4 Hugues Ross - Blog: Back to the Maze - 4 - Hey, it Works!
Hugues Ross


Back to the Maze - 4 - Hey, it Works!

Hello again!

I wasn't expecting it to go so smoothly, but I got AMAZE's rewrite to a point where it mostly works. At the very least, every level is fully playable at this point so I feel happy enough calling Stage 2 of my plan a success (and in just a month and a half, if you ignore how long it took me to sit down and write this)

But how did I do it? Let's talk strategy:

1 - Data

My original goal for this stage of the project was to get the games final data files loading and running in the new engine, but I very quickly abandoned that idea in favor of loading the source files instead.

The main benefit of this change was greatly simplifying the asset loading process. Instead of handling custom compressed binary files, I just had to deal with simple text and xml. Many of these files were similar to existing formats in DFGame, so loading them was pretty easy.

2 - The Critical Path

I thought a lot about how to approach the problem of recreating the game, but in the end I decided to simply play through it. By visiting every level, I could implement just the parts that were necessary to make the game function and ignore the rest, which was another good speed boost.

3 - Writing Bad Code

I think terrible code is underrated. No-one wants it in their codebase and it has a very high maintenance cost, but ignoring quality allows for lightning-fast initial development speeds. Even at work, I usually start by hacking together the "naive solution" to quickly get a prototype in place that I can then redesign to better fit with existing systems.

I applied the same concept here. Since I'm already planning months of cleanup, polish, and refactoring, I just wrote the cheapest possible recreation of the original I could. I'll be paying that debt back soon, but I'll be doing it with the luxury of a working copy.

Like a finely-aged...steak

Since I had to play through the game for testing, I can also give a verdict on the original content! I hadn't touched this thing in forever, so I came in totally fresh. And let me tell you, it sucks!

I remembered that the game was lacking in polish and some challenges were too tight, but but the latter was much worse than expected. Looking back, I think there are two even bigger problems:
  1. Minimal Checkpointing - AMAZE is sort of a hybrid action/puzzle game, but there are no in-level checkpoints. Replaying an action sequence isn't too bad, but following the same steps to complete a puzzle after dying feels pretty bad. (The fact that resetting a level when stuck costs a life is also bad)
    Additionally, running out of lives is very easy and a game over can push the player back pretty far.
  2. Blindness - A lot of puzzles suffer from not showing the player enough in-game. This becomes especially obvious in some later areas, especially with ice puzzles. There are multiple places where the player has to run into areas full of deathtraps, completely blind!
Naturally, the result is a really un-fun game. If I want to make the new game a success, I need to keep these points in mind.

Planning My Approach

As you may remember, the next two stages are about refactoring the new code into something solid, and building tools to produce the new data. Before I can do that, I need a better idea of what to do with this game.

With that in mind, I'm taking a break from the project for a little while. Now that I have it running with newer libraries I can worry a little less about compatibility (though I don't plan to stop long enough for that to be an issue), so I'm going to spend some time on a few other projects and come back to this with some fresh ideas later.

My next post be about one of those projects, which is already released!
Stay tuned.

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