So, What is “Sarah’s Run: Escape from Capital Evil” then?

May 10th, 2010

been meaning to cover this since I started the blog, and didn’t quite know how to describe it best, but a comment someone left me on deviantArt today seems to fit pretty well:

“It’s like my highschool physics class combined with sonic… Combined with a really bad headache.”


If you want to label the gameplay, it fits the description ‘puzzle platformer’ pretty well, as there are puzzles, and platforming, though normally a ‘puzzle platformer’ involves being a platform game with a block-pushing puzzle somewhere on each level, it’s my intention with Sarah’s run for the platforming and the puzzle solving to be sort of one-and-the-same, the platforming is the tool for solving the puzzles.

That is to say; most of the time the goal in any ‘area’ in the game is to reach a specific point, just like in most platformers, however there are very few routes that can be taken to get there and it should require some planning. If you have played one of my other games ‘BOXGAME‘ it should (hopefully) be fairly clear what I mean when I say the puzzles are ‘navigational’ in nature.


Our Villain, the evil Doctor-Hasn’t-been-named-yet is tired of all his cunning plans to destroy various Orphanages and Kitten shelters thwarted by the new rising super-hero Sarah. And what’s more she has the nerve to use a new type of super-power that science just doesen’t understand yet:Β  manipulating gravity.

As a scientist, this simply won’t do, and so he kidnaps Sarah, and takes her to his facility known as ‘Capital Evil’ to study her, punish her and hold her for ransom (who says villains can’t multi-task!?).

Can Sarah subvert our nasty villain’s experiments and escape Capital Evil, perhaps even put an end to his villanous villany?

The story for Sarah’s run started out as quite a horrible, horrible thing before this, but I went to my super-friend Logan and this is what we worked out together (also as well as being co-writer for the game, Logan will be supplying his lovely voice for the villain).

I’ll probably go into more details about the story as more of it and the characters in the game are finalized, however I’ll likely be keeping quite a few things back, the game will be pretty lighthearted, but I’ve got lots planned and dont want to spoil it πŸ˜€

Stacking problems makes for more interesting puzzles

May 8th, 2010

I know I said I’d be making a decent introduction to my game saying what it’s about and stuff, but I’ll leave that for another day as I’d rather talk about what I’ve done today, and the thinking behind it.

A new level I made today, just for you... well really I made it for me but I'm in the mood for sharing so you are lucky πŸ™‚

In this post I’ll be going into detail about a new level I made, so if you dont want ‘puzzle spoilers’ (if such a thing exists) then you can play here before reading.

this level was made as a quick test for a feature I coded today of what I call a ‘drain field’; when Sarah passes through it, she can’t use her wall running powers until she reaches a recharge point.

Why I made these new ‘drain field’ things:

this is a similarish use to what I originally had in mind for recharge points, Sarah would only have so many ‘uses’ of her wall-running before having to return to a charge point to refil them. after a little testing it turned out this created very few extra possibilities for gameplay, and mostly meant 400% (figure may be a guess) more backtracking, so this was ditched in favour of a ‘limited time’ power, so I can have walls that take longer than the timer allows to traverse, causing sarah to fall off the wall unless she can make it to a recharge point and max out her wall-running timer.

This worked out pretty well, but resulted in very few possible situations where a recharge point was actually neccesary, and I did like how not being able to use your ability before getting to a recharge point forced a certain type of traditional platforming, essentially changing the way the player has to see the level until they are ready to run along walls again.

Complex problems are just sevral simple ones bundled together:

And thus, the drain field was born. I like it particularly because it lends itself very well to how I design puzzles; any problem is simple on its own, but when sevral simple problems are combined it makes for a more complex one where the player is best off standing back and trying to figure bits out step by step. heres an explanation of how this works in todays level:

simple problem #1:

The button is on the wall, you cant stand on walls

simple solution #1:

use your super power, then you can stand on walls!

and we can make this ‘puzzle’ more complex by adding another problem, specifically the problem being the removal of the solution.

simple problem #2:

cross the field, and you wont be able to use your power

so the solution is to find a way use your power, in this level you must do some platforming to cross the field and find a recharge point, but I could just as easily force platforming and have a gap in the field to navigate to, or some button puzzle to turn off the field etc, all possible solutions to the problem I will explore as I plan my levels.

