lundi, novembre 30, 2009

With Great Powers ...

As I was reviving the idea of a full Bilou game, a few years ago, it became obvious that the "super-powers" we designed initially weren't very good gameplay-wise. The original game design from Bilou was that every defeated boss let you recover a "magic stone" that gives Bilou an extra ability that you can use at any time if you collected enough "magical bonuses". Some part of the level (usually containing 1UPs or similar bonuses) could only be explored on a second (or Nth) pass when you obtained more powers than the one you've got initially.
Les super-pouvoirs que Bilou reçoit en battant les boss étaient un des éléments déterminant du "game design" de Bilou au début du projet, en '94. Avec le recul, il ne reste pas grand-chose de la liste originale qui me paraisse toujours approprié. En particulier, l'idée qu'ils permettraient de revisiter le monde 1 pour y trouver des 1UP cachés en volant ou en nageant ne me séduit plus depuis que j'ai du faire la chasse aux electoons dans Rayman 1.

By that time (just before Rayman came out on the PSX), we though it was a brilliant and novel idea for our game. Now that I've played Rayman and DKC end-to-end, I know that revisiting levels without purpose (that is, just for powering up) is not exactly fun, and that doing it because you can't access the final boss otherwise is just frustrating, especially when you realise that it doesn't matter how well you played the first levels, you'll have to play them again.

Il y a quelques années, je m'attelais donc à "repenser" ces power-up sous un angle nouveau: les magic stones transforment des objets "ordinaires" en bonus qui activent un pouvoir particulier, plutôt que d'avoir une jauge de magie unique multi-usage. Ca me paraît une meilleure approche pour construire des niveaux intéressants. Par contre, parmi les nouveaux pouvoirs que j'entrevoyais ici -- essentiellements axés sur un changement de matière pour Bilou -- très peu on trouvé grâce aux yeux de mon frère. Comme j'ai également appris entretemps que c'était exactement le principe de "Within a Deep Forest", je sais que je devrai encore refaire une passe là-dessus.
I also wasn't very convinced by the "one kind of magic bonus to fuel them all" approach, because it doesn't allow nice level designs. Especially, if the player use all its magic points to fly around the level when he's not supposed to, he won't be able to swim that pool to move further. And if you have "respawning" magic bonuses, the best jumping puzzle might be spoiled by the flying power (or the shooting power, or anyone of those). The idea then came that the magic stone would reveal power-specific magical bonus, so that the level designer can decide what you can use when, but with a time limit that makes them more like the Starman in supermario than e.g. the fire flower.

A comment on pixelation made me start this alternate set of super-powers, where the material Bilou is made of is affected, making him light enough to walk clouds, hard enough to break stones or bouncy enough to do superjumps. My brother didn't enjoyed the idea too much, though, so this isn't the definitive list anyway.

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