From 3D to 2D: Life lessons from building a platformer

I started to see the parallels almost instantaneously. The sheer amount of details I needed to implement to make sure the end-user experience was delightful. Not satisfactory, but cute, amusing, novel…enjoyable. Fixing the tiles, deciding on the height, figuring out the animation speed. What takes others minutes, takes me hours…and still I enjoy it. I love it because I remember the feeling I get when I play something short and sweet. I understand that it’s the little details that help define the bigger picture.

platformer
I must line everything up. I MUST…I can spend hours re-arranging layers.

Life is like that as well. What paths we take. Whether we stay or go. It’s all made up of little choices that add up to a larger awareness. Often times when we make a decision, it’s been a long time coming. We can start to see where the thread unraveled. We nod with understanding that our decision wasn’t made lightly, no matter how impulsive it might seem. The sudden reaction we feel is a calling to do what we were always meant to, but the process, the journey to that realization started long ago.

I’m not a dev (yet), but I can only imagine that’s what it must feel like. To have to pay close attention to the details. To be able to intercept every mouse click and keyboard stroke, which tie to a larger mission: to evoke a sense of wonder, amusement, joy, anger, determination – action from the player. Whether we actively know it or not, everything we don’t do – speaks just as loudly. The devil is in the details, quality over quantity as they say in marketing and when it comes to development it still rings true.

I’ve always had an eye for detail. I instinctively knew that it was the little things I did that would give me big wins. I’ve been lucky in a sense that I’ve had mentors and bosses that knew that as well. Is it because they are gamers, developers themselves? Possibly. Whether one is building a game or designing a campaign to get people to click a button, the motivation behind that individual is the same. The goal is to elicit a reaction, spur on a response and understanding that helps us make better decisions. Decisions like how wide the chasm between each cliff should be. 

This just means I’ve got to keep working on this until I get it right. Having a deadline provides incentive to get things done quickly, but that doesn’t mean quality can slip. Two out of three doesn’t cut it when everyone has lots of choices. This reminds of the Captain America: Civil War movie that just came out. One of the shortest, but most delightful sequences was the appearance of Spiderman. I murmured to Alex, “Finally, they got his personality right!” Our friendly neighborhood Spiderman was cute, dorky and I’m assuming in future installments, sarcastic from being around Tony Stark all the time.

Details.

That one detail, to really understand what the fans want, to put in a nod to the New Avengers helped make a decent movie, a really good experience for me. Whether building a game, changing careers or watching a movie, it all comes down to those little details.