Hey y’all, Uli here.
The team at Game Over has been developing our current game Failsafe for the better part of 7 months now. It’s gone through several different identities and iterations, but it’s only been a couple of weeks that we have something in our hands that’s in a state that can be called “fun.”
So why wasn’t it fun from the start? What was the magic sauce that we put in the game to make it fun? No idea. Was it just the latest mechanic – swinging – that we implemented? Not necessarily, because mechanics within a game do not exist in isolation. The swinging wouldn’t work without the other parkour elements, and THOSE wouldn’t work without all the fine tuning we’ve done in and around the player motor. Fun is too ephemeral and fleeting of a feeling to nail it down in a design document with any certainty. It’s something that emerges from all the aspects of your game put together.
At least, that’s what I thought until very recently. On one of our test maps, I whimsically decided to create a brutal section at the end that I like to call the “Tower of Terror.” Yes, I know there’s a Disneyland ride with the exact same name, but it’s a tower and it’s terrifying and I really hope nobody sues me.
The way I created the ToT was haphazard and dumb; the only way to get to the Tower is to make a gigantic leap with a swing that – honestly – I wasn’t even sure was possible when I placed it. There are other swing blocks rising up around it that eventually lead you to the top where you need to hit a Mount Midoriyama-style button to finish the climb.
The Tower of Terror is unnecessarily difficult and badly designed. I didn’t even modify any part of it after I created it, I just tried the jumps until I knew they were possible and called it a day. It should be the shining example of something that is definitely NOT fun.
Then, we implemented a time trial. And a scoreboard. Since then, we have been having a ridiculously fun time around the office just trying to one up each other’s Tower of Terror times. Does that mean that, after a certain threshold, competition is the only ingredient for making something fun? Is Dust2 in CounterStrike GO really the best multiplayer map ever made, or is it just played so often that people have come to romanticize it? Will we ever be able to quantify fun?
I don’t know. I’m just a lowly gameplay programmer. With a TTT (tower of terror time) of 38 seconds.