Quick Thoughts on Game Design-Voyage du Petit Nuage

I’ve been playing a lot of video games recently. Bloodborne, mainly (which will be the subject of a post next week), but also a couple of other smaller ones. I’ve wanted to write a little bit about what I liked and disliked about the mechanical and level design of those games, so I figured I could start out with an analysis of one of those little ones. Specficially, “Voyage du Petit Nuage,” made by a couple of friends of mine for a game jam competition! For those of you who don’t know, this particular game jam was “GBJam;” the challenge was for a team of game devs to make a Game Boy style game from scratch within exactly ten days. Voyage du Petit Nuage was Dr. Slouch and Juts Beaumont’s attempt at the challenge, and though they didn’t get as far as they’d like, they did succeed in making a basic demo. Check it out:

http://gamejolt.com/games/voyage-du-petit-nuage-alpha/87102

Now, first off, I have to be honest: My friends are telling you the whole truth when they say, in the description on Gamejolt, that they weren’t able to finish as much as they’d like. It’s a very very early prototype–only three rooms long, no music, some features not implemented yet, and you can fall out of the second room. They didn’t really get it complete enough in time for the GBJam’s deadline, which was a disappointment–but there was a reason for that, and I’ll mention it later. Despite these flaws, though, I think “Voyage du Petit Nuage” has a lot of nifty ideas (for a game-boy style game, at least), which is why I’m still looking forward to its release. And I’m not just saying that because it was made by a couple friends of mine (a point I may restate later)! Even in it’s very incomplete state, it does a few cool things that rather piqued my interest! Allow me to describe them.

First, a brief summary of the game itself. “Voyage du Petit Nuage” is a standard sidescrolling platformer, in the vein of Mario or Kirby. You play as an anthropomorphic cloud child (Le Petit Nuage = The Little Cloud) on a quest to go…somewhere (the plot is pretty scanty XD), where you have to travel left and right, up and down, jumping from platform to platform, avoiding pits and enemies, and using your abilities to defend yourself and open doors.

Those abilities are what I’d like to mention first. Your little cloud baby character can blow out gusts of air, as you can see in this picture:

nuage2

They can flip switches to open doors, or blow away enemies trying to hurt you (a feature that wasn’t implemented yet either). However, DrSlouch and JutsBeaumont did something cool with this mechanic. See, you can’t just blow gusts of air indefinitely. At the top left of the screen, you’ll see 3 little cloud icons. Those represent how much air our little cloud baby has inside him. Letting out a wind shot removes one of the little icons, so you have a maximum of three rounds of “ammo” at any time.

Now here’s where things get interesting! Those cloud icons also represent your life–I guess because our little cloud baby is full of air! If you get hit by an enemy or obstacle, you’ll lose one of the little cloud icons, and if you get hit when you’re completely out of them, you’ll die. No death animation either, in this demo you just get sent back to the beginning of the stage, but again, I’m sure they’ll add it in to the finished product 🙂 I rather liked this design choice, personally. While this would be very far from the first game to have the player’s health tied to his or her ‘ammo,’ the reasoning behind it (the character is made of air and the more he uses to fight, the less he has supporting himself) struck me as both droll and sensible within the game world itself.

Now, how can you regain your health/ammo in this game? By inhaling! See this picture:

nuage1

By pressing a button, the little cloudbaby will take a deep breath and suck in a big gulp of air, replenishing one cloud ammo/health icon. That’s not all inhaling does, though. Using the inhale ability can also flip switches, just like blowing a gust can! It also pulls the switch lever towards you, while the gust pushes them away. For instance, if you’re standing to the left of a lever, and it’s currently turned to the right, as in this picture:

nuage3

Inhaling will pull the lever towards you, making it change position to the left and open the door! Then later on you’re standing on the left side of another switch that’s turned to the left this time. You can use your blow ability to push it to the right and open the next door! It’s a small thing, but I thought it was respectably nifty. Even for a small indie game, little touches like that go a pretty long way in demonstrating the ingenuity and craftiness of their creators, IMO.

Alas, while ingenuity and craftiness may be good things, they can’t make up for an incomplete game. Why were so many features missing from this build? Well, I think it had to do with the GameMaker program used to create it, and it’s something you guys ought to watch out for if you’re thinking of using it too! See, as Juts told me, every time you finish making a room in GameMaker, *every single time,* it asks essentially, “there’s stuff outside of the room, do you want to delete it?” That ‘stuff’ is often important, like room boundaries and things like that. Juts said he may have accidentally clicked “yes” in a moment of lag or something, resulting in the program deleting the boundaries of the second and third rooms–what this means is that you can fall out of the second room, and it also deleted a bit of work Juts had done which he had to start again, resulting in delays and an inability to get a more complete version of the game out before the deadline. So if anyone here plans on working with GameMaker, keep that in mind; you’ll *always* have to say “no” whenever the program asks if you want to delete stuff outside the room you’re working on.

Well, it happens–as any game or software dev can tell you, mishaps like that are a common occurrence. Thankfully it wasn’t as if my friends lost everything related to the game or anything like that! It’s a minor thing they’ll be able to correct. And even better, they have tons of time now to improve the game as much as they like, since they no longer have to worry about the GBJam deadline. So that means more animations, music, all that good stuff. They’re planning on releasing it later on as a full, purchasable game on a few sites dedicated to selling indie games. Given how piquant I found their design choices, as well as how generally solid the actual platforming gameplay seems to be, I think I might just end up giving them a bit of my money!

And, again, I’m not just saying that cause they’re my friends. Sure, I like them, but I’m not mindlessly complimenting them either–you’ll note I did describe quite earnestly the problems in this demo, after all. While I won’t try to cast myself as some paragon of objectivity, I can say I’d have praised the innovative aspects of this game, like the pushing/pulling mechanics for the switches, as much as if I hadn’t known these two at all. Perhaps my friendship with them gives me more faith that they’ll eventually be able to make a finished game despite the problems with GameMaker, but that’s all, IMO.

I’m not sure if the same applies to you, dear reader, but either way, if you’re interested in games and their design, I hope this entry gave you a little food for thought. 😀

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