Thursday, May 6, 2010


In my last dev. journal, I briefly discussed the importance of a game's overall aesthetic experience-- a combination of gameplay, story, art, sound, level design, and what I would call the game's "presentation style". It's that latter aspect I'm going to be talking about today.

A lot of 2D platformers are also referred to as "side-scrollers", since the screen scrolls with the player as they move through a given area. Not so Sequence Breaker; each screen is a distinct entity, giving the player a full and comprehensive view of their immediate challenges. Once the player moves to the other side of the screen (or back), the camera switches to the next screen.

It's an approach I also used in my platformer Run Jump. That game revolved around what I would call "platforming puzzles"-- not puzzles as in, push-the-block-onto-the-pressure-plate, but puzzles as in figure-out-how-to-use-your-acrobatic-skills-to-overcome-this-obstacle: puzzles that are solved by platforming. If it had been a side-scroller, the player wouldn't have been able to grasp all the elements and thus wouldn't have time to consider all their options.

And while this game's "puzzle" elements-- that is, figuring out how to "cheat" and "break" the game-- aren't as pervasive as those in Run Jump, I figured that Sequence Breaker would benefit from a similar approach, and that the static compositions would make the layouts more memorable, more resonant, and perhaps even just shy of being elegant.

To emphasize this further, the game is presented in widescreen. Not the usual widescreen, but the really wide widescreen, the sort that always lends a certain classy and formal air when used in filmmaking. Cinemascope, the King of Aspect Ratios, is typically 2.35:1-- that is, the screen is twice-and-some-change wider than it is tall-- and my game is 640 pixels wide by 280 high, or about 2.29:1.

What the game might gain from such a presentation style it also loses in verticality. A vertical platforming sequence, like you'd find in the original Metroid, would be impossible; a long drop would have muted impact at best. Though each mission unfolds over a large series of rooms, most are going to end up connected left-to-right. The winding, corkscrewing layouts that sometimes make level maps aesthetically pleasing to look at in their own right are replaced by a series of long corridors stacked ontop of one another.

In an overhead action-adventure game, or a 3D action game, such an approach would be unforgiveable-- which is one reason why I wouldn't create such a game in such a long, horizontally-oriented aspect ratio. In a platformer, though, it feels about right, and I think losing those sort of vertical platforming sequences (which, let's face it, can get a little annoying at times) is a fair trade-off for what I hope the widescreen presentation will add to the experience.

NEXT TIME: Storytime

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