Center for Games & Playable Media
- Author(s): Muren, Sophia
- Prado, Samantha
- et al.
Our original intention for Fallen Down, was a cherub statues looking for pieces of his friend throughout an art museum, although the limitations of the project prevented us from expanding too much on that Idea, so we settled for a little cherub trying to make his way through literal hell to get back home. The art style was originally going to be more renaissance to make the ideas of heaven and hell fit in more, but we eventually adapted a pixel art style after a lapse in communication. There were a few unused enemy sprites and modifications we had to do, but in the end, the art style seemed to fit well with the theme of biblical stuff. The gameplay turned out a lot better for my first 2D platformer, and I was satisfied with the amount of work I got to do on the actual commands for the enemies, player movements and stage hazards. I found work arounds to seemingly complex problems, which I feel bodes well for my future in programming, like the restart issue i was spending near hours on. The core mechanics I found to be a bit floaty, but still controllable, helping to add the player immersion to the cherub's flying abilities. We made sure this time to properly include the theme for our project this time, as our little cherub buddy has fallen down to hell and is trying to make his way through progressively less demonic areas to reach his home and friends in heaven. The theme incorporated would be falling, and on a less literal note, the cherub seems to be """"""""" falling"""""""""" into tougher and tougher situations as he climbs to the top, almost as if the difficulty of his mission is trying to keep him down. The Cherub, whenever he dies, also falls back to the bottom of his journey, having to start all over again, no matter how close he may be to freedom. A lot of what this game originally struggled with was the jumping and movement mechanics, and after a while, I found different commands to be viable and more effecient then the previous ones. That in itself being at the basis of all programming, I felt more confident dealing with the other technical issues presented to me. One of the technical issues was the ability to glide and shoot, which before, was originally impossible,but after a quick shift of conditions and events, I had to while gliding or not, the cherub would fire at the same rate. There was a point in between all of that where you could just glide and spam arrows, which obviously wouldn't fly on my watch. A lot of the other issues came with the level layouts, which I think we addressed well enough. The first issue surrounded the turrets, and how players may find it less challenging to have them constantly firing at you, so I added vulnerability to ground and arrows for bullets and turrets respectively. Another issue was the build up of difficulty throughout the levels and how we'd introduce new mechanics and/or enemies. I tried making it so everything the cherub would encounter in the game, the player would encounter within the first few seconds of gameplay (aside from the upgraded enemies of course). From there, it was up to us to properly pace the other areas to utilize these mechanics in new ways that challenged the player to think on their toes a bit more. Naturally, with all progression, the final area is the toughest, using these familiar concepts and launching you into the proverbial laundry machine. There is fire everywhere, making the need for precise platforming vital, as well as having quicker turrets fire at you relentlessly. I did feel however that the ending was a little anti-climactic, but I think the end card makes do for this project. We also would have liked to include music and sounds effects, but it appears they just didn't make it in in time for the due date,(or the sound effects are there and I didn't know, I couldn't play the game with the sound on). However I do know the fundamental flaw in this game; it doesn't really try anything new, even with the story. "Little angel falls from heaven and climbs back up, he can glide and shoot arrows" feels sadly cliche to me. That doesn't mean I like my game any less, it just means that it can't really stand out amongst the crowd . I had an Idea to make the arrows have a bit of delay before firing, (like Simon Belmont and his whip attacks in the original Castlevanias), but it never came through. The artwork I was proud of, and I had a lot of fun bouncing ideas back and forth with Sam. I'd much like to use this project and expand it more in the future in my own time, just to see what I can accomplish on my own. -- Sophia Muren, Lead Programmer of Fallen Down Fallen Down is an action platformer in which the player, a cherub, must escape Hell to return home to Heaven. We drew inspiration from traditional platformers such as Kirby, Mario, and Megaman, but wanted to put our own spin on the genre. We wanted to make a game that was cute and fun, but challenging as well. The design of the player character and demons are cartoonish and lighthearted, and rendered in an 8-bit style that harkens back to older games. Fallen Down is innovative compared to other games because it features gliding and shooting as core mechanics. Many games, like Mario or Kirby have these features as power-ups, but we decided that including them would fit the theme of the game (the player being a cherub) and allow for more challenging levels, given that the player has these tools from the beginning. Challenges include fast-firing turrets, wide jumps the player must cross by gliding, and large enemies with high health. Player feedback helped us tweak our game and make it as good as it could be. During the first round of playtesting, players found bugs and hidden shortcuts we hadn’t intended. This helped us fortify our levels to keep them interesting and challenging. They also helped us figure out spacing and difficulty -- initially, the blank background and empty space made it hard for some players to navigate the levels. We added more features, enemies, and walls to make use of this space instead of letting it go to waste, making for a more interesting game that has a natural flow of progression. Initially, we weren’t using the glide feature to its full potential. Our playtesters helped us see that adding obstacles such as fire and ground enemies could get players to use gliding and have fun with it. Philip, our student TA, also helped us think about how to use enemies to their fullest potential instead of letting them be fodder for the player’s arrows. His feedback helped us place our enemies more strategically. Philip and another student also made good suggestions about spawn points. We decided to only let players respawn at the start of the game instead of having checkpoints; it fits better with the size of the game and encourages players to learn carefully from their actions. My teammate, Sophia, also had the idea to create title and end cards as an introduction and reward for the player. The end card is an image of the cherub flying to meet one of his friends. In our alpha, we did not have any reward for the player when they reached the end of the stage, which made it disappointing for our playtesters. But we got some nice reactions to Sophia’s heartwarming art when we playtested our beta in section. This satisfying end not only helps the game feel complete, but gives the player’s journey meaning. We also learned important lessons about design from class. We made it a point to link our fantasy to our gameplay. As mentioned beforehand, gliding and shooting arrows are things that cherubs typically do. As the player moves through the levels of hell, they also progress upwards through the stage toward the surface. Demons, mortal enemies of angels, seek to attack the player and slow them down. When the player reaches the outside, the platforms become clouds instead of jagged rocks. Aside from these design choices, we also chose not to have a point system, so as not to incentivize killing. In this game, sneaking past enemies to get home is just as viable as shooting them. For the cherub, the goal isn’t to hack and slash -- the goal is to return home, and the player can decide how they want to go about it. The gameplay is focused more on action than story, but the game itself is the story of how the cherub gets home to his friends. The player has a choice whether to be violent or not (although it does not have a bearing on the outcome of the game). Also learning from the pitfalls of crunch at major game studios, we tried to balance work between ourselves as well as balance work over the duration of our project so that it did not pile up. We made executive decisions on what to keep and what to cut, as well. Initially the game was going to have five levels and a completely different theme, but we scaled it down to be more manageable for the both of us. Although we grew attached to many of our early ideas, we learned to be aware of how they would affect the gameplay and let go of concepts that didn’t fit our vision. Most importantly, we made a game that we would want to play ourselves. We both wanted a challenging game with cute art, a unique protagonist, and a sweet story. We learned a lot about working as a team to build this game, and we’re happy with the result. --Samantha Prado, Lead Art Director of Fallen Down