Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

GDC Austin 09: Twisted Pixel's 'Splosion Man Postmortem

10:13 AM on 09.17.2009 // Ashley Davis

We all know that Twisted Pixel's 'Splosion Man is a great game. But do you know how it was made, what went into it, or what mistakes were made during its development? I didn't either, until I attended Mike Henry and Sean Riley's postmortem on the game at GDC Austin. There, they dished out the story behind it all, with lots of 'splosions and meat throughout.

Hit the jump for a summary of Mike and Sean's thoughts on 'Splosion Man's journey from an unpolished project to one of the most critically acclaimed games on XBLA today.

Mike and Sean's opening slide bore the words, "Making an XBLA game in six months.. what were you thinking?" Looking up at it, the guys laughed and responded, "Just don't try to make a game in six months. But if you have to.." So began the postmortem for Splosion Man, Twisted Pixel's latest and best selling game.

First, "Things That Went Right" were highlighted. The most important thing was not clinging to dying mechanics. Doing so is a good way to waste a lot of time with something that will never work. As they got deeper into the development process, a lot of old, unworkable ideas were scrapped in order to make their work more efficient. Another area where they did well was with the tools they used to create the game. These programs did a lot of the grunt work and allowed them to focus on what they had and polish it.

In the prototyping stage of development, the main philosophy that Twisted Pixel had was "ugly and quick". In their words, "Have a good game before a pretty game." Not only did this help them work out the kinks in the mechanics quicker, but it was also a good way to inspire creativity. They loved to see how the designers worked with what little they were given. Some pretty ugly pictures of the old version of the game were shown. 'Splosion Man was in his familiar shape, but all one color, the levels were  barren, and the game's robot enemies were just grayed scientist models with extra shapes drawn on.

Focus was another thing that they feel they did right making 'Splosion Man. "Think only about what's most important about the game," they told the audience. In their case, the most important thing was polish. Mike and Sean both admitted that having that as their focal point was kind of silly when working on a six month model, but they felt that not having enough polish was the "biggest trap to cause the game to fail".
 
This meant making a lot of cuts on ideas. Originally, they wanted to have 75 levels for each mode, special power meters, power ups, and several other things that would make the gameplay more than just normal 'sploding. But the further they got into development, the more they started to take away from the game. They shaved down these extra components so that they could work more with the core mechanics.

They used priority lists to help them figure out what was important enough to keep in the game and what was not. Beta testing was also a huge help. The guys think back to one of the latest additions made to 'Splosion Man, the Way of the Coward option. They saw that a lot of players were dying a lot during testing, and knew that it was important to find a way around it without compromising the game's preexisting design. As many of us who have played it know, the game can get very hard, but it's not because it's designed badly.

While playing a video of a very early version of the game up on the big screen, they mentioned that they did a really good job with making this first demo. They were able to fit an example of every single part of the game into it, from simple 'sploding puzzles to moving platforms and barrels that propel 'Splosion Man across the map. It wasn't very pretty looking, but it was a great display of every type of gameplay present in the final build. They were especially proud that they could fit everything into a single demo, because "if you can't, your game has too much going on".

Then they finally got to talking about "Things That Went Wrong". Unsurprisingly, the devs said that developing 'Splosion Man was mostly remarkably smooth. But among the bad was the pressure of time. According to Mike and Sean, the folks at Twisted worked 90 hour weeks, and way too hard to get the game out in the allotted six months. "It was partially our fault, because we were so passionate about the game. But even with passion, people can still be burned out." To make these hours more manageable, they formed core hours for workdays so that people could make their own schedule. Each person was required to work during core hours, but anything beyond that was left entirely up to them. They were even given the option to work at home those extra hours so they could still spend time with their families.

They also had some problems with networking. They had to retrofit 'Splosion Man into Live online play, and if they had not gotten an expert to help them out, they may not have been able to make the online multiplayer work. Not focusing on that at the beginning was definitely a strike against them, and something they will know better than to do next time around.

On a similar note, next came "Things We Wish We Had Known". They had some regrets with the way they programmed some objects and how they handled testing. They believe that things would have worked out better if they had started testing the game earlier. Too many improvements went in post alpha and post beta, including the aforementioned Way of the Coward and the countdown timer for co-op mode. There are also a lot of things they feel "went in broken and stayed broken".

Going back to the cuts they had to made, they lamented the fact that they did not know how painful it would be to take things they would have really liked to be in out. Better death animations, better boss functionality, and  better tutorials would have been in the game if time were not a factor. But they felt like they would have been unable to polish the game with so muh extra stuff in it, so again, they stripped it down to what really mattered. It seems their biggest regret is making themselves so pressed for time, but they seem to have learned their lesson.

