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3. The Variety of Mechanics
The main, unique selling point of the game is undoubtedly the many different game mechanics featured throughout. When I started development, the intention was to make a platform version of a Wario Ware game, where every single level was unique and lasted about 20 or 30 seconds. As it developed, it became clear that some of the ideas were certainly worthy of a few levels, and the levels that required more time to solve were more interesting than the really short ones.
A lot of the original level mechanics were dropped as they didn't really work, and I focused more on the interesting ones such as rotating the levels, time travel, and rope swinging. I had a couple of levels that featured playing cards which Shuggy had to pick up and form poker hands with. They just involved a lot of picking up and dropping -- not that interesting!
One level didn't rotate around the Z-axis like all the normal rotating levels, but around the Y-axis, so the level was a bit like a 3D cube. It was a crazy idea and didn't really work out so got dropped from the final game. The diversity in the levels made it nice and easy to just drop certain mechanics if they weren't working out, and replace them with something else.
The different mechanics came about through a variety of reasons. Allowing the levels to rotate and having gravity different for each object was a major part of the engine design, so I did that first, rather than trying to retrofit it later on -- which was a wise move. All the objects in the game are coded in such a way that they don't care which direction their gravity is; it's all handled by the base class used for all objects. It meant I could add new objects without needing to consider that they might be rotated at some point and their gravity would change.
After that, I implemented the time travel effect, which came easily thanks to my experience in the genre. The different jumping effects were simple enough to add, and just involved tweaking a few calculations here and there. I enjoyed implementing the "teamwork" levels where another character helps you in the level.
They were quite easy to implement (simply record button presses while I went from one position to another, and then play the appropriate recording back) but really make it look like someone else is controlling the other character. Probably the last mechanic to be added was rope swinging, which led to quite a few interesting levels, and the inclusion of the cogs you can wrap the rope round.
4. Skippable Levels
I'm really happy with the way players can progress through the game. From the beginning I wanted players to have a choice of levels to pick from at any given time. I hate that feeling of progressing through a game only to get completely stuck on a specific level. It normally leads to giving up and then you miss out on playing a load of content.
A few reviewers have commented that there isn't really a difficulty curve in Shuggy; some levels in the first few areas are much harder than some of the levels in the last area. It was a deliberate move, though. It means players who aren't as skilled should always be able to find easier levels to play; ignore the difficult ones and you can still reach the end of the game.
Meanwhile, players who are after a bit more of a challenge can start tackling more interesting levels early on, rather than wading their way through loads of levels they don't find as enjoyable. That wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the way the levels unlock as you progress.
5. Remote Working
Due to the nature of the way the game was developed, most of the team have never actually met each other. Being an indie project and having no budget at the start meant that everyone was working remotely from their own homes.
After coming up with an initial prototype of the game myself, I knew I needed someone to take care of the visual side of things. I posted on an indie gaming forum and got in contact with Chris from Imbri Design, based in Australia, who ended up doing all the in-game graphics. We've only met face-to-face once, at the 2007 Gamefest conference, where the Dream Build Play winners were announced.
Bennet Aldous at Fat Cat Comics, who did the comic book cutscenes, is an old friend of mine based in the UK. Pompom Games and Sonic Source who worked on the Live support and sound effects respectively are also UK-based, but I've only met them a few times. I've still never met Jesse Hopkins, who composed the music for the game and is based in the U.S.
Despite having little face-to-face contact with the other people working on the game, we managed to pull everything together and get a finished product out there which I think is quite an achievement. I was concerned at the beginning (particularly as more people were brought on board) that working remotely was going to pose some significant problems but it really didn't cause any major upsets.
We had a good revision control setup that enabled us all to work on the code and assets at the same time, and I coordinated what everyone was up to. I don't believe any of the other team members have actually spoken to each other!