Oh, it’s time for me to write one of these?
How’s it going, everybody! My name’s Ian, and I’m the designated level designer for Ambrosia. Despite what Mike thinks, I’m not from rural Oklahoma. I grew up in one of the largest towns in the state. He just thinks it’s rural because there was a barn and horses on my property, and the satellite images around my house just happened to show mostly farmland. Whatevs, Mike!
Anyway, here I am! Despite my lifelong passion for video games, and penchant for creating things in or adjacent to games, I was never quite sure if I wanted to make video games my career. I like playing games. Exploring games, learning about their worlds, experiencing their story, delving into their mechanics — everything related to the act of discovery. But there’s no discovery in a game that you, yourself, are designing, right? You know everything that’s going to happen, right?
Well, no, as it turns out. Actually, game development is non-stop discovery from end to end. It’s not a feeling of working on the same, unchanging product day after day. It seems like, instead, Ambrosia changes and evolves every day, bringing me something new and exciting to sink my teeth into. Every time Nate builds in new engine functionality, every time Mike creates a new enemy, and even every time I create a new stage, I feel like I’m discovering something new about the world of Ambrosia. No matter how much we’ve got planned, the way things change and evolve on their way to implementation is eternally fascinating. But it’s not just the inherent excitement of seeing something take final shape; every completed idea also inevitably leads to new ideas. Discoveries leading to discoveries.
It feels especially appropriate and encouraging that this is how developing the game makes me feel, because “discoveries leading to discoveries” is precisely the idea behind Ambrosia’s mechanics. Nate touched on the mod system in his last blog post, and that’s a big example of this. Mods are items that add new effects and rules to your weapons. Finding a new mod in a stage is a discovery. The mod then inherently changes the way you interact with the world and approach enemy encounters, which is another discovery. You explore a little further and find another mod yielding as much discovery as before — except more, as you realize that these two mods’ rules play off of each other to create an effect greater and different than the sum of their parts. And then more and more, as you collect more and the possible combinations pile up. Getting a new mod at the end of the game can make you rethink the possibilities of other mods, all the way back to the ones you find at the beginning of the game.
I was sold on this concept from the start when Nate explained it to me, yet I was still surprised to find myself so pleased by it in action. Like I said, I didn’t know if the ‘discovery’ could work on me when it’s from a project I’m involved in. But sure enough, there I am, testing the game, equipping mods I’m good and familiar with, and suddenly I’m saying things to myself like, “I didn’t realize I could get the revolver to do this!” and “wait, these ones go together and do WHAT?!”
These kinds of light-bulb moments are some of my favorite sensations to get from a video game, so it makes me happy that even our own game’s managed to do it to me. I like to think it’s an indication that the design works! Or maybe I’m just proud of this baby. But if people come away from Ambrosia with even a little bit of the satisfaction and delight I’ve gotten from working on the game, then I’ll know we’ve done a good job.
Excited to be sharing it with the world soon! To all reading this, have a good day!