It’s shameless plug time, gamers.
Lately, my boyfriend has been designing a competitive game he’s currently titled Project Footstool. It’s based around the idea of one player jumping on top of the other to gain points and win the game. You know what also does that? Mario, Sonic and similarly styled 2D platformers of the time. I would personally consider it goomba stomping turned into a sport, to describe it simplistically. It’s fun, and pretty addictive to boot.
He was inspired by Smash 4, referring to the practice of ‘footstooling’ players, or in other words, jumping on another player’s head and using them as a ‘footstool’ to jump even higher. However, in that case, there was no harm done. In Project Footstool, it’s positively murderous.
In terms of artistic design, ‘simplistic’ is the operative term, and it’s used pretty effectively. Upon opening the game, you are presented with nothing but the title, brightly contrasted against the background, and the levels use a similar juxtaposition with simple shapes and block colours. However, don’t let that dissuade you. The fun starts upon clicking through the title. Ed throws himself into the popular game development habit of making their game ‘juicy’, which at its most basic is adding the fun factor to a game by making it feel more fun. As Martin Jonasson’s explanation (quoted in this Gamasutra article) details, ‘juicy’ encompasses ‘things that wobble, squirt, bounce around, and make little cute noises; it’s sort of a catch-all phrase for things that make a game more satisfying to interact with’.
In Ed’s case, this involves jazzing up that simple art style with heatwave-style ripples, neon colours, glowing, pulsing and awesome synth music, all taking inspiration from the 1980’s and the surrounding game scene of the time. It, like games such as Shovel Knight and Divekick, acts as a retro demake, but in this case it’s a demake of competitive fighting games – bringing it back to nothing but the bare essentials which made it so fun to begin with, and using controls so simple you could assign them to an NES controller.
Behind the five menu options, the current selection becomes the background. Similar to Jack Torrance’s slow decent into madness expressed through the typewriter, the option is repeated in colourful text that slides across the background, and pulses in time with the music. It’s also laced with a glow effect. To squeeze a little extra juice into this game themed smoothie, the angle of the background takes on a different tilt with each menu item. If you want a comparison, go to the Sensodyne adverts, as we’ve attributed the constantly changing angles of the camera in them to a perpetually drunk cameraman.
(Disclaimer: to the cameraman for those adverts, I apologise if you were not drunk in the filming of any of those adverts. We just cannot figure out why it would be a stylistic choice. Do they try to make their adverts juicy too?)
There’s extra juice to be found in the rest of the game too, in the character select screen, where one can choose from a multitude of different colours and designs to jazz up the base squares that are the avatars, and the playing of the game itself elicits striking particle effects with every collision – except for the collision that uses the opponent as a footstool, which causes an effect similar to getting wasted in the recent GTA games. The screen desaturates as the defeated player falls through the bottom of the level, zooming in and rotating as it happens. I’m sure it was all he could do not to add a caption similar to ‘OWNED’. There’s juice in the sound as well, but currently not that much: it lies in the music and in the bassy pew pew pew sounds that accompany collisions. However, the lack of polish is only because the game is as yet unfinished. He’s currently fine-tuning it and working through bugs as I write this. He’s going to add even more juice later in the process, so get hype!
The menu screen and each of the game types are accompanied by a set of different energetic and very fun synth music tracks, often heavy on the bass and satisfyingly bouncy in places. These are composed by the youtuber MovieMasterAl, who is most commonly known for his remixes of Game Grumps episodes. While there are several youtubers who do this, MovieMasterAl is one of Ed’s favourites – and he was pretty excited to receive the guy’s help, I can tell you that much. The video below is his most famous example, and going by the difference between the original songs and his remix, his talent is pretty obvious.
Game Grumps Remix: Laffy Taffy vs Night Trap
As for the gameplay, there are three game types you can choose from: Stocks, KOTH and Race. Stocks is the equivalent of a deathmatch. In a kill-or-be-killed scenario, the players must attempt to literally one-up their opponents by jumping on their heads, gaining points until the system of lives is exhausted and someone wins, a numerical requirement you can choose in the player select screen. It’s the simplest, and the original incarnation of the goomba stomping, footstooling fun that is echoed in the other game types, even though it’s not their priority. The level itself is pretty simple. There are three platforms above the base that offer two extra levels of elevation, giving you the chance to get a better jump on the opponents. However, there are no walls, so be careful – you can all too easily fall off the edge and out the level, effectively ‘SD’ing’ yourself. (I’ve done it several times myself.)
KOTH meanwhile, or King of the Hill, is pretty self evident to anyone who’s played any multiplayer combat games like Team Fortress 2. In this case, the idea is to stay on the glowing platform long enough to win. If two players or more are on the platform, the points counter contests, and if someone is knocked or jumps out, those points trickle back to nothing. Again, like in Stocks, the amount of time required to stay on the ‘hill’ to win is set in the character screen. The player can stop their opponents with the flump or knock-out that characterises the game. After being knocked off the perch, the defeated player respawns at the bottom of the screen and has to start over. Unlike Stocks, this game’s level is walled in so there’s no falling off.
Unlike the other two game types, the terrain of Race is procedurally generated – but the aim is not more complicated as a result. The player has to climb a descending set of platforms and outrun their opponent. Since the player can also defeat their opponent with the familiar flump, this can get pretty hectic. The screen subtly encourages the player to get a move on with an at first slowly rising tide of whited-out screen, and if the player has the misfortune to fall into that area, they are knocked out and the last person standing gets the point. The game then resets until someone has a winning amount of points. Pretty simple.
You can currently play Project Footstool here, provided you have Unity Web Player and don’t use Chrome, since that will cause several issues. Even then though, he’s planning to upgrade to a webGL version at some point, which means even people on Chromebooks (like me) can play it, so there’s no reason to worry. And you should totally play it, not just because it would be supporting my boyfriend and I’m biased as hell, but also because it’s a fun and well designed game. Once it’s finished, he’s also planning on putting it through Steam Greenlight, and I will talk about it more when that happens.
Even as it now, though, Ed’s pretty pleased with himself. It’s ‘hype’ as hell.