Monday, November 7, 2011

Super Meat Boy 64: World 1 Warp Zone and Other Secrets

One of the things I most love to implement into a traditional video game design are secrets, especially when the space to hide them in is three dimensional. I love all of the hidden and mysterious things one can find while exploring Peach's Castle in Super Mario 64 or running through the expansive canyons of Greenflower Zone 2 in Sonic Robo Blast 2. The behind-the-scene chambers found in Portal, the well hidden quad damage items in the simple maps of the fast-paced FPS multiplayer experiences of the Quake era, and the procedurally generated natural wonders of Minecraft are other examples of spatially hidden secrets in video games. So, it would make sense for me to have some hidden discoveries for the player's to find in Super Meat Boy 64.

In Super Meat Boy, there are portals to hidden warp zone levels found in each of the worlds. These warp zone levels are much more difficult than their contemporaries, but yield large rewards including including new playable characters. Each warp zone also had its own theme, usually harkening back to the visual and stylistic limitations (or perhaps, qualities!) of old video game hardware. There are levels that look like a Atari 2600 game. There are levels that look like they belong on the Gameboy and there are levels that would be at home on the Nintendo Entertainment System. And the warp zones are just a small fraction of the hidden content of Super Meat Boy. It seems that Team Meat has just as much of an affinity for providing opportunities of discover to their players as I do.

So as such it be natural for the inclusion of warp zones in Super Meat Boy 64. There is only one warp zone hidden in World 1 and it can be found in a underground section of 1-5. I hide the portal to the warp zone and Rykuta actually created it. I must say, he did a fine job, even though it is hard to make it stand out visually from the rest of the stages using Blockland's rendering engine.

The warp zone of World 1 is almost too graphically ambiguous. It is difficult to perceive both the depth and the edges of the structures due to the bright, uniform colors that texture their bodies. This effect was intended to make the stage stand out from the rest of World 1 as something special. While it might get in the way of fairer play, it definitely adds a new layer of challenge, though a tad thin and frustrating.

In particular, I really enjoy the vertical nature of the warp zone. It is really unlike anything else we built for World 1 and adds a unique pace and flow.

While technical limitations eventually made us scrap the idea, there were also intentions to hide bandages in each level for the players to find. I even had several of the dedicated testers help me find spots to place them and showed me the bounds of what could be done to traverse the environments in search of the bandages. As the overhead map of the levels shows, all of the stages are connected to each other. The binding landscape was accessible, to the dismay of many and to the delight of myself. Its game breaking? Oh no, the player can start in one level and finish in another! And along the way they can find all sorts of hidden secrets. Excuse my self praise, but I call that brilliance. It was unfortunate that the bandages had to go, but in the new format that Rykuta and I had established they would once again be a design possibility. Yeah boi!

No comments:

Post a Comment