I was reading the old diary posts of ‘Prince of Persia’ by Jordan Mechner (http://jordanmechner.com/) It makes me feel really weird to read that a big shot designer as Jordan was once in the same place as I am right now. While developing Prince of Persia he was also hoping it would be a hit for basically the same reasons as me.
One thing struck me as very interesting and it made me think; the sword fighting. It’s really hard to image that Prince of Persia started out as a platform-adventure game without the action. The sword fighting was added after Prince of Persia was into development for months.
It’s a really significant thing that changed Prince of Persia from a good game to an instant classic.
It made me wonder; what is Flipper’s sword fight ? does it have a sword fight at all ? This is a really difficult question to answer at this moment, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. My short answer would be; the star item!
Let me explain why :
When it comes to big things, I think I struck gold from the beginning on. Blowing things up is fun. Even after one year of development, and countless hours of testing, I still love to blow stuff up in Flipper.
The star item got added into development quite late. And It made a huge difference on the gameplay. It made the game more interesting for players to play and (maybe more importantly) replay.
It also increases the difficulty of the game quite a bit. Because you need to spend your powerups to reach the star AND exit. This limits your possibilities, and requires totally different strategies.
It also creates three new goals for the player to complete.
The first goal is collecting. I think it’s a natural thing for humans, they like to collect. If you find a star it will show up in the level-menu.
The second goal is increase your highscore; the star is worth 500 points, so it boost the score a lot.
The third and last goal is extra content. If you collect all the stars in a world, a special star level will unlock for that world.
In most games the first two goals are enough to motivate the player, but there’s no motivator like extra content. It’s a big reward. Combine all these elements together and replaying the game becomes really fun.
I image that most players try out Flipper first, without going for the star. Since they are new, getting to the exit is a big enough task. After that they can replay the levels in each world to improve their highscores and collection, yet once every few levels there’s going to be a new level (star level) to keep things fresh and new!
This way replaying the game isn’t really replaying the game (since new, not-yet-played, content gets available).
I think this really makes for a strong game!