Developer Diary: “How appropriate. You fight like a cow!” by Nels Anderson – Gameplay Programmer

Nels- Trying much too hard to look intellectual

One of the first computer games I remember playing was called Cosmic Osmo and the Worlds Beyond the Mackerel, created by Robyn and Rand Millar (their next game was Myst). From there, I was hooked. Nearly everyone else at Hothead has at least one similarly beloved adventure game. Everything from Zork to Gabriel Knight, from Full Throttle to (of course) Monkey Island.

Playing those classic adventures games with friends was a big part of their appeal. While they didn’t have explicit 2-player modes like many arcade and console games of the time, it didn’t really matter. That feeling of satisfaction from overcoming some insidious puzzle didn’t depend on who happened to be holding the mouse at the time. It was about thinking up some crazy solution and barely being able to wait until after school to rush to your friend’s dad’s 486 to try it out. It was about spending time accomplishing something and having fun together.

With the co-op in DeathSpank, we wanted to create that same feeling of collaboratively solving puzzles and controlling the flow of absurd conversations. But we also wanted to capture the frantic 2-player beat ‘em up action that caused us to drop so many quarters into Double Dragon and Final Fight. Finally, and most importantly, we wanted co-op to be inviting. We tried to keep all these objectives in mind when implementing the co-op functionality.

Sparkles - Trying much too hard to look sexy

Sparkles, the co-op character, can join and leave at any time. He has a finite set of abilities that are easy to understand (but they still dovetail well with some of DeathSpank’s for deeper tactical play). DeathSpank and Sparkles share a health bar and an inventory. These decisions should make it easy for almost anyone to enjoy DeathSpank with you.

Ultimately, DeathSpank isn’t a game you play with a disembodied voice on the other end of a headset. Some of our favourite games work that way, don’t get me wrong, but DeathSpank just isn’t one of those games. It’s a game you play on your couch with a friend on a lazy Sunday afternoon. When your roommate/spouse/child/whoever hears you chuckling and curiously comes in from another room. We wanted anyone to be able to just turn on the second controller and say, “Here, you can play too.”

[Nels Anderson was a gameplay programmer on DeathSpank, joining Hothead in early 2009. He's probably the only game developer in Vancouver (and maybe all of Canada) that was born and raised in Wyoming.]

5 Responses to “Developer Diary: “How appropriate. You fight like a cow!” by Nels Anderson – Gameplay Programmer”

  1. Autarchist says:

    Sounds like a total blast! Great writeup too, Nels!
    I can’t wait to play it me’self…

  2. @Nauraph, dondon Thanks!

    @EveryLessonBrnd Since XBLA/PSN titles are allowed far fewer achievements/trophies than retail titles, we had to be quite judicious with the few we’re allowed. Plus, DeathSpank is unusually large for a XBLA/PSN title, so there is a lot of ground to cover. But we like to believe the sheer unbridled joy of playing as Sparkles is its own reward ;)

  3. EveryLessonBrnd says:

    Will those who join us on our adventure, via couch co-op, get achievements/trophies?

  4. dondon says:

    nice work!!! i can’t wait…

  5. Nauraph says:

    Good read. Thanks a lot.