Mushroom Men - Developer's Diary
Posted by Darren Calvert
Who would have thought that playing with fungi could be so much fun?
It’s not long now until the hotly anticipated Mushroom Men games hit the Wii and DS in Europe. Both games attracted favorable reviews back in December when they came out in the US. Euro gamers can get their grubby mitts on both Mushroom Men – The Spore Wars (Wii) and Mushroom Men – Rise of the Fungi (DS) on the 27th of March. If in doubt you can expect a full reviews of the Wii version of the game from your friendly neighborhood Nintendo Life shortly after that time.
With this in mind, what better time than to check out the musings of James Clarendon who is the Interactions Design Lead over at SouthPeak Games? He is a big-time SEGA fan so he has our vote of confidence right away!
The camera and player perspective played a big role in each of the boss fights. One of the interesting things that the legendary IGA (Koji Igarashi, of Castlevania fame) pointed out in his 2007 GDC lecture was how important perspective is, and how much it changes gameplay between 2D and 3D games. With the typical behind-the-back 3D camera used by many games, depth-perception is very difficult to judge, and even having a shadow grow larger as it approaches is not enough. For the boss fights that were specifically framed as an action/puzzle, we had more control over the user’s experience and could manipulate the camera to provide the best perspective for the battle. In some instances, this was pulling the camera way up, giving more of a three-quarter view. In others, it was locking the camera in place to do some 2D battle.
Dealing with Death
One of the core components of Mushroom Men was that players should be encouraged to explore and experiment in the environment (which could often lead to death), so the player would re-spawn in a nearby area. However, this proved troublesome in boss fights, as the player could simply die, re-spawn, run at the boss again, etc and this was one of the major complaints about Bioshock. So, in order to deal with that, we rewarded a player for not dying during a boss fight. To that end, skilled players will find themselves awarded an item for defeating bosses unscathed. Similarly, we reward players for dealing with bosses with cleverness and panache, and you’ll find a reward for doing so.
Old School Influences
I will gladly admit my love for old SEGA arcade and home titles, and I borrowed a lot from them. The final boss fight, which spans multiple stages, has some “helpers” that were very much inspired by Death Adder’s minions in the original Golden Axe. Where we took a different tack, is that these ones can be killed in fewer than 255 hits. I spent so much time at the arcade trying to kill those darned skeletons. And when I finally did, it wasn’t worth it!
One of my favorite games of all time has to be…well, just about everything in the Wonder Boy series. In particular, I always enjoyed the boss fights in Wonder Boy in Monster Land and those in Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (aka Dragon’s Curse on the PC-Engine/Turbografx-16). So one of the boss fights in Mushroom Men is very like that: a 2D boss on a finite-state machine, but with some unpredictability thrown in, and some genuine challenge.
Other games that shaped the look and feel of the boss encounters include the Shinobi series, Cabal, and the obscure-but-wonderful Golvellius. While we never lifted anything directly, I recorded the experiences I had playing through those games and made notes that would affect the final boss designs. The epic multi-stage final boss fight of Mushroom Men draws a lot from these wonderful old games. Simple by today’s standards, but still packing a good iconic punch that can still be harnessed today.
Mushroom Men – The Spore Wars and Mushroom Men – Rise of the Fungi will be available across Europe in March, 2009. For more information about Mushroom Men please visit www.southpeakgames.com. For more information about Red Fly Studio please visit www.redflystudio.com.