 5 levels X 30 screens per level and I get 30 minutes. Add some exploration, a little designed backtracking and the talky bits, and I could see finishing the game in about an hour or so. Other people may work slower, since they didn’t design the levels, so the game make take on average 1-2 hours to finish. Some extra meat will come from the Grade given at the end, and the total speed (to encourage replays). Then, after IGF, I’ll get ThiefEd to a point where other people can use it, so that will increase the playability too.
Second thought. Backgrounds are hard, or they were going to be. So, new plan (like the title says). My thinking is that the screen images will have 2 parts. The Background, drawn by the artist that I find, will be just that, a background. It will have no gameplay built in, and will instead feature the landmarks and general level stuff to make the game look nice. The Foreground will have all of that stuff though. The thought hit that, since the ThiefEd rounds all of the rectangles to the nearest 10 pixels, I can create textures and build the foreground myself. Once I have the level mapped out and have the background art, then I will layer the foreground on, and save the combined image as the main asset. This has 2 good things going for it, and both Producer Eric and Designer Eric are happy with them. The first, is that this allows the artist more flexibility for the backgrounds and the ability to work with a little less input once the levels are planned and the concept art is agreed upon. Both of these should give the art creation a little more speed. The second bonus, is that the stuff that can be interacted with, will be consistent from screen to screen. So, the player will be able to easily see what they can, and cannot, play with.
Oh right, art. I was thinking about the art. Here’s what I came up with:
-I want the whole thing to look like a story book.
-I want the backgrounds to be stylized and not realistic. With strong silhouettes and easily identifiable landmarks
– I would like a subdued color palette. I don’t want the Next Gen brown and gray, I do want color. What I don’t want is neon green and fuchsia.
-New picture up. The Thief – as drawn by the Animator.
Today, the plan is to update the save file with all of the new stuff I added. Then go ahead and build a few screens worth. The reason for that is, 1) Now that the ThiefEd is complete, I want to play with it. And 2) Then when I update the engine to recognize the Files, it won’t load blank levels and drop me into the void.
-Done. Funny thing happened. After I added an enemy, it would lose it when I loaded and saved. So, some minutes later, I learned something – always make sure you tell the computer the right place to look for variables.
-6 preliminary screens finished. Without playtesting or anything like that. I decided to start at the beginning, with the Prison level and work from there with that mindset. I found something. When I was designing levels on paper, I was trying to make them as difficult as possible. After all, the gameplay comes from the level, not the combat. Getting past the level is the goal. However, I can’t throw one of the messed up Impossible Machine levels that I created at the player in the first level, let alone the first few minutes of play. That would be totally messed up (with a Capital F). Instead I have to find good gameplay, but by introducing the player to new things they can do. In effect, I’m taking the Miyamoto design philosophy and applying it here. One of the precepts is this : Introduce gameplay elements in a vacuum. Train the player to use them in a vacuum. Then combine the elements in interesting ways. For example, in Zelda, each temple/castle/Pee Wee’s Playhouse has a single weapon/ item inside. That weapon/item is instrumental in finishing the area, and it is used exclusively. So you get to play with it and find out what it does. After you finish, then the game throws more stuff at you : “Alright hotshot, got your bow? Think you’re hot shit on a plate? Alright then, let’s see you shoot it while riding a horse.” …and that’s why Miyamoto is on T-shirts.