Shadowfall: Finding a Core of Your Game

It is often the case that you have a great plan for a game at the start of development, but you’re forced to make several changes, sometimes drastic ones, to make sure that a small portion of your original plan survives to the final product. This small portion is whatever you decide to be the core of your game and it helps to identify your game’s core in order to keep your game in line without over-complicating the game unnecessarily.

So what is the core of Shadowfall? Well, it is the struggles between Light and Dark. By genre, Shadowfall is a roguelike platformer and was once endless before going through iterations of design changes requiring it to have only a set number of levels before the game ends, but through it all, the theme of it has always been Light versus Dark. The thing is, Light isn’t necessarily White, and Dark isn’t necessarily Black. Last week, I went over a mockup of the game where every character, block, and font was either white, black or grey. I realize that this isn’t an accurate representation of what Light versus Dark is. Light is made up of a spectrum of colors, while Dark is merely the lack of most colors.


Why do I bring this up in correlation to Shadowfall’s development? I have been trying to go with a simple black and white color scheme to simplify its look but in the process, I have limited myself to just how many colors I can use. For example, this meant that I had to find convoluted ways to give feedback to the player when the player got hurt, was interacting with enemies, or how Light Orbs presented on screen. Let us take a look at a recent platformer, Downwell, which was the inspiration for the black and white color scheme I tried to go with.

Downwell on Polygon

Downwell does black and white really well, but also uses some color to show feedback. Red is the color of the player’s gunshots, the color of collectable Gems, and the color of enemies that you couldn’t touch. It’s a simple way of conveying a lot of information, with only one extra color. In Downwell, you can also change the color scheme through its Palettes feature:
Downwell Review on Rock Paper Shotgun

In Downwell, the core is a simple game about falling and gun boots that shoot. Different colors server the same purpose and it does this well because the game is simple enough to understand.

Let’s return to Shadowfall. Starting with the Darkness.

Enemies were previously completely black. Now, I’d like to add red to them as red is a menacing, bloody color. Take Fable the Journey, where the antagonists were all dark red and black.
Fable the Journey on Gamespot

Also, let’s take a look at our gameplay. In Shadowfall, running through enemies will either kill it or hurt you, depending on the side you touch it. The side that hurts should look different from the other side that doesn’t. I made changes to the enemies to show this, starting with the Slimes.

Red is on Left Side
Red is on Right Side
Red is on Right Side


Now, I made a new change to the Darkness itself. I’m honestly not too happy with the outcome of it, but its generally what I want. The idea is that the Darkness will hurt the player if the player ever touches it, killing the player.

The Darkness Hurts Everywhere
The Darkness Hurts Everywhere

Now, enough of the Dark side, let’s head over to the Light. I added a secondary color of Gold, which is a very brilliant color, and is said to be the color of the blood of Gods.

Ichor, Blood of Greek Gods
Ichor, Blood of Greek Gods

The idea is that anything representing the Light is a representative from the Gods from the Heavens above. Like a demigod Hero. That’s our protagonist, Sir Bright.


The Original Version from Rondo of Swords
The Original Version from Rondo of Swords

Another change that happened during development was that moving enemies, besides the Darkness, was omitted, in order to simplify the gameplay, and make development slightly easier, as moving enemies on a screen size as small as Shadowfall’s current screen size isn’t impactful, especially since the player is focusing on getting away from the Darkness as fast as possible. This meant that Hearts are no longer able to be consumed by enemies, and so it is no longer needed to be a neutral entity. It now supplies much needed ichor to the Player, when the Player needs it, replenishing Lives. Hence, the Hearts are now Golden as well.


Without further ado, here is the updated mockup.


As time progresses, I shall update several more things about the game to suit this new color scheme we’re going with, including the platform blocks, are currently just grey, but that’s all for this week. I’ll see you guys next week.

To those who are interested, try out the latest build here: DOWNLOAD (1MB) 

How to Play:

  1. Click on the link above, and press on Download.
  2. Use Flash Player to play the game. If you don’t have it or don’t know how, just drag the file onto Google Chrome.

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