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Alejandro Salas
Alejandro Salas

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An Essay about The Iconoclasts


This is an essay I made back in August 2019. I published it in my blog but I am now also publishing it here.

Preface to my essays

Hi, My Name is Alex, I studied Computer Science, but my college called it Computer Systems Engineering, so I know a couple of things about informatics, my passion is Game Development, I'm an aspiring Game Designer as well. I wish that my Video Games touch Hearts, Minds and Souls. I thank my family and friends because they inspire me to keep learning not just about games but about Life, because Life is kind of Simple.

Satoru Iwata helped to shape the world of video games. He enjoyed what he did and he's always going to be remembered for that. That was the President of Nintendo Japan.

Iwata met a young man as well, one who he worked with in HAL Laboratories, his name is Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Kirby and also the creator of Super Smash Brothers. This person has worked insanely to bring every Smash Bros. to the masses, he doesn't work alone, and that's what I'm getting at, Sakurai has a team that helps him to get the job done everyday. Did you know that his Wife designed Kirby's Air Ride Menus? and that those designs carried over to Smash? Having a team that can back you up anytime will increase your productivity and will help you achieve the objective, this is not only true to game development.

When you want to play a game, the only question you should ask yourself is: "Is This Game Fun?", because that's what makes a game valuable. You could say it's a collection of fun activities, and if a "game" is NOT FUN... Then, why would you even bother playing it? So, as a game developer you have to do this as well, "am I creating a Fun game?"

Play what you like, what you enjoy, what makes you feel incredible things, play what takes you to the worlds you want to meet, because you will meet incredible characters and you will learn something awesome from them.

Chances are high that you know this person, that is the President of Nintendo of America. He's right, why would you even bother, if it's not fun you have better things to do, like play an instrument, listen to music, learn a choreography, watch some shows online, read a book or hang out with those you love.

This is my first "formal" essay about Game Design that also combines Software Engineering. I have never published any thoughts or notes about games I've think are very clever and interesting. Yet I want to learn and improve because I Love Games. I also intent to make use of mnemonics to help you learn and also have fun, because if you have ever read any formal research articles, well... they tend to be extremely boring and unappealing, at first glance, I mean that's not their fault, research articles have to be formal, I had to write a boring document as well when I made my college thesis, but there has to be better ways to help people learn something without sounding like a robot.

A small introduction

The Iconoclasts is a very clever game, it is also very deep in terms of Lore and leaving a message to the players, even if the creator mentions that "he didn't have a script" to organize the story. You play as Robin, an optimistic mechanic, her father died some time ago and she's living alone in her house. She likes to help people, and that's what you do in the game, and because you like to help people you get in lots of messes, specially since being an "unauthorized" mechanic is considering a sin in this society ๐Ÿ˜ข, this is how the story develops, by helping people using your mechanic skills.

Now, I will focus more on game mechanics, not much in the story/lore. Keep in mind that I will indeed spoil game's content, so if you don't want to be spoiled, come back after you have played the game, also, you don't have to play the game to understand the contents of this essay.

As I mentioned before, having a team will help you increase productivity, but it has to be mentioned that pretty much all of the The Iconoclasts work was done by a single person. This persons's name is Joakim Sandberg* (aka konjak). The game took nearly 8 years to develop and what it seems to be the average of playtime is 12 hours. We can't simply claim that it takes 1.5 years to make 1 hour of gameplay. When you create a game, you are creating a system, a system is a bunch of things that work together to a solve a problem. I also want to add one quote from Shigeru Miyamoto on his designs: "A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once". Sounds like we can change idea to system and it actually fits . This is something that Iconoclasts does, and it works awesomely well!

The Mechanisms of a Mechanic

There's a PC gamer interview where Sandberg mentions that the game had "much more complicated power-ups", so, Sandberg decided to "give players exactly what they needed" , rather than having stronger gear, the players have to find the right strategy to what they are facing, the needed strategy is presented thanks to the system he created.

So, now that you read a lot of stuff you surely want to know exactly you can do in the game, let's get into it. Grab yourself this is a big list, seriously, it is.

Robin has or can:

  • An Idle Animation
    • She has a boss battle Idle animation
  • She can walk
    • Her footsteps make a sound
  • She can crouch
  • She can crawl
  • She can collide with things (like the walls, or the ceiling)
    • If you collide with an enemy she will knockback and take damage
  • She can interact with beds
    • The bed will replenish health
  • She can change between areas
    • By going to the edge of a map
    • By using doors
  • She can Jump
    • Whe she lands she makes a sound
    • There's a falling animation
    • She can grab on a ledge after jumping
      • She can jump to the opposite direction to the ledge
      • She can let go and fall
    • She can step over certain enemies
    • She can ground pound
    • She can press switches by stepping on them
  • She can shoot her Stun gun
  • She can charge her Stun gun for a powerful shot
  • After she gets another weapon, you can switch to that weapon
  • You can swing her wrench
  • You can turn nuts to activate mechanisms (and there's a lot)
    • If a nut is not on the ground, you can hang to it
      • You can jump from the nut
  • After swinging you can make the wrench spin
    • She can electrically charge her wrench with an upgrade
  • After getting the electric upgrade she can ride magnetic rails
    • If your wrench is charged you ride the rails faster
  • She can climb ladders
  • She can inspect things
    • It would probably display a text
  • She can pick objects
    • Like keys
    • Like Cubes
    • Like People (not very often)

So far I've listed things that Robin can do, and probably while you were reading it, you skipped that part and thought, "Ugh, too much text, that's boring my dude" because it was overwhelming to read and I don't blame you. So here's a video of the first room after you get the wrench, in this single room you can see many of the things I listed.

