The second day of Unite Seoul 2017 started with ‘Knights Fall, the creation of a new genre: from concept to launch’ by Hyuk Jung, the producer of Carbon Eyed. The game recently aroused interest due to its unique gameplay and design, and many have been wondering why the company made such a game.
Although the success or failure of a game is never certain, the design and development phases tend to progress smoothly when companies imitate games that already exist on the market. Carbon Eyed avoided this route however, and decided on creating their own path.
Companies often refer to existing games when they try to develop games in a similar genre. But what happens when a company wants to develop a completely new type of game? Mr. Jung stood on the stage of Unite Seoul 2017 to answer this question.
How did the company manage to develop Knights Fall, a game that is so distinct and yet reminiscent of Pinball? We need to know how a game is usually created prior to answering this question. The creation process will usually start via one of three different ways.
The first is the market approach. This is also called the money-making approach. Companies investigate what kind of games prosper in the current market and determine what game to make from there. This approach is used not only by small and medium-sized businesses, but by large enterprises as well.
The second is the genre approach. Companies research the market and predict what type of genre will become popular next, or they just proceed with the genre that they are most specialized in.
The third is the game approach. Companies benchmark a particular game released in the market and add a few different concepts with a number of other features. This approach is often used in South Korea.
However, Knights Fall was different. The company did not apply the money-making approach to make a similar game, it is not one of those viral MMORPG games, and the game did not refer to any similar games during the production phase. If none of those approaches were used, how did the company manage to plan this game?
Mr. Jung of Carbon Eyed focused on three major elements while planning the game; the game should be playable by using only one hand, the game should need no instructions while playing, and the game should be slightly difficult but playable by anyone.
Of course, developers were concerned about how the game could be made with these three elements. Then one day, a TV commercial gave Mr. Jung a breakthrough. The commercial basically had a bunch of balls dropping down, and he imagined each ball as a soldier and thought that the image of soldiers falling down from the top of a screen could make for a pretty lively game.
After coming up with the concept, it was time to visualize the ideas. The drafted pictures of the idea gave him some inspiration, and he created a prototype by using the Unity Engine right away. At that point, he was certain that the game was going to be fun.
However, that’s when the real challenge started to emerge. Having only a concept and a prototype did not guarantee a fun game, which at that point did not even have a basic form yet. What does a game need in order to operate like a game? First is rules. You need to decide what type of game it will become. Second is a number of interactive elements. You need to decide how players’ action will affect the game. Third is a dilemma. The game needs to keep asking the players questions - for example, if they want to avoid a monster or confront it - and provide a moment where they can decide what to do next.
The rules are made by developers. In the case of Knights Fall, they added the following rules; soldiers are launched and fall based on speed and gravity, they bounce off objects when they hit them, they damage enemies based on ATK value when hit, and the game has objectives such as bosses that must be cleared in order to complete the stage.
When crafting the dilemma, developers added a boss to the intro phase and made it appear quite difficult to defeat so that players would question if they can really kill it. Simultaneously, they added a huge rock right next to the boss to naturally urge players to think that object plays a key part in completing the stage.
The controls are a part of the interactive elements. As mentioned before, Knights Fall was designed to be a game that doesn’t need instructions. The game needed to have a simple design, such as a Start button or speed bar that would launch soldiers or adjust their speed.
They formed a comprehensive figure of the game. However, there were still a few other steps remaining. The next step was to refine the visualization. Developers added stages with various backgrounds that include a castle, a village, and boats, so that each stage provides a different setting for players. There was still one more aspect remaining, which is the most important part in terms of game creation. That is, the fun.
There are two kinds of awe you need to know about in order to understand the definition of fun in gaming - internal and external. Take a roller coaster for example. When people ride on it and either cheer or scream, that roller coaster is considered successful. If not, then it’s a failure. When you apply this logic, internal awe is when people enjoy the ride, and external awe is when you see the roller coaster and think it would be quite fun.
Some examples of external awe in relation to gaming are when players arrive at a field they have never seen before or encounter a ridiculously huge boss. Encountering a colossus in Shadow of the Colossus would be a fairly prime example.
Internal awe is the feeling that players have while playing the game, and it is the relief of a player’s dilemma. For example, players of Dark Souls experience internal awe when they defeat the boss with very little health left and become overjoyed.
Knights Fall also needed these types of fun. Developers therefore adjusted the level design of the game, so that players can complete stages with a minimum required amount of soldiers and feel more accomplished.
After that, the next step was expanding the game’s content. Storytelling was added to the game, as it was a must-have for the game’s content. However, the weight of battle content would become very minor if the storytelling part became a major part of the game, so the story was designed only to match the atmosphere of the game and not have much volume. The outcome was phenomenal; the game was able to deliver the story effectively and did not lose out on the fun of battles.
Moreover, the company made a specific development tool in order to design the stages better and quicker, as the fun of the battles in Knights Fall comes from various stages. The tool was also designed to automatically detect any crashes that may occur while creating stages.
Of course, developers needed to manually repair the crash sometimes in maps with complicated designs. These maps usually generated numerous crashes, so they also needed to maintain a steady frame-rate by minimizing the physical operation when the crash occurred.
The stage tool was successfully made and the company was able to create around 100 stages in a short amount of time.
However, this was not the end. Developers realized that the game would be boring when the only feature is a bunch of different stages. It needed something more exciting, just like a roller coaster has a 360-degree track. After careful consideration, the boss stages were added to offer a change of pace when going through the regular stages.
In addition to that, developers also realized that there would be players who want to play casually, so other modes like Defense Challenge were added. And that is how Knights Fall was finally created.
“With much consideration and effort, this is how Knights Fall was born. The game is more distinct than any other typical game, and I would like you to enjoy the game as much as we do,” said Mr. Jung, towards the end of the speech.
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