Creating video games is a very long and complicated process. As you can tell from my GOTY lists, some of my favorite gaming experiences of the year come from indie games. Some indie games are so well made that they pass for full-retail, commercial games from large companies regardless of how many people actually worked on them. Most indie games have that distinct "indie feel." For the purposes of this article, I'm not talking about a free spirit quality untethered by obligations or unnecessary outside influences. I'm not talking about trends in artistic styles either. I'm talking about the little design details that reflect the "inexperienced" side of indie developers. I'm writing this article to show that sometimes the smallest, thoughtful decisions separate the masters from the apprentices.
First, a passage from the Iwata Asks on Zelda: Twilight Princess.
AONUMA: But there really are times when a stone is placed somewhere for absolutely no reason whatsoever! MIYAMOTO: And when I find one of them, I'll always ask: "Why was it put here?" IWATA: And the answer is usually: "I just felt like it." (laughs) AONUMA: I know, or "I just thought I'd put it there" is another one. (laughs) MIYAMOTO: I'd actually be happier if someone said: "It looks good, don't you think?" (laughs) IWATA:"I just felt like it" really is the worst possible answer you could get!
Now for some examples of indie game hitboxes could use some tweaking.
- Super Meat Boy: I've found many platforms and places with very questionable hitboxes. Some characters stick to walls that aren't there. Other times there are invisible spots that kill you. I think the bandaid hitbox is too small and the warp zone hitboxes too big. Though I appreciate the extra help with the warp zones sometimes, passing through but not grabbing a bandaid is very frustrating.
- Jumpman: In this innovative platformer with floaty and wild player control, if the very pixel of your outstretched foot touches a pixel of an enemy you're dead. Based on cases like this, I think some of the hitboxes need to be adjusted. After all, I've been killed by enemies on the other side of walls in this game.
- Flywrench: Most of the hitboxes in this game are very clean and accurate to the visuals, which is great for Flywrench's design. However, I distinctly remember the blue keys/gate switches to be particularly hard to hit because of a very small hitbox.
- Megafied: Makoto's World [Beta]: This list would be incomplete if I didn't offer up an example from my portfolio. While we designed most of the hitboxes well, there are still a few we need to tweak. For example, when Makoto ducks, her hitbox doesn't get any smaller. So while it looks like you can avoid some hazards by ducking, you really aren't doing anything.
In part 2, I'll cover more trends and more indie games. Stay tuned.