So here it is! ๐Ÿ‘† Why read when you can watch it in action?

Yes, that's the first room. In about 50 seconds you witnessed a great game system, specially with the enemy at the end of the video. The enemy interacts with you in different ways. I did shoot him before turning him over, the enemy reflected my attacks, so I had to change my strategy.

  • By ground pounding him
  • By deflecting his attack with your wrench (did you see those small green wrenches when the enemy attacked?)

Once he's turned over, you can defeat him by

  • Attacking with your wrench
  • Attacking with your stun gun
  • Or you can ground pound him again (this is what I did in the video)

These interactions are screaming "I'm a good system, notice me senpai!". And we barely have talked about the mechanisms in the game. Once again, we have to go to a place where you you can see it.

Notice how this room is combining.

  • Charging electrically your wrench
  • Jump on a rail so you can move to an upper section of the map
  • Evade the Green Thorns, they will hurt Robin!
  • Use of another weapon the Roller Bomb, so you can push the green/red blocks, these blocks need a strong impact so they can move, so, once the bomb explodes they move.
  • To get to these blocks first you have to crawl to them
  • You now have to charge your Roller Bomb so it will become a Missile.
    • You have to be at a certain distance, so the Missile can push the blocks away.
  • Now the blocks are to the far right, to correcly position them, you have to impact them from below so you can push them upwards.
  • To position them you have to charge your wrench and let the coil (that white sphere with a purple base) automatically interact with your electricity, the coil will move the yellow platform to the left, as long as the coil has electricity.
  • You will then shoot a roller bomb between the yellow and the green/red blocks so you can finally push them forward.
  • Show a missile from right to left so you can position the blocks where you can climb the ladder.
  • Go back to the Magnetic Switch to blue
    • (This switch is the one that decides which direction the rail will go.)
    • The idea of this puzzle is that you have to change the rails to blue, so you can destroy the red blocks.
  • Charge the coil again so you can climb the blocks
  • Once you get to the rail with the red blocks, just charge yourself and ride the lightning!! ๐Ÿ˜Šโšก

Wow, that was another big chunk of text. You probably skipped it too ๐Ÿค”. Anyway to summarize, all these mechanisms combined.

  • Your Weapons
    • Wrench
    • Hang on nuts
    • The Electric charge โšก
      • To activate the coil
      • To ride the rails
    • Roller Bomb
    • Use of Missile shots
  • Platform mechanics
    • Crawl
    • Jump
    • Hang on ledges

All of these things made that puzzle. This is how the game tells you "You already have what you need, perhaps if you think out of the box?". It might seemed easy because you watched the video, but this is one of those rooms that make you feel that "AH!! I GET IT NOW!", and if you got it, it will make you feel very smart, you will have fun, and if you have fun, then this game was worth of your time.

Here goes a third example, this time I won't write the full explanation of the puzzle. Just what this room combined

You can notice here, how I was trying to understand what was going on in this room. While it's possible to do it on the first attempt, (like the previous videos I've shown), it took me like 5,6 attempts to solve it. And I have to mention that this room doesn't punish you, you are not forced to do it in one attempt, you can take things on your own pace and solve it step by step. The objective is to pull the chain all the way down. That's the gimmick here, it's one of the new things of the area, you've been hanging from nuts that don't move, but here, you descend using the chain.

What did this room combine?

  • Riding an elevator
  • Your weapons
    • Wrench
    • Hanging from a nut.
      • And descend using the chain!
    • The electric charge โšก
      • Charge the โšก cubes
      • The cubes will activate the coil
    • The Roller Bomb
    • To make them "roll" and activate the green/red blocks.
    • With a new upgrade your bombs and missiles get charged โšก as well.
    • Use of Missile Shots

This room pretty much just added one single thing, that way you won't get overwhelmed, that chain is the newest thing you are mastering, because you already know how to use your weapons and how to interact with other things using your โšก charge.

Developing Development

There's another thing I want to talk about, and that's the relation between the game engine and the development team. Iconoclasts was made in Construct Classic, we could say it's a very old engine (as of 2018), Construct 3 is the current supported version. I remember a bit of tinkering around with Construct as well, it's a non-programmer engine, it has visual tools to create games. This is a strength and a weakness, similar to how using any RPG Maker or Game Maker do the same, you get the best by using the scripting systems, or if you use Unity you will know that pretty much you need to work with scripts to create small things, even if you don't program, you work with other's scripts.

For example, by programming specific tools for the team you can increase productivity by a lot, the team would be aided by the Software Engineering part, it's not even a game thing. The programmers will find patterns and connections between the game systems, they will adapt scripts and explore a methodology to reduce workloads. They will create the right interfaces for the needs of the team and the game.

For Sandberg to create this synergy across the game systems in an older engine and highly possible without using scripts at all, it becomes an even more admirable work. (And let's never forget that he did all the art and the soundtrack as well).

Can you really imagine 8 years of work? The process of changing everything at some point? Like lore? or scrap ideas which would make you scrap current graphics, which would also make you scrap areas in the game? And then you have to do the process of redesigning your work for the next ideas that come up. Games that took years to see the light and with small teams are games that are very likely to touch your Heart, Mind and Soul, you will have fun, and those fictional characters will be meaningful ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Top comments (5)

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evelynn profile image

Very interesting information. I also remembered how I wrote my essay, of course it is not as good as yours, but the process of writing was also pleasant. What can't be said about the essays we were forced to write at school...

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