Remember Save Points?

What was going to be a relaxed weekend of casual doodling has somehow turned into a few brain-mangling hours of discovering everything that’s wrong with Game Maker’s built in save and load functions. I figured I still haven’t sketched all the characters I’ve planned in the GDD- this is something I want to do, even if some of them don’t make it into the game. The next semi-important character I’d planned was a pervy guy with a camera who will “take a snapshot” of the player and save the game (remember the camera guy in Rayman? A bit like that… I can’t find a decent screenshot online, but it looks like they’ve done the same thing in Rayman Origins which I still haven’t managed to play yet)

I was inspired to design this guy after reading about perverted Japanese guys who like to get close to women on crowded subways etc, and somehow thought “that would make a good save/load system!” Well, I drew a little design of the guy, camera at the ready, and just wasn’t sure if he was right for the tone of the game…

I even got round to making a pixel version, which I might use later on for a less important NPC if I’m stuck for time. It’s difficult to make someone look creepy in such a small space, and more difficult to make a camera that actually looks like a camera, so all round this wasn’t a huge success.

So, back to the drawing board. It seems like these days you can save most games whenever you like, which is certainly convenient. This was pretty much unheard of until the past 10 years or so- up until then you would have to wait until you reached a designated “save point” if you wanted to save your game, and these were elusive and unpredictable little objects a lot of the time. In the harshest scenarios, such as the original Resident Evil, you had to collect items in order to use a save point, so the amount of saves were extremely limited.

My plan for Hanami is to include one save point in each level, which can be used infinitely as long as the player reaches it! The game will also autosave at the beginning of each level, so if the character dies they will either return to the last save point, or the beginning of the level- whichever occurred most recently. Instead of using a character, I tried thinking about more Japanese symbolism that could be used as an emblem of a save point. You can see my ideas in the sketch above, as I’m running out of sketch book pages and I’m trying to conserve paper :S

My first idea was to use a Hanami Dango, which is a special type of mochi on a stick eaten at Hanami. This was actually a coincidental discovery for me, as they popped up in the film Tekken: Blood Vengeance which I watched recently.

I considered placing a Hanami Dango stick on a sort of pedestal to create a sort of Hanami Save Alter, and this is where I got with that. The kanji means “to save”.

I didn’t quite finish this design, as I felt it didn’t really capture what I hoped it would. I don’t like wasting cool little things like this though, so there are plenty of food outlets throughout the world of Hanami that the Dango will probably make their way into! As I’m still trying to capture an overall image of Japan, I tried to find a nice little artefact to use rather than trying to keep within the realms of the Japanese spring time. After all, a lot of traditional save points were random emblems. I mean, what was the save point from FF7 supposed to be??

I had a look on the internet to see if there was anything seriously Japanese that I had missed out, and I found this article about must-have Japanese souvenirs! It includes a lot of imagery that I have already included in the game in some way, such as Maneki Neko, Hand fans, Umbrellas (Wagasa), Lanterns, kokeshi dolls, koinobori… On this list, I rediscovered Furin bells. I thought these would be a nice point at which a player can save their progress, as their inevitably interactive and look nice too 🙂 The bell consists of a domed glass case and a single glass chime running on a rope through the centre. A tag is placed on the end, where little bits can be written (I was considering trying to get a bit of kanji onto this, but haven’t managed to in such a small space yet!) I might yet put a design onto the glass, but for now I’ve settled for a simple Furin bell design:

On contact with this new object, the player can open up a new menu which asks whether or not they would like to save their game. I originally envisaged the object hanging from a rock outcrop or something like this, although I realised from a bit of play-testing that this object is too high up ¬_¬

What Makes A Platformer?

From David Perry on Game Cliches:

The platform action game is one of the oldest game genres, and there have been multitudes of variants on the theme. Naturally, there have been some tried-and-true design decisions over the years, and many of them have become clichés of the genre.

Do Re Mi Fantasy for SNES

1. Millions of items to collect
Usually, the item being collected is does nothing on its own, but can grant the player something special if enough are collected.

Megaman 2 for NES

Special power-up and pick-up items
Some items instantly grant the player the ability to do something extra, or will restore previously lost stats like health, ammo or lives.

Super Mario Bros for NES

Plenty of low-level NPC enemies to fight
Enemies are usually defeated by simply jumping on them, throwing something at them or using a special character skill.

Prince of Persia for SNES

Your character is very acrobatic
The playable character of a platformer must be able to reach hard to get areas by running, climbing and jumping about and being very flexible!

Sonic The Hedgehog for Sega Megadrive

There are many animals as main characters
Here the protagonist is a speedy hedgehog. Interesting.

Tombi for Playstation

Oddball storylines
In Tombi! the world is taken over by evil Pigs who have stolen an ancient amulet, and must be captured in magical purses to restore order. It’s undoubtedly a good game setting.

Abe's Oddysee for Playstation

Obviously, platformers consist of an arrangement of platforms which in many cases are reached by jumping.

Limbo for XBLA

Although in traditional side-scrolling platformers to objective is to travel from left to right, in order to reach you destination the path will often take you up and down.

Rayman for Atari Jaguar

Moving platforms
In Platformer games, some platforms scroll left and right or up and down for no apparent reason other than to add an extra challenge to the player. Miscalculating a move on a moving platform can result in an unwanted casualty!

Super Meat Boy for PC

A game world in a Platformer consist of levels, usually increasing in difficulty. Each level differs slightly, although the game mechanics are usually very similar.

Earthworm Jim for Sega Megadrive

A “Boss” in a platformer is a tougher enemy, which usually makes an appearance at the end of a level. Losing to a Boss will halt progress until the Boss is defeated. The final Boss is usually the game’s main villain.

Kirby Superstar for SNES

Keeping Score
By collecting items, defeating enemies or simply reaching a destination in a certain time, the player gains points which will either grant the player a bonus or get saved on a list of high scores, which the player can later try to beat.

Braid for XBLA

Minimal Story
An example of a classic Platformer story is a Mario scenario where a damsel in distress is kidnapped and must be rescued by the protagonist. The game represents the journey the hero must face in order to save his love. Interestingly, this reference in Braid does not fully represent this scenario, as Braid has a reputation for its especially convoluted back-story!

So yes, we do have game clichés. Like all entertainment media, games have developed some clichés — situations and actions that are recognizable or that lead to predictable results and other predictable stereotypes.
Although clichés are useful because they allow players to operate within a familiar environment and they allow game designers to assume certain elements of a game and predict some of the responses of the players, they can also be an opportunity to throw some surprises into the mix…