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April 21, 2021
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Combining charming atmosphere and authentic level design - the story of Time Loader

by Stas Ignatov on 03/31/21 10:46:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Good day everyone! In today article, I'd like to tell you about one of our projects – Time Loader –  and dive into game's development process!

Time Loader is a story-driven, physics-based puzzle platformer with a twist. At the helm of a small robot, you’ll travel back to the 90s to prevent a tragic accident. Explore the house of your creator, solve brain-teasing puzzles, acquire unique and powerful upgrades, and see common household items from an entirely new perspective

So, why a robot, exactly?

You might’ve heard about Truck Loader – a popular flash game series which Flazm developed in the past. They've always dreamed about moving the idea behind it to a more ‘mature’ format of a console and PC game. In 2013, the first attempt to do so was made, but the project was put on hold, which turned out to be a very smart decision

In 2019th, they’ve resumed the project and made a final decision: the game will be made in 3D with modern graphics and effects. And when the pre-production cycle began, game got the style it has now: a more personal and ‘cartoon-ish’ story about one particular family in one particular house.

Okay, but why 80s and 90s?

We get that question a lot. The answer might disappoint you, but it’s very simple: they are our cherished childhood days. Some of our brightest emotions and memories come from these precious times. In Time Loader, we want to cherish every single one of them, so we are creating that ‘Childhood American Dream’ that all kids from our time had. It is based on our favorite movies and magazines from that time, because that’s how we saw it back then: the dreamland from the pages of an old magazine.  That’s the world that we invite all our players to visit.

If we talk inspiration, our main sources are: the first ‘Transformers’, ‘Flight of the Navigator’, computer magazines from the 90s and the 'Tekhnika Molodezhi’ magazine. 

How we get ideas 

We always start with some interesting interaction idea, which we iterate on and try to fit into the ‘realistic’ setting. If you think about it, a jack can be used to lift a heavy shelf and a simple fan can become a speedy boat engine! But we always try to keep a balance between ‘that sounds fun!’ and ‘let’s be realistic here’, because the idea is to make our house look like… well, a real house, not a pre-made robot’s playground. Fun fact: our level designer used to carry a measuring tape with him. Why? To measure every single piece of furniture and any home appliances or household items he came across for reference

How we design levels 

Conveniently enough, the complete plan of the house and how to segment it were among the first things we’ve made. But it wasn’t the hardest part of our design process. Making an actual ‘realistic’ obstacle for the robot is by far the most challenging task we have. It’s easy to say ‘just throw some slippers around’, but nobody really has 20 pairs of slippers in their house, right? They have to feel and look real to convince our players that it is an actual house and not just a decoration.

Our level designer is putting an enormous amount of work to make blockouts and find suitable references from that time for every single primitive he creates. When you think ‘kitchen’, you don’t just imagine the cooking space; you think about all the little items there as well. Is that a spices rack? Or maybe a breadbox? And what about the cylinder? Maybe a mixing bowl? Or a fancy hat? It gets hard really quick.

After that goes the usual boring game development stuff: sketching, modellings, texturing, animating, etc etc. And play tests. Lots of them. Then iterating and more tests. Yeah, just business as usual.=

How the game’s physics work

Time Loader is all about physics puzzles. We use Unity’s built-in physics engine to make things work but, as with any physics engine, it has lots of amusing quirks that we have to work around. Like, you wouldn’t notice, but all objects in the game react to stuff only in 2D. So making things like water work was quite a task.    

But the biggest challenge is the little robot hero. It’s very hard to balance between fun controls and realistic physics to make the game enjoyable for the player without breaking too many laws of physics. To achieve this, we put A LOT of additional pointers and variables on him. Configuring them is a huge pain in the back at times, but the final result is worth every single second of it.

Another interesting thing is the robot’s arm. To make it interact with things the way we wanted, we had to make it omnipotent and then reduce its power to a point when things stop breaking the ceiling. Imagine The Infinity Gauntlet with the stones removed.

We have a lot of interesting stuff prepared for you. Expect to interact with things like bike pedals, air pumps, a gramophone, and magnets in a way that you’ve never seen before!

Game’s Scale

You could think that Time Loader is just a fun story-driven platformer with nice graphics and brain teasing puzzles. And you are right, except for one little thing: the game will have three different endings and one of them will be very hard to get! Prepare for a challenge!  

The final game will feature 3 story acts with a different amount of levels in each. You won’t  get bored, trust us!  

If you liked the article, feel free to drop by our Steam page and try the game’s demo for free. And don’t forget to wishlist us! Thank you and have a nice day!


Huge thanks to the amazing team at Flazm for development insides and interesting stories!


Time Loader on Steam
Time Loader on Twitter
Meta Publishing on Twitter


Author: Danil Dubkov, Community Manager at Meta Publishing


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