The Point is…

the point, which I’m probably not being all too clear about, is that with a wider range of simple problems to choose from, the combination of these different problems can create a vast range of potential complex problems, and keep the game both interesting and challenging.

also, it’s my hope by forcing the player to navigate without using wall running powers I’ll be able to make parts of my levels contain more traditional platforming with bouncy, slippery and moving surfaces I had (and quite enjoyed) in my early builds but not so much since adding the wall running power.

what do you think of my approach to puzzle design, is it a little too simple, as all the puzzles can be potentially solved by deciding where you want to end and work backwards step by step, or is that the perfect way to have to solve a puzzle? any suggestiong for alternatives?

Development Log catchup

May 7th, 2010

I thought seeing as this development blog is starting after already a lot of development I’d play catchup and go over the story of Sarah’s Run development so far:

ok then, where to start… how about the BEGINNING!? πŸ˜€

its February 28th 2010, and I’m working on my game Phantasmal, things are going pretty well, but I like to take breaks every now and then to keep my work feeling fresh, so I do a doodle with the thought: “what if Mario and Peaches actually had sex”

Super Maria, in all her potentially copyright infringing glory was how I met Sarah

Ok, so its a pretty cool doodle, time to get back to my main project… but wouldnt it be cool if I made a 3D model of this character, I do need practice making models from my concepts after all, thats some skills that will help me make phantasmal too!

I made a model, unwrapped her, might as well paint her next...

pretty good, one of my better models and textures I think...

Pretty good, one of my better models and textures I think...

ok, not bad for a days work, tommorow surely I’ll be all fired up to work on Phantasmal some more!

but tommorow came, and I found myself thinking… well what good is the model if it isn’t rigged and animated, and maybe if I do that, I can drop it into the phantasmal engine and maybe tweak it a little to play like super mario, just for fun. but these ideas were just passing thoughts, surely…

oops... she's animated...

...well I guess I made a super maria version of phantasmal after all >__>

So it turns out I kind of had already taken 2 days off phantasmal andΒ  I already had the begginings of what felt like a pretty solid platformer and a cool looking character. (this version is playable here by the way)

the next day I just feel its probably best to work on this game some more, it shouldnt take me too long to finish after all… but by the end of the day (after adding moving platforms and conveyor belts) I make the following tweet:

“things that are good but actually make me want to kill myself #1:
something I’ve spent 3 days on is way more fun than my main project”

and thats the point where phantasmal takes a backseat, at heart I want to make the best games I can, and besides, the last time I stopped working on on Phantasmal to do another project, it went down pretty well.

so with my resolve to take on super maria, and the desire to make a new Mario/Sonic/Crash/Spyro type game that doesen’t suck.

First off I spend some time playing around with effects I could use for a power up/invincible mode.

doesn't have a purpose yet, but an effect this cool? I'll find a place for it!

next thing I do is see if I cant get ‘Maria’ to stand at an angle on slopes like mario and sonic do, I always wanted to see if I could pull that off, and it turns out I can, but ‘standing’ on slopes is no fun on its own, you gotta be able to run along them too. though I hadn’t quite thought “check that the slope isnt too steep to stand on”. I had a build where I could run up near vertical surfaces, and that got me thinking, and then tinkering:

Con: Quitting work on phantasmal to make a game about fucking with gravity is somewhere I've been before


Here’s a game design tip for you; if any of your pro list items contain ‘holyfuckawesome’ your con list doesent matter.

so that was it, running up walls is cool, and it turns out if you limit the ability some it can make for a pretty interesting navigational and puzzle mechanic. I spent the rest of march pretty much planning how levels in the game could work and how I could put them together quickly. I even put together a test preview with five levels which was pretty well recieved by my friends and internet lovers, and worked with my e-brother Logan on an original story, title and name for the character so I wouldnt get hit in a drive by from a Nintendo van.

"Green Hill Zone called, they want their textures back" - I find checker textures are perfect during prototyping/early dev

I think that’s us more or less caught up, I’ll make a ‘what is sarah’s run’ post soon and I’ll go into much more exciting detail about design deciscions, coding approaches and stuff in the next few posts. πŸ˜€

Hello world!

May 4th, 2010


… yeah, a mature start huh? anyway, I don’t have time to go into anything too deep today, but lately I’ve been working on tiling textures, baking lighting, writing shaders, fixing math related bugs, making cool mecha doors, planning puzzles, making the game 100+fps instead of 10fps and also eating plenty of my Mum’s homemade sausage rolls (which are totally awesome by the way). I’ll go into these and lots of other issues on this blog in the future, today though, here’s some screens of latest developments:

And hey, I might even make a whole sentence that links to a playable thingy. (it may pay to have played the first preview as this has no tutorial)

anyhoo, thats all for now, ciao πŸ™‚