Mercury Shift 2D was originally meant to be a two-player only co-op puzzle platformer. It was developed about a year ago. Its mechanics are comparable to those of Trine, Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light or The Cave. The game itself has a very unique mechanic which we call the "shift". It allows you to transfer your mass/energy from one character into the other anywhere in the game. One of our biggest goals was to have cooperation between players (or the characters) and really relying on each other to solve a puzzle and get through a level. Right now we are working on the latest version of the build, Mercury Shift 3D(working title). The 2D version served as a very good "prototype" where we could test our gameplay dynamic. We released the 2D version on Kongregate and got some pretty cool playtest results with the help of google analytics. So, check out the game, give us feedback and critize the game. We really appreciate it!
After being funded, we're starting full-time work on Mercury Shift 3D. Although there has always been a lot of part-time work, now the whole team can work on this. Great news for us, pretty pictures for you.
Posted by koffeinvampir on Jan 15th, 2014
Hi fellow gamedevs. I am Robin, one of the creators of Mercury Shift. It is a project we have been working on for quite some time now. We have gone through multiple stages of development and quite some changes in the original design were made. In this devblog I want to tell the story of the game and the company and share our progress to give some insight on the decisions we‘ve made. I’m including some of the external articles we wrote on our blog (www.klonk-games.com) as they feature some more in detail information.
The Shift now:
Animations are still missing, but are being worked on.
We’ve been way too quiet in the past time when it comes to posting on communities, as we were very locally involved in the Munich gamdev community. But we’ve realized that a bit of international exposure and especially feedback is ultimately important for is. So to start with, I’ll be wrapping up some things from the past for the first few posts. The current progress of the game will follow in weekly updates. At least I hope so.
Those decisions are the results of our journey on making this game and they are kind of an expression of our philosophy on game development. This sounds way over the top, but in the end it just means that we’ve thought about a lot of things and put a lot of our souls in this project. We’d like to share our progress, so maybe someone can benefit from it, as we’ve learned a couple of things.
First off: The story behind the game and the team. As I think of the game being a personal influenced thing, I just like to tell you the story of our journey. The idea for the game and the first part of it has been around for quite some time. You can skip this part, no worries. Later on more on the actual progress.
The team Klonk came to life as a student team at the Mediadesign Hochschule in München, Germany. Here we were studying for our Bachelor of Science in Gamedesign. During the first and second semester, we were assigned to work on a project. After a lot of brainstorming we decided to build Mercury Shift. Although it was called “Shiftlings” first, we later on decided on the name “Mercury Shift”, as the characters reminded of fluid-like Mercury and our core mechanic is called “Shift”. Mercury Shift at that point was a 2D platformer with puzzle elements exclusively for two players.
First prototypes were developed in Flash Professional CS4. Flash was at that time the university standard for the first project and taught us quite some things about software development; game development in particular. We integrated Box2D as a physics engine, as a lot of our puzzles in the game were physics based.
After the second prototype, we were not required to finish the game by university. But various sources and our common sense told us to finish the game.
This decision was not too easy, as Flash became a pain to work with and the motivation dropped. For the first 50% of the game we were able to work regular hours during the time that was allocated for the project by the university. After that period, we had to work after class and the lectures.
Nevertheless, after some struggle, we finished the game and “shipped” it by uploading it to Kongregate (http://www.kongregate.com/games/klonkgames/mercury-shift). It went okay. A few people played it, but we did not exactly market our game and contact a lot of press and people. Maybe it was a fault not to contact a lot of people, but at last we got featured on one German news page (Golem.de).
After Launch of Mercury ShiftThis trailer shows a bit of gameplay and graphics. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkeEBiSZNxU) During the first week, the games .SWF got copied off Kongregate and was published around the web, especially in China and Russia. Apparently, that is what happens if you post a .SWF on public sites. The game was not site-locked and we actually never thought about limiting it in that way, although Kongregate suggested that. We also did not bother putting ads in or some kind of other monetization. Luckily enough, we implemented a player-tracking based on Google Analytics, so at least we knew what was happening and where. The time the game hit on one Chinese gaming portal, we were blown out of our seats. We had over 150k plays per day, although almost exclusively in China.
Now this may be something completely normal or unimportant business-wise, but for us that meant that per day over a hundred thousand people had played our game. The peak continued for about four weeks and then sank to a daily 1500 people, which it continues to have until today. It meant a lot to us, and still we’re happy to see people having fun with that game.
We updated the game two times, fixing a few bugs. After that we continued with the collection of player feedback and going out to various shows and showing the game to people. From what we’ve heard and seen, these are our observations.
• Gameplay: Two player games are fun: Put two player in a room with physics = fun. It is not a game, but a good thing to toy with.
• Look and Feel: The look of the game was nice: A lot of people enjoyed the characters and the environment. This made artists happy.
• General: The initial goal to force two people in front of a screen to communicate was working out nice. Sometimes even the tutorial was obsolete, because players explained the game to each other.
• Technical: The difficulties with third party software and performance were solved. No bigger bugs were found.
• Technical: Two players can hardly play on one keyboard. With controllers you’re just fine, but Flash does not support controllers.
• Business: Usually flashgames are pretty casual when it comes to sites like Kongregate and so on. A bigger game that requires more attention and hardware like gamecontrollers is not very well suited for Kong. A flashgame can be pretty high quality, but then it should target a platform like Steam or GOG.
• Business: Singleplayer was missing. Especially potential publishers did not like this part.• Business: Two player games are hard to market. Very few people are sitting in front of a PC in pairs of two.
• Look and Feel: The pacing of the game felt slow. The characters were moving very slow and they felt way too heavy.
• Gameplay: Some two player parts forced the other player to wait. Please note: All these observations and drawn conclusions are our own interpretation of things. There is a very good chance of us being wrong about those things, so please add your comment or suggestions.
Off to Mercury Shift 3D!It was good releasing the game and going out to tradeshows and showing it off to people. We received a lot of feedback during that time, which was one of the main reasons we initially published the game. GDCE, Gamescom, Make Munich, a few local events and shows were a good amount of investment of time, but it paid off.
The feedback filled books. After identifying core problems, we worked on solving them.
But rather than setting up a predecessor in Flash, we decided on recreating the game with a different engine. Unity3D was more or less an obvious choice, as we had been working with it before and found it to be a comfortable engine. Switching to 3D for art was also a nice change for the artists. From a technical side of things we were switching to a much more stable and versatile engine. Flash had its benefits for 2D, but for most of the time we were very limited to its boundaries.Now with Unity3D on the horizon, we translated the concept into a 2.5D platformer. The mechanics were working just fine and the two player focus seems to make more sense on platforms like PC and maybe even consoles.
So I hope you enjoyed reading the first bit of our story. More content will follow shortly and we would be happy about any feedback, really. Sometimes you feel like living under a rock, when reading through other devs stories. So many people were influenced by forums and communities like these and I hope we did not miss the chance to provide our help and “wisdom” and to profit from these communities.
As a little teaser: This is the shift mechanic right now, with animations missing:
All the best,