I've had a keen interest in the design of Video Games for a long time, and recently I got down to tracking down where that interest really came from. I went backwards throughout my life and numerous factors emerged: the magazine GamesTM which had many interviews with designers throughout the game industry, my early love for board games, Fighting Fantasy etc etc.
One experience really stood out in my life though: Debug Mode in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It's a simple cheat involving entering a series of sounds through the options menu, but what it unlocks is amazing. Put simply it unlocks the ability to place almost any enemy or object anywhere in a level. Sonic 1 had a similar feature, but in my opinion it's much stronger in Sonic 2.
This simple cheat had a profound effect on both me and my friends. Soon we were testing the possibilities of this system:
- Springs upon which we could jump from the start to the end of a level.
- Flat platforms where we could test Sonics true speed.
- Placing many more enemies throughout the level, effectively creating a super hard mode.
And all sorts of other more complex situations, many of which turned into elaborate rude goldberg machines.
Many people talk about the complexity of LittleBigPlanet et al, but if you think about it those sorts of games are just the natural evolution of this Debug Mode. People should have been making these games for years! I still go back to Debug Mode on Sonic 2 today, just for fun. I find I can work away on perfecting a machine for hours, the only drawback is that I can't save it.
Anyway, just a memory which struck me. Cheers!