To wrap things up, the guys took a few questions from the audience. The first person asked why the six month schedule was chosen in the first place. Surprisingly, they answered that they wanted the game to be ready for XBLA's Summer of Arcade. Statistically, it's the time of year when Microsoft puts the most effort behind marketing Live games. It's also set during a great time of the year to release a game; it's before the Christmas rush, and in a dead zone where not a lot of other new games are coming out at the same time. Twisted Pixel wanted to get 'Splosion Man in so that it could reach more people.

The next question was asked by an audience member who was curious about the cuts made to the game. He asked, "Was there ever a point where you thought about abandoning multiplayer to focus on the main game?" The guys responded that even though they did think about it every now and then, they stuck with it because they wanted to try and establish themselves as multiplayer game makers. They admit that there was a lot more to them at first, but again, a lot got cut out so that they could focus on the cooperation mechanics. "We scoped it down, but wouldn't cut it out completely."

An audience member was curious about how long it took for Twisted Pixel to develop the tools used to make 'Splosion Man. They explained that they had the basic layout generation tools already made from The Maw. The only two tools they had to create for 'Splosion Man helped with Live gameplay functionality and 2D level generation (as The Maw was 3D).

And with that, the 'Splosion Man postmortem came to an end. Having a bit of insight as to how the game grew from such simplistic ideas and builds made for an incredibly interesting talk. It was also refreshing to see the team come to terms with all of the mistakes and things they wished they could have done for the game, but overall, it's very apparent that they are still very proud of the final product. With good reason! 'Splosion Man was such a great game to only be Twisted Pixel's second, and to only have six months of work behind it. They are sure to use the lessons learned to continue to grow as a company.



Ashley Davis,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Is it too late to write about the waifu wars? I don't really have one but there is a female character I have in mind that I want to talk about.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
Bayo has high execution barrier and largely unsafe moveset but Witch Time is a huge saving grace. I bet people are double bitter with Corrin being in the game and being pretty reliable in terms of skillset. Definitely a safer and stronger choice than Bayo
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Streaming some Unravel then perhaps some Firewatch. Don't not come. [url]http://twitch.tv/Jed05[/url]
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Just got my Wind up Ifrit minion. I couldn't sell it, it was too adorable.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Just got my Wind up Ifrit minion. I couldn't sell it, it was too adorable.
Parismio avatarParismio
I was playing Third Strike on PS3 with my PS4 controller and I tried using the dpad for the first and noticed that it doesnt take corner directional inputs. Is this normal for ps4 controllers on ps3?
Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
I swear, it makes sense in context..... Kinda. Hmmm. Okay, not so much. [img]http://i.imgur.com/YhIzmYN.png[/img]
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Almost done with my Waifu wars blog. pretty happy with how it turned out.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Time to scream and shout. It's Nanako cosplaying as her big bro! <3
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump is like Gandalf the White vs. Handsome Jack.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Skellige is so cool! It's like the land of Valhalla Rising.
Torchman avatarTorchman
http://gonintendo.com/stories/251840-fire-emblem-fates-petting-mini-game-is-in-game-but-only-availa I THOUGHT THIS WAS GONE. MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MINDS PEOPLE
Shinta avatarShinta
God damn, Bernie Sanders is just killing it with this speech. Hitting basically every point. He even used the word "oligarchy." Probably the first time I've ever heard that word uttered on CNN. I think a lot of people in power are shitting their pants
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
In my haste to finally factory reset my tablet, I erased a blog I had worked on. Thankfully, it's fresh in my mind. It's another MGS blog, but it goes the opposite way of my last MGS blog. Pray this guy is not your husbando, for he is shit.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Just ate a disgusting amount of sugary wonders in a Fat Tuesday blowout. Chocolate (birthday) cake, Oreos, brownies, cookie dough, and some creme brule thing. Satiation by way of eat-'til-you-puke is what Shenanigans says!
LaTerry avatarLaTerry
Is there any real difference between the PS3 and the PS4 versions of Valkyria Chronicles?
Shinta avatarShinta
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
Say whaaaaaat?
Gundy avatarGundy
Voting for Broforce made me think of the most American person that could ever exist. President Michael Wilson!
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
By the way, that IGPX collection is a new release. It's the first time the show is available in a complete package, and the first time it's been available in any format in about 10 years. [url]http://amzn.to/20JSMCd[/url]
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -