Size Five Games

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The Swindle Hates You

May 222015

TheSwindle 2015-02-11 14-07-27-12

That’s not true. I’ve commented out the code that allows the game to feel human emotions. But the game definitely wants you dead, and it wants you to fail. And in doing so, it wants you to learn its systems for yourself.

I thought it might be interesting to explain some of my design philosophy behind the game, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. One of the first Eureka moments in development was when I ditched the concept of health – originally you had a regenerating health bar, and could take several hits. For fun, I set it to 1%, so one hit will kill you, no matter where it came from, and the game transformed. The stealth was suddenly so tense, death was now funny, stupid, embarrassing, sometimes rage-inducing, and your vulnerability quickly became a central gameplay mechanic.

That was kind of a yardstick moment, and all the other design flowed around it - how long heists take, how much money you get, the size of the levels, how enemies behave, in a way it’s all dictated by the one-hit-kill philosophy. If it sounds harsh and it’s putting you off, don’t worry too much: the game’s been designed around that mechanic.

But that harshness has led onto other stuff: I’ve been very keen to avoid any unnecessary hand-holding. The Swindle will still ease you into the basics, it still teaches you how to double-jump. But the game lets you work things out for yourself. It doesn’t shriek “THIS IS A DOOR. OPEN DOORS SO YOU CAN WALK THROUGH THEM!”, and it deliberately keeps quiet about how quite a lot of key mechanics work.

I think games have maybe become too padded in cotton wool, too scared to let you think, and too keen to tell you everything in case you’re not having an A-1 10/10 FUN TIME, ALL THE TIME. The Swindle is definitely me fighting back against that, a bit. The game treats you like an adult and lets you get on with it, it doesn’t interrupt you with cutaways, doesn’t patronise you with endless “This is how this enemy works!” tutorial text or helpful voices over a headset from a techie character back at base.

A couple of times during the Beta people have said “I don’t understand how X works”, usually things like hacking mines, or XP. And my response has been “work it out for yourself. If you really can’t, let me know and I’ll fix it” and 9 times out of 10 they’ve just paid attention, thought for themselves, and it’s clicked.

All of which is why in your first playthrough you’ll use up all of your allocated 100 days before you’ve got past Level 2. The same will probably be the case for your second attempt, as well. As you get towards the end of the game, it’ll still be throwing new enemy types at you, which you’ll need to study and experience in order to win. There’s no in-game help for any of this, you’re on your own.

It feels kind of old-school, and honestly it’s a better game for it. You’re learning the game’s traps and pitfalls through experience, rather than me hand-holding you through them and explaining everything.

I just want you to know what to expect. You’ll die a lot, you’ll fail a lot, but hopefully you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

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