Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finn and Jake Investigations!

Hey all! We're wrapping up work on the DLC for Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations here at Vicious Cycle, so I thought I would make a post detailing a few things about the project and what I contributed to it!

So one of the cool things (and frustrating things...) about Vicious Cycle is that we never do the same thing twice. I've got the chance to work on racing games, beat 'em ups, platformers, puzzle games, you name it. Even so this was a whole new fish to fry, we decided to take Adventure Time in the direction of old school adventure games like Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle. 

As one of three designers, I was tasked primarily with taking the over-arching story that our writer came up with and translating it into chapters and acts of gameplay that featured puzzles and plot. A big part of what I did was study the show for moments that we could reference to in gameplay to give fans of the show something to look forward to. Something to make the game feel just like the show. For example in one of my levels, I had Tree Trunks bake pies for you, which you then used in a later encounter. 

In addition to level and puzzle design, I more or less was tasked with implementing the entire combat system after it had stagnated for awhile with no design work put into it. In a matter of days we had the prototypes of arenas up and running so that the combat wouldn't interfere with how we built the areas for the adventuring portions of the game. The combat in Adventure Time wasn't ideal, but it definitely came a long way from the initial implementation, and it came together very quickly.

Lastly, I pretty much was in charge of all the design and pre planning for all three DLC acts, which we did after the main game was completed. After learning all the lessons we learned during production of the main game, the DLC went really smooth, and I think the fans will get a kick out of it.

I will update this post with some play-through videos once the game is released, but in the meantime here is a brief snippet about a few of the acts I worked on!

Chapter 1 - Act 2: Wizard City
This was the first area I worked on for Adventure Time. I wanted to do something classic that I have seen in plenty of adventure games in the past so that I could use it to learn and get into the groove, as this was a new type of game for us. I decided to present the player with a blocker in the first room they enter, and then have two offshoot rooms, each of which had elements that the other room required. 

This meant the players were free to explore and solve each side room at their own pace, while continuing to be reminded of the main obstacle every time they passed through the main room. In this case, it was a line of wizards waiting to get into where you had to get. You needed to appease each of them to make them move out of the way. This level ended up being one of the most well received internally, even at the end of the projects life.

Chapter 2 - Act 1: Dark Forest
The next Act I worked on was the dark forest, where the investigators are hot on the tail of a mysterious hairy beast. I designed these areas based on screenshots from the show, and tried to get a lot of humor out of the character interactions, from taking the bridge out from under an ape and making him fall, to barfing tree stumps. The puzzles in this section were more straightforward than in other sections, but it leaned heavily on character interactions and humor, and I think it performed admirably in that regard.

Chapter 3 - Act 3: Castle Lemongrab
This was probably my favorite level to work on, and also the level with the most pressure to get right. Lemongrab is a huge fan favorite, myself included. I decided to go with the idea of Pranking Lemongrab, as that was a recurring theme in the show, and one of my favorite scenes revolved around a creepy baby lemon doll that he had, so I incorporated that as well. 

The puzzles weren't very complicated, and this level was also pretty linear, but the voice actor nailed it and all the payoffs came out exactly how I pictured them. 

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