Making Unearthing Colossal
Published 5 years ago
How I Conceived Unearthing Colossal
Unearthing Colossal is a game in which you must control a colossal titan god of death in order to wage war on your rival's creation -- humanity -- after expanding their reach too far.
The game mechanics are centered around 2D physics, with the character's motion and actions entirely governed by physics calculations. Interacting with the environment, solving puzzles, and destruction are all heavily integrated with physics.
The reason Unearthing Colossal was conceived was from the want to make something more serious, dark and gloomy. The original concept was little more than to have a creepy titan go around destroying buildings but as time went on it morphed into something more than that.
The large role physics play came from wanting to experiment with everything feeling like it had a will of its own, like each object could do its own thing without having to be told exactly what it was supposed to be doing.
The puzzle elements were inspired by adventure games in general and is also a good way to help break up the other sections of play.
My Creative Process
A lot of the time ideas don't just come out of the blue. It's often said it's hardest to start with a completely blank canvas and writers spend hours staring at that first blank page.
So then, how do we jump start the creative engine inside? It's simpler than you might think. Just do something, anything, it doesn't really matter what as long as it is an experience and there is something new to be found in experiencing it. Find what makes the experience unique to yourself and while you're doing all this take notes. They don't have to be detailed or precise they just have to spark a thought pattern which will take you back to that moment.
If ideas aren't coming out of the blue and you aren't getting any wondrous experiences in your life for whatever reason it may be; then my next step is to track down and siphon an experience from various media, games and movies or TV series. You can draw inspiration from anything you wish but I find the bigger pool you draw from, the better the overall result.
Once you have your idea in hand, first thing I now always do is go online and check to see if it's already a thing, what the state of the genre is, etc. Adding another game to a genre isn't necessarily a bad thing but there are points you should consider. For example when I released my previous game "Tea Party Simulator 2015™", I didn't do any checks of any kind and it was too late before I realised there was a massive overcrowding in the game genre I was releasing into and in fact a very similar game had already been made. Keeping up with game industry news in general helps with this step!
This is hands down the best and most efficient way to see if a game idea is going to work or not. You'll want to set up the core mechanic as quickly as possible to a point where it's usable in whatever context necessary and then you just play with it! Is it fun? Does the core mechanic make you feel anything at all? Does it just simply fail? All questions you can have answered and then scrap it before you've sunk too much time in to a full project, or confirm that it was a good idea after all!
The core mechanic is based around controlling a character which is built and animated entirely using 2D physics. The main part of that is picking things up and asserting your physical force onto interactable objects within the world.
Once the player has grabbed and latched onto an object, or picked it up, they use the arrow keys (or whatever they have mapped) to send torque into the character's arms. This in turn either lifts the arms (eg. picking up an object), or lowers the arms (eg. slamming an object down).
Grabbing onto an object can also lead to other types of interactions, for example pulling a lever in puzzle sections or holding on to a kinematic object during strong wind gusts that would otherwise push the player backwards.
At some point I decided that the gameplay was a bit too shallow. In order to flesh it out a little more I thought what if there was something to collect along the way from doing what you're already doing (smashing stuff). So the souls that humans ejected upon death became collectable by the player to be spent on certain things. Like upgrades for your weapons to give them higher durability along with a new more robust and more weapon-like appearance.
Once the core mechanics were working correctly and it was past the prototype stage, the antagonists (enemies) were missing (enemies and their attacks would be dictated by 2D physics of course). For the first enemy I wanted something that could fight back in a somewhat even way, so naturally an enemy similar to the player was designed and implemented.
Later enemies included flying enemies who swing maces, enemies who fire objects, giant worms, and giant bosses, etc.
I found it's actually very possible to implement traditional enemies as well as enemy (and player) abilities even within a 2D physics based world.
Moving Forward
While the conceptual stage is now over, there's still a lot left to do. I imagine my creative process moving forward will remain the same but don't be afraid to change it up and try new things when appropriate (the start of a new project is a great time, but staying consistent during a project is important as well). Hopefully this helps someone out, or maybe sates someone's curiosity.
I'm aiming for an August-September 2016 release of Unearthing Colossal.
About Me
My name is Matt Dalgety sometimes I go by my screen name Liens, I'm a sole independent game developer based in New Zealand and have been making games as a professional for 3 years and as a hobby for over 10 years before that.
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Matt Dalgety