In the first of a series of articles looking at things we announced we were going to do (but then didn't), we'll be looking at what would have been 2017's follow-up to our first game, Crazy Otto, and finding out exactly why the duck crossed the road...
Crazy Otto was released in summer 2016. Naturally we wanted to follow up on that game's success (lol!) and get our next game in development. That game turned out to be over-ambitious, and development was suspended. So we needed another, smaller, quicker to produce game. And why not make it an actual sequel, even if it was to a game that didn't exactly set the charts on fire?
So begins the tale of Otto Goes Skiing. It was to be an arcade game with a vertical orientation, like Crazy Otto before it, in which Crazy Otto, Ms Otto, Otto Jr and Baby Otto compete in a series of skiing competitions to win enough money to prevent their local bar from being bulldozed and replaced with a block of flats.
Graphically it was a big leap over Crazy Otto. The characters had clothes and skis, the environment was slightly more interesting to look at, and there were two types of gameplay in there - cross the road to get from the bar to the ski slope, and then ski down a mountain, trying to get through as many gates as possible as fast as you can, bumping the other players out of your way and into trees as you go. Some of the older readers amongst you might recognise this as bearing some similarity to a very old ZX Spectrum game, but that's neither here nor there..!
Development progressed quickly. Before we knew it we had the core gameplay in place. Then the graphics started to fill things out. Singleplayer was straightforward and mildly entertaining. Then we tried it in multiplayer, because that's where the real fun is, right? And... it wasn't fun.
It's hard to say exactly what's wrong with it. We don't have good, instinctively-understood terms for so many things in game design. The first phase - crossing the road - was fun. You could bump into other players and move them, so you could literally throw them under trucks. With four players, it could take some time to get everybody across, but it was highly enjoyable. The second phase - actually skiing, the core part of the game - was not. It was hard to avoid the other players, whether you trying to hit them or not. The physics never felt right, no matter how much we tweaked it, so bouncing players around was just unpleasant. And we never quite got the rubber-banding right, to keep the players together - our intent was that like Micro Machines, the player at the back would get bumped out and lose a life, but that game is very good at keeping players mostly together.
Maybe it was a lack of effort on my part. Maybe with more tweaking, more testing, and even more tweaking and testing, we could've hit on the exact formula to make the skiing part fun. Maybe sticking with the same display resolution and orientation as Crazy Otto was a mistake, and we should've gone for a regular widescreen display. Maybe we should've just focused on the single player, or expanded crossing-the-road into being the game's focus. Whatever it was we were missing, we just couldn't make Otto Goes Skiing a fun game. So we abandoned it.
Two good things did come out of it - Crazy Otto was modified to support Otto Goes Skiing as DLC, should we ever feel the urge to release DLC for that game. And the game we picked up instead was Eight Dragons, which is definitely fun no matter how many people are playing!