While we are seven graduate students and not currently professional developers, we have been operating like any small development house would. We have two programmers, four artists (concept artist, animator, character modeler, and environmental artist), and a producer/composer.
Every team member's voice is heard and has contributed to the overall design of the project starting with a month of pre-production followed by almost three months of production. We have functioned efficiently, using a loose version of Scrum to keep focus and hold each other accountable for individual tasks.
We knew we could be in trouble if we tried to incorporate too many gameplay modes instead of focusing our attention on one or two effective and engaging mechanics. Following the advice of faculty at the ETC, we placed ourselves in a combat design vacuum for a month, since this is such a critical mechanic in the game.
Through routine playtests with hundreds of tissue testers -- meaning we never used repeat testers -- we iterated to make sure the battles felt exciting, yet comfortable and intuitive.
Designing an action-adventure game around an entirely new user interface was a challenge.
We knew we had to differentiate our floor pad from DDR, so we designed the pad in an ergonomic way, with offensive attacks and defensive movements clearly delineated.
With this in mind, we brainstormed and paper-prototyped until the combination of the Wii remote, nunchuk, and floor pad were intrinsic and additive to the experience rather than unintuitive tacked-on gimmicks.
The abovementioned punch is an example of this. We combated the "wrist-flicking" tendencies of other Wii games by animating our hero to literally step forward into his punches.
By mapping the hero's digital limbs to the player's real ones, this allowed us to design a reason to avoid the dreaded wrist-flick; the child is stepping because the protagonist steps to throw an attack.
Different attacks can be initiated depending on where the child steps and which hand they swing (the nunchuk is also used to fight if the player desires, allowing true two-handed combat).
Another example of our plan to merge a traditional action-adventure with exergaming is using dodging during combat to increase cardiovascular activity.
The nature of Orbis' main character allows him to be very agile, so we thought this could be a great opportunity to open up combat beyond a stationary duel. When engaged in battle with an enemy, the child can move their feet to the left or right by hopping to the correct inputs.
This naturally causes their shoulders and body position to shift as their avatar mimics their dodge in real-time, avoiding any threatening attacks from an adversary.
This adds depth and strategy to the combat, as the player can circle-strafe behind an enemy to throw an attack, simulating an extremely active "stick-and-move" style of gameplay. No more pressing a shoulder button or choosing "Defend" from a menu while you absorb a blow... Now those little slimes from Dragon Warrior will have to deal with a mobile hero.