Monday, October 23, 2006

Vince Cutting Room Floor #3: Roachfort

Why do I keep repeating myself? All this concept art is by Doug Williams who is brilliant, blah, blah, blah.

So many ideas... So little time. It's important to aim high when designing a game. As the realities of the development process have their filthy way with your ideas it's always good to have more ideas than you need waiting in the wings. Change and compromise are like an unholy Master-Blaster out to thwart your good times at the Thunderdome of game creation. You've got to be ready to roll with the punches and come up with good alternate plans, even when Tina Turner has a wrist crossbow pointed at you and... um... you get the idea.

As I said in an earlier post, I sort of wish Roachfort had been cut in favor of the riverboat level, but that's just the hindsight talking. There are some great things in the level, but many ideas were scrapped during development. It seemed like harmless little bits and pieces along the way, but I think the overall quality of the level suffered as a result. Nevermind the fact that the water table in New Orleans is about three inches underground, making large subterranean caverns pretty damned unlikely.

At the heart of the biggest change were the residents of Roachfort. I originally planned to populate the subterranean world with effete French cockroaches who still thought it was the 18th century... hence the name. The Rochefortians were to be vain and silly. They believed the surface world is a myth and that their dank sewer is the center of the universe. Someone like Vince wouldn't fit their world view, so he needed to travel in disguise using a tattered, unconvincing cockroach costume.

The last big alteration had to do with Vince's escape from Roachfort. In the first draft of the design document Professor Ethel was a bit more helpful. Rather than abandoning Vince like a complete jerk, she makes her escape using Vince himself for balloon material. This was based on a mini-game where players would have steered Vince around sharp pointy things as he ascended a long twisty pipe leading to the surface world.

One thing that doomed these parts of Roachfort was the way I approached the design. Rather than create a coherent system from which puzzles and gameplay could flow, I wrote a lot of "one off" stuff in this level (I did a bit too much of that in the whole game, really). The time and effort needed to make the exploding gas cannister puzzle the airplane level and the laundry basket ride cut into more atmospheric goodies like these poor, deluded cockroaches.

It was a trade. I didn't get to recreate the court of the Sun King with bugs, but that plane was pretty cool.


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