Designers On Metroid: Nicklas Nygren

I’m Nicklas Nygren. I’ve created a bunch of indie titles named Within a Deep Forest, Knytt, Saira, and FiNCK.

Since I’m born in the early 80’s I tend to like games from the NES and SNES days. When it comes to the Metroid series, the 2D games are my favorites – Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion in particular. I know Fusion is from this century, but the gameboy advance is more or less a portable SNES anyway, resulting in the game getting that retro feel I like.

Within A Deep Forest

The Metroid games are a big inspiration for my own game design, in particular for its nonlinear level progression and how it finds a great balance between letting the player go anywhere and deciding which order the player should do things in. Knytt Stories and Within a Deep Forest are examples of games that I specifically let the Metroid games affect my own design decisions. In a Metroid game, you get powers and weapons that lets you access new areas, in which you find even more powers. It’s actually really hard to design a game like this; let’s say there are three routes available, each giving the player a unique power that allows progression further into the game world, the game designer must keep in mind that the player might have picked up any one or two of those powers when progressing to a new area that these powers unlock.

Metroid Map

Otherwise the player can, for example, end up in a pit lacking the power to jump out of it because of a missing power the developer expected the player to have at this point. With lots of powers and places to go, there can be lots of possible combinations, making this really tricky for the developers to wrap their heads around. When I developed Within a Deep Forest, I “cheated” by always letting the player warp back to a place where the player can’t get stuck, but Knytt Stories have no warp option so I really had to think twice about this. One way I tried and still try to learn how to do this best is to think about how it’s done in a Metroid game.

A Strange Dream

I recently replayed Super Metroid and one neat thing it does that I just noticed is to hide paths essential to completing the game using destructible walls that look like any other wall. This would never have worked in most games because the player would have no idea where to look, but in Super Metroid the player is temporarily locked into the particular area by a one-way door or a long fall, so that the player won’t have to search the entire game for a new path to explore. Then, when the path is found, the player is given access to all the previously explored areas again. Another neat thing is that the player has some abilities from the start of the game that aren’t explained until later.

Metroid Wall Jump

In Super Metroid you start out with a wall jumping ability, but you’re taught how use it somewhere in the middle of the game. I haven’t used this in practice myself but it’s definitely something I have to keep in mind for my future games, as it could be used to create alternative solutions and pathways that people will only realize they can use on their second playthrough.

To play Nicklas’ games, please visit http://nifflas.ni2.se/


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