Continuing our interview series, we sat down with the developers of Sideway to talk about some of what went into this title. We really had a great time with the game as you can tell by our review so we had to get the developers on to talk more about the game. Sit back and enjoy the interview.
NGN: What was the biggest challenge you faced when planning the unique three dimensional level design in this game? How did you overcome that challenge.
PB/FI: The big challenge with level design was how to present a clear and consistent spatial language. Because the player is simultaneously navigating through both a two dimensional world of flat paint and a three dimensional world of walls, doors, crates, etc., we needed to make sure that things like collisions, hazards and other types of object interaction were easily identifiable and consistent. After a lot of prototyping and graphic experimentation we established a set of level design rules about how paint and 3d surfaces should be represented. For example, Nox, being made of paint himself, can push objects like painted crates. However, if the crate doesn’t have paint, he can’t push it.
NGN: Why was New York chosen are the setting for this game? Were there any specific places or objects from New York City that were particularly inspiring?
PB/FI: When we sat down and took a look at the original game demo we instantly knew that this game needed and deserved a location that had enough variety and appeal to keep gamers wanting more. It was a no brainer: New York was the obvious choice. There are so many spots in New York to take inspiration from but we wanted to try and take a less obvious approach and focus more on the smaller things that are unique to certain burrows.
On my last trip to NY, I was going through some of the older parts of Brooklyn and thought WOW, this would be an amazing backdrop for one of the levels in Sideway. All the warehouses and abandoned buildings really appealed to me from a creative point of view and so we ended up using a lot of inspiration from that neighborhood in our Projects levels.
I also always loved the look and feel of Jamaica Ave with the raised subway tracks so I incorporated a version of that into the first level of the game. Chinatown is another place we knew we could draw a lot of inspiration from and I think when you play the game you can feel it as you play through the level.
NGN: How did you approach the challenge of balancing game difficulty with player skill when designing “Sideway?”
PB/FI: What we discovered during the course of prototyping and play testing was that once the player got the knack of navigating through 2d/3d space, difficulty progression was a pretty standard formula. One important design rule regarding game balancing was: when introducing a feature or challenge to the player, provide some sort of ‘learning area’ so that they have an opportunity to experiment and get a feel for how the controls and interactions work.
NGN: Why was SkullCandy chosen to provide tracks for the soundtrack? Were the tracks inspired by the game, vice versa, or were the soundtrack a natural fit for the game?
PB/FI: Skullcandy was a great integration into Sideway. They are a core brand that really fit the style of our game. Their brand is about music and giving an end consumer a great audio experience and that’s what we wanted. That said we reached out to them and discussed how they could get involved and as soon as they saw the game they were in.
Skullcandy has a lot of artists and we looked at a few but when we really listened to the music we knew Mr.Lif was the best fit for our game. His beats are so authentic and when playing the game they just seemed to flow with the play.
NGN: What inspired the decision to make a platformer? How did the genre determine the direction for the rest of the game?
PB/FI: The game concept started with a single basic, abstract idea: simultaneous navigation through both the second and third dimensions. Because the core mechanic is essentially about spatial relativity, it was natural, if not inevitable, that the game would fit into a genre that focuses on navigating through environments: the platformer.
NGN: Did you and your design crew draw inspiration from any classic games? If so, please explain which games you drew from and how they impacted the design.
PB/FI: Super Paper Mario was a big inspiration, it being a game that challenges players to alter their spatial perception to understand the world and overcome challenges. Another inspiration was Braid, a successful casual platformer that presented players with some pretty wonky gameplay and pushed the boundaries of the genre
NGN: How have fans responded to the game? Did you receive any suggestions that you would have liked to include in the game, or did you get any feedback that reaffirmed your decisions and made you think you made the right choices? Please explain.
PB/FI: The feedback we have been getting is AMAZING! When we started this project way back when we really didn’t know how it was going to be received. Especially, when dealing with a genre that has been over saturated since the mid 80’s.
The comments on the forums and all the reviews, good and bad, have all been very helpful to us finding out where we hit homeruns and where we fell flat. The fans have responded enthusiastically to the overall feel of the game and obviously the mechanic of wrapping around corners and onto rooftops is blowing a lot of people’s brains (in a good way) and the Art style which was a big question mark before launch was thankfully reaffirmed as all good decisions.
New Gamer Nation would like to thank Gerhard Runken and Fuel Industries for their time and the contributing members of Playbrains that made this interview happen. We hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for more soon!