Here’s how the island looks right now. It is a bit crazy and messy, especially the stuff nearest the camera:
This is because this corner of the world is one of the last areas that we haven’t really figured out, in terms of what goes where. There is sort of just some random stuff dumped there right now. That will change pretty soon.
Expect the next few island snapshots to show a lot of big changes. We’ve reached the point where the basic gameplay is settled, I’m refining many of the specific puzzles, and we’ve got at least rough drafts of many of the architectural layouts. That means we can start planning the island a bit better. Over the next month or so, we’re going to be changing the shape of the island to something a little more geologically plausible, something that carries more information. It’s going to be interesting to do this without disrupting the gameplay layout of the island too much.
The current puzzle count is 427. In January I scrapped and re-designed an area and its 60-or-so puzzles. The previous area was inside dark caves, which is a bit cliche, and the gameplay hook that motivated my setting that area in caves, which I had hoped would be cool, didn’t work very well. In addition, I felt that the puzzles themselves, while fitting into the rest of the game, were the weakest part of the game. I’d been feeling this way for a long time, but I didn’t have a good solution for it til late December. I moved the location and redesigned the puzzles. Now the theme of the location is totally different, has a gameplay hook that works way better than the cave thing, and is very cool. The puzzles situated in this area are also much stronger than before, because I found a way to change the rules of those puzzles to make them much tighter. They’d felt wishy-washy before (people would play through that area and, after finishing, lack clarity on what the puzzles were saying. That’s no good.)
We certainly could have shipped the game with the old area in the caves with the old puzzles, and probably shipped the game at least a month sooner, but an important skill in building a beautiful game is knowing when something just isn’t good enough.
Next I am going back to the endgame, which I did my first pass at last summer sometime; I’ve got a gameplay hook to add which I think will bring it over the top and make it extra-good. I’ll be working on that over the next few weeks while also working with the landscape architects on the island revision.
Also, we’ve got a new programmer starting soon (this week or next!) Combined with our other new addition, who’s been here a few weeks (Andrew Smith, ex-Zipper and -Oddworld; hi Andy!) we will have quite a bit of tech manpower to bring to bear on finishing this game.