Hello Vernacular Faithful. Redcoat here with another retrospective on one of Highway to the Moon’s design aspects: The cutting room floor.
It’s a well-known fact that when it comes to development of any large scale product, the initial idea of what you intend to make will differ (often greatly differ) from the final product that is created. Often times ambitious ideas are forced to fall to the way side due to technological or logistical complications. The important bit, however, is to remember the core concepts and ideas on which the product is based and to try and ensure that the product retains those qualities in spite of (or in some cases because of) cuts.
Highway to the Moon, as an initial concept, was very ambitious. Even without the added complication of the road and figuring out a proper way to make that interesting enough to warrant its addition, there were still things like two player co-op, variable difficulty, certain bosses, and even certain levels we were considering that had to be examined in depth with regards to their importance to the overall experience that this product provided.
We ended up cutting a lot of things from the project for technical implementation reasons, consoling ourselves with the statement “if we ever make a ‘Highway to the Moon 2…’”. However there were also many things that we kept in spite of technical difficulty for the simple fact that they were elements that we felt were core to the game’s concept. Things like the reality alternator, different playable characters, in game dialogue and several of the more complex gun and boss behaviors had teetered on the edge of being cut all throughout the project. For these particular aspects, it was both an issue of time spent building them in the first place, and then time spent balancing them into a form that felt right for the game that made the possibility of their inclusion tenuous in feasibility. It was in service of keeping these aspects in the game that we pulled extra development hours and sometimes additional development days to get them complete and fully tested.
There were also conceptual cuts that radically changed the nature of the game experience. The biggest example of this kind of cut was one Jake’s originally proposed abilities: the ability to jump. From a design standpoint, making this happen was not necessarily issue. From a technical and visual standpoint however, due to how the player was constructed and the fact that we rarely ever got to keep artists around for any appreciable amount of time, it was a nightmarish issue to attack so we scrapped that idea. That said we still needed some way for the player to deal with gaps in the road, lest the road become a non-integral part of the gameplay. To this end, the concept of Jake partially phasing into another dimension was incepted. This mechanic was much simpler to implement technically and visually, and would go on to become one of the core concepts of play due to all of the new tactics Jake was afforded by its addition.
In the end I feel that we handled the idea of cutting content fairly well on this project as Highway to the Moon feels like a fairly cohesive product on the whole. It’s a little rough around the edges, and perhaps over-scoped in a few areas, but overall, this humble mascot feels that for our first professional outing, we did alright.