Development Side-scroller game process

Just a quick random, but curious question. Has anyone experience or know anyone that has attempted a metroidvania type game? What would the budget average around, development time if solo or two three others? I'm wondering as I might want to attempt such before long soon as I have a little more world-building done for a particular story.
 

muki

Member
I'm attempting a metroidvania, though this is new for me as well.

Some months ago, I started by drawing out a map. Despite loving the genre, I kind of hit a wall where I wasn't confident in the flow or gating I had put on paper. Mainly because I didn't have a prototype yet. What I've learnt is that it's important to have a set of mechanics, especially mobility mechanics, prototyped and sort of fun in a test map before getting onto world building, map design, gating, that sort of thing.

What I've also recently learnt is that sometimes in developing one mechanic for gating, you can involuntarily develop two. I made a grappling hook that made swinging along walls and ceilings pretty fun, it had a cooldown though. Where you had to wait a few seconds (either on the ground or in mid-air) before being able to grapple something else. But when I tried it with zero cooldown, I realized it could be an upgrade, since swinging spiderman style without ever touching the ground was also a lot of fun, and had the potential of opening up whole new areas.

Working mechanics make world-building much easier and more fun, I think!

No idea on budget stuff. I'm mainly just building this for myself/portfolio.
 
I'm attempting a metroidvania, though this is new for me as well.

Some months ago, I started by drawing out a map. Despite loving the genre, I kind of hit a wall where I wasn't confident in the flow or gating I had put on paper. Mainly because I didn't have a prototype yet. What I've learnt is that it's important to have a set of mechanics, especially mobility mechanics, prototyped and sort of fun in a test map before getting onto world building, map design, gating, that sort of thing.

What I've also recently learnt is that sometimes in developing one mechanic for gating, you can involuntarily develop two. I made a grappling hook that made swinging along walls and ceilings pretty fun, it had a cooldown though. Where you had to wait a few seconds (either on the ground or in mid-air) before being able to grapple something else. But when I tried it with zero cooldown, I realized it could be an upgrade, since swinging spiderman style without ever touching the ground was also a lot of fun, and had the potential of opening up whole new areas.

Working mechanics make world-building much easier and more fun, I think!

No idea on budget stuff. I'm mainly just building this for myself/portfolio.
I appreciate the response, muki.

For world-building, I mean from the narrative perspective. The game will be an extension of the story, so it won't interfere with any game design choices.

I understand what you're saying and I might have come to realize the gating option you came across, but that's something interesting to consider when I start writing down the mechanics I'd like to include. I'd like there to be varied mobility options between at least three characters for replayability/experience. I realize the map will hinge on that, so that will undoubtedly be my sticking point as well. No experiences with it, though I've played more than enough side-scrollers to note aspects.

Are you using sprites or something else? Do you have an idea how that might effect what you're able to do or is that a aesthetic choice? What else is important to consider when mapping not usually thought of?

I can understand that, no additional expenses and it's mainly for experience. I don't want to make the mistake of being too ambitious with my first endeavor in making a game, but I'm too stubborn to not. Thoughts for far later.
 

curato

Member
make a game design document. List everything you need to get the game you designed out the door. how much can you do yourself? how much do you need to outsource? do you need to purchase software or other resources? how much is your time worth? If you are making a professional budget these are the kinds of things you have to consider. Also marketing and other misc business expenses. It all adds up. You really can't go $X for a metrovania game. you have to set a specific scope for you title and figure out how much that is going to cost.
 

Yal

šŸ§ *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
I know @Yal has done some of that...don't know details or how extensive or "commercial" they were though.
Let's see here...
  • Gun Princess 1: about 1 year of work, unfinished (the project broke under its own weight because of bad programming)
  • Final Columbus: about 1Ā½ years of work, finished one version, then kept adding extras stuff until GMS1 made functionality I relied on obsolete, gave up on the project but it's "finished enough" (some of the secrets crashes the game because cutscenes are missing but you can go from intro to final boss as intended)
  • TimeSnake: I don't remember development time, but it was for a jam game so probably 3 days + postjam polish. Last-minute level design changes made lots of people get stuck in the wrong area.
  • Gun Princess 2: finished a jam version in 1-3 months, kept working without any real direction, got bored of the project.
  • Gun Princess Zero: Jam version made in 3-4 days, finished.
  • 7 Emeralds: Jam version made in 3 days (using pre-existing code to speed things up), unfinished and so bad I'm not grieving.
  • SoulsVania Engine: 1 year of work, almost no content since it's just an engine. GMS2 changes made it so messy I'm not using it myself, but I've reused a lot of the code I developed for it and learned some good lessons from it.
The engine is the only one I charge money for (the others are either too small, too bad or too unlikely to run properly on modern Windowses - check out the Gun Princess 1 description; I'm not doing self-deprecating humor here, I'm objective).

But my lessons learned go like this:
  • A good metroidvania is 1-2 years of work if you make everything from scratch (though I didn't work full-time on it, so probably half that if you can devote 8h/day to the project)
  • Avoid having to make the same code repeatedly if you can (SoulsVaniaEngine got slowed down a lot by different item categories acting completely differently, forcing me to make a lot of menu / inventory code up to 8 times) because it adds up to complexity and higher time costs
  • Being able to reuse generic NPC / item objects and just add in settings for flavor text / dialogue in the room editor makes worldbuilding a lot easier
  • Make up your mind on what powerups to give the player and the intended progression, then don't change that partway through the game, it can break previous level design and leave players confused.
    • Making up your mind on what weapons / powerup systems to include early on also means you don't need to duct-tape new features into existing code and risk introducing game-breaking bugs
  • Powerup-based and cutscene-based progressions are vastly different beasts, figure out what you want before you start designing the game.
  • Players prefer "visible invisible walls" (e.g. you can't reach a higher platform without a jump upgrade) over a random dialogue box telling them they can't go there yet
  • Make sure to design any powerup-based obstacle so that you can go back without the powerup, so players can't softlock themselves permanently
  • Platformer games have innately bad combat because you only have 1Ā½ axis of freedom and limited movement space, so don't lean into combat too much
  • Guns are like 10-20x easier to code and balance than melee weapons, especially for the player
 

Palocles

Member
I've been working on a MetroidVania for a bit over a year now (though the concept is several years older than that) and I'm sharing progress here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/boganthebarbarian

I'm doing all the work myself and had a long break from all work, due to my real job, for most of the year. I'm hoping to continue to get a little bit done each week after returning to work.

So I can't make any comment on a $$ budget but I can tell you the time investment is pretty big.

In order to keep things moving I decided to do a pared down version of the final functionality I want for it, to produce a playable level and get some playtest feedback from people. Hopefully it wont be too difficult to implement the extra stuff I want into the working, limited, version later. But it means I can reduce the number of animations I need to draw before having something to show people.

At the moment I'm making sure all my code works in a dummy level. Once that is done I will layout a demo level and do the required art. Concurrent with getting feedback from play-testers I will be working out the full scale map of the game, including gating and power up locations, etc.

Anyway, from what I've experienced so far, I expect you'll want deep pockets or to do most of the work yourself. Even a single character, fully finished with multiple animations would be many hours work. If you're better at art than code then you might be able to buy one of the engines that people offer around here and dress it up to your liking.

Let us know how you go.
 
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