Recent Changes

Current Events

Against the Wall is now one of IndieCade‘s Official Selections. This is still an honor to be recognized, even though I didn’t get a nomination (there’s always next year!). Also, this Wednesday I’ll be showing off a newer version of my game at the NY Game Conference.

Yesterday was my orientation for the NYU’s new MFA program for Game Design. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to attend and act as a pioneer for future graduate students at the NYU Game Center. There are 18 other people attending the program, coming from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets, all with a common passion for game design. Keep in mind that Against the Wall is still my full-time job, and that I’ll be working on it in tandem with school work.


Last weekend I attended the Babycastles Summit. I define Babycastles as a DIY arcade hacker collective. They often take existing games and build unusual interfaces around them, such as Ms. Pac Man played on the walls and ceiling of a room or original Mario Bros with an unwieldy giant controller. Also present was my friend Joe Kowalski, a graphic and interface designer at Double Fine. He had a great presentation that centered on doing things that he was never asked to do at work. For instance, when at Harmonix he designed the Guitar Hero logo in his off hours, and did the same with the Rock Band logo later on. He also designed the main menu interface of Double Fine’s Brutal Legend without initially being assigned this task. Kotaku’s Evan Narcisse did a write up on Joe and his video pitch for Guitar Hero III (which was not adopted). Continue reading “Recent Changes”

Game Feel

Last weekend I attended a class on “game feel” taught by Steve Swink of Blurst fame, now of Enemy Airship. The whole class was about how tweaking small details of a game’s design can contribute to the player feeling more connected to the game world. Basically, input response time, responsive special effects, good sound design, intuitive controls, and cohesive rules all contribute to the player suspending disbelief and becoming immersed.

Steve actually canceled a few projects because the “feel” was off. It’s my hope to learn from his experiences to improve Against the Wall. Here is my takeaway from the class as it relates to Against the Wall:

  • As a general rule, all input-response time should be kept below 240 milliseconds, otherwise people will experience a disconnect in the actions they are performing. Anything below 100 ms is an optimal speed to shoot for. According to the human processor model, humans can’t really process their senses faster than this, on average.
  • On slower machines or when the framerate dips, there is more lag between the input and response. Sometimes, jumping can take a full second from when the player hits the spacebar. This was because the movement script was being updated at fixed intervals of time while the input of pressing a button was measured once-per-frame. As a result when the frame rate went down, the gap between the fixed interval and a frame update would increase dramatically. I corrected this and measured the input-response gap. It’s now around 50 times faster on my computer! (Note to Unity developers: Avoid using FixedUpdate() for anything besides physics calculations. I was using this for the character because I wanted a time-dependent update, but that could be easily be implemented by checking to see if the game is paused each frame in the Update() method.)
  • When players run, jump, or land, they should kick up dust at their feet. There should also be more visible dust generated whenever a brick extends or retracts fully.
  • The wand and its animation do not reflect the pulling and pushing of bricks. I’ll have to redesign the wand or tweak these animations in order to make shooting feel more connected to the effects that it has in the game world.
  • Players can feel disheartened falling short distances. This can lead to people save-crawling through the game or quitting when obstacles seem insurmountable. My solution to this would be to improve the feeling of jumping, slow the player down at the apex of the jump, giving them more air control, increasing the jump height by a tiny amount, and saving the player if they just barely miss the edge of a brick that they are jumping towards. Hopefully these changes will mitigate some frustration.
  • I need to create some more ambient, softer sound effects. The current footstep and wind sound are too harsh for my liking. Also, too much time passes between each footstep.

I’ll be getting a copy of Steve’s book to see what else I can do to improve the feel of the game. Continue reading “Game Feel”