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Developing Incredipede

I (Colin Northway, that is) spent two years designing and writing Incredipede. I began in Honduras in mid-2011, shortly after scrapping another prototype (see below), and the game went through a lot of iterations before I settled on the design as you see it now.

Incredipede is written in Flash/AS3/AIR using FlashDevelop and Adobe Flash Pro. The physics engine uses Box2D, and is rendered with Starling and Stage3D.

You might say "golly, Incredipede looks too fancy to be a Flash game!" but things like gpu shaders and wireframe terrain are indeed possible with Flash these days.

My development process is one of constant changes and a cycle of design-implement-test-repeat. I've spent countless hours pacing around beaches and forests thinking (and sometimes writing) about the game's design. I'm a big proponent of playtesting and do as much in-person testing as I can. After each session I'll make (sometimes drastic) changes to make the game less baffling, less frustrating, and more intuitive and fun. It's been a long, hard road.

Because of the huge effort I put into prototyping and iterating my design I am vehemently against videogame cloning.

With the design finally in place, I turned my efforts to level tuning and visual design. My wife Sarah Northway came on board to write the menu system and sharing components, and artist Thomas Shahan joined the team to bring Incredipede to glorious, beautiful life.

A door menu in progress

The Art of Thomas Shahan

Thomas works with Photoshop, vector art, a Wacom tablet and good old pen n' paper. The style of Incredipede was inspired by medieval woodcuts and 1700's botany texts from the age of discovery, when it seemed like just about anything could be found in the jungles of Madagascar or Indonesia.

For the door art pictured here he started with a black canvas, then drew in the white areas like a traditional woodcut.

early Incredipede prototype

Early Prototypes

After writing Fantastic Contraption in 2008, I spent a year handling its release and maintenance before turning it over to inXile entertainment. This allowed me to get started on my next game... but what would it be?

I prototyped many different types of games. I liked the simplicity and accessibility that Fantastic Contraption brought to building machines, and wanted to apply that intuitiveness to other things. I dove in to a simultaneous-turn strategy game (Frozen Synapse succeeded where I didn't), then spent six months on a Captain Forever-like platformer called Clutter.

Many of my prototypes involved building lifelike brains; a quest I've been on for many years that has so far eluded me. Early versions of Incredipede included sensors and rudamentary neural nets, but the game had a breakthrough when I decided to forget the brain and focus on building lifelike bodies instead.

I replaced the Incredipede's brain with keyboard controls to rotate joints clockwise and counterclockwise. It took some time to figure this out - for a long time joints used to work like an elbow, and now they work more like a shoulder does. The new controls make the game play somewhat like the running simulator qwop, except it's up to the player to design a runner that will be easier to manipulate.

I'm thrilled to finally have a game that works after so much time prototyping. I think of that time as time spent hacking away vines in the jungle looking for the golden city. Now I'm finally ready to haul my finds back to civilization and put on a show!