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 Ikaruga  concept saved Housemarque's  Outland
Ikaruga concept saved Housemarque's Outland
April 27, 2012 | By Staff

April 27, 2012 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Outland might have never released if Housemarque hadn't cribbed Ikaruga-style mechanics midway into the game's development, the studio reveals in a Gamasutra postmortem.

When Housemarque put out Outland for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network last spring, the downloadable game was drastically different from its original idea. The independent Finnish developer wasn't satisfied with its initial concept, and needed to essentially start over when it figured out how to approach the game.

The studio's Ilari Kuittinen and Aki Raula explain, "Around nine months into preproduction we started to suffer from a lack of direction and vision; originally the concept was more about old school adventure and puzzle solving. It then moved towards "Sonic meets Indiana Jones" before settling to agile platforming and Ikaruga mechanics."

Housemarque implemented a polarity system similar to the one featured in Treasure's beloved shoot'em up Ikaruga, in which players must flip between two colors for their ship to absorb similar-colored bullets and shoot at opposite-colored enemies.

"Fixing a project that was adrift required a strong steering maneuver; bringing in the Ikaruga concept was just that," says the studio.

"When the idea came up in a meeting, some 16 months before completion, it was love at first sight. We of course ended up rewriting our engine due to this, and made other smaller changes in the concept, which added to the programmer workload and introduced some delays to the schedule."

The team also had to throw away most of the content they had created at that point and basically start over from scratch: "Player animations were no longer valid for the new gameplay, nor were player physics and movement rules. The change also introduced new requirements from the level tools, further slowing us down."

Kuittinen and Raula add that "[because] gameplay and project uniqueness increased as a result, the change was for the better. It is possible the game would have never been finished had we continued on the original path."

The full postmortem feature, which goes into depth on what went right and wrong during Outland's development, is live now on Gamasutra.

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Stuart Leslie
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I'm curious to know why they had to rewrite their engine to support a small gameplay change...

William Dettrey
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"Small" gameplay change? Perhaps you misspoke? That is a HUGE gameplay change and game/level/puzzle design change.