PSG update - Metafight and Guardian Legend

So, I have finally updated my website 'PSG' with two 'design docs' I made a while ago. I bought Blaster Master (Metafight in Japan) when it was released here in Europe, and I did not regret it. Most of the time I do not like games for what they are, but for what they could be. Aside from the corny runaway frog story, Blaster Master had a fantastic potential. The sequels didn't quite follow up on the style of the original though, or tap into its pool of potential.

As for The Guardian Legend, I hadn't played it until just recently. I was in the midst of the Metafight project when tGL's charm got to me, and being easily distracted, I quickly wrapped up Metafight and began working on tGL. I spent about a week on it before getting distracted again.

One thing which is very important to me when I do these projects is to keep much of the design from the original game intact. This is not common in the world of remakes and sequels. In fact, I challenge you to think of a single sequel (or remake) which remained very faithful to its original, after having made a generational leap that is.

I like to think of designs as being entities in a multi-dimensional design space. What I enjoy about sprites and pencil thumbnails is that they are... fuzzy entities. They have not yet collapsed into a clearly defined singularity, like next-gen designs tend to do with all their HD and 2048^2 pixel texture maps. Older game sprites are more fuzzy, stretching out in all directions like gas nebulae and star clusters, and can thus more easily be made to overlap with the regions of design space that I prefer. The alignment and coherence of a group of designs is also important, and it's much harder to achieve if you're dealing with singularities rather than nebulae. Think of it like trying to draw a harmonious line between designs A1-B1-C1, while keeping parallel and not too close to A2-B2-C2.

Quake was great since it was, especially at lower resolutions and software render, very noisy, raw and gritty, and that brought homogeneity and alignment. You couldn't tell what the skin of the Shambler was. Is it hairy or just has white skin? In your mind it was awesome in any way. A next-gen Shambler, I fear, would be dumbed down, collapsed into something artificial, plastic normal map looking. Quake 1 was about noise and grit. It wasn't tidy, clean or softly fluffy. It crackled like an old vinyl record and it was that which gave it a soul.

Getting to the point... the design space I envision is really vast and multidimensional. Of course the number of semantically differentiable designs is much more limited, but I still feel that you have a lot of playroom as a designer, even within the nebula of an old sprite. I'm not sure why the sequel makers won't explore their home nebulae a bit more. At most you see a few vague nods in the direction of the original. Maybe it's because of a lack of respect of the original, or a lazy haphazard attitude towards design. I don't think it's a lack of skill, because like I said, staying within the confines of a nebula is not that hard and you still have a lot of playroom to do cool things like next-gen singularity designs or whatever.

Lets have a look at some Lynels I drew from Zelda 1. It's a tricky design and I struggled quite a bit with it. One problem I have is wanting to nudge things towards a bit more mature proportions. This means my redesigns (the blue dots, here trying to find an attack vector towards the perceived center of the nebula) can end up a bit towards the edge of the nebula (gray). I simplified the nebula to two dimensions, but it's really vastly multi dimensional. I kind of have a trend in my redesigns, preferences and alignments into certain dimensions, and I'm not exploring the much of the available space. I really wish I could get closer to the center with these designs. With so many dimensions maybe I can find a place where the space is warped or bent, allowing me to sneak in? Maybe the nebula stretches out in a dimension I was not aware of, thus giving me more leeway? Also, I cannot just pick any attack vector, I must stay in harmony with all the other enemy designs as well, such as the Moblin or Tektite.

Anyways, I'm not saying it's wrong to try new things. There are a lot of sequels which have ventured into new space and made a memorable home there. I just think it's odd that there's hardly any faithful generation leaping sequels. Why not pay respect to the original and tap into all the cultural history and nostalgia which you'll basically get for free?

StarCraft 2 could possibly qualify? Too early to tell. Someone suggested Mario 64, which atleast kept a lot of the bestiary intact from the earlier games. Realistic games (such Zombie or Racing games) does not count, as there's little to redesign.