I can see clearly now...
Ori and the Blind Forest reworks Metroids branching world template to dazzling effect. Official Xbox Magazine spoke to Microsoft Studios Executive Producer Mark Coates to see how Moon Studios did it.
1. Put mechanics first
"We were really taken by the deep critical thinking around the base mechanics. Weve worked on similar titles Shadow Complex, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Limbo so we knew that to be successful, a lot of care would need to be taken to ensure these mechanics were interesting and intuitive."
2. Respect the teams vision
"Moon had a very clear vision for certain things, then with other elements we were able to help them. That spirit of collaboration evolved over time weve been working with them for about four years now. Certainly theyre the original creators, but input is welcomed by all parties."
3. Dazzle eyes, touch hearts
"To me its this combination of fantastic graphical treatment, the artwork is just stunning its been executed at a very high level. And then the narrative I think it really helps the game stand out. Ori is a very heart-warming, touching story, and that stands in stark contrast to a lot of other games these days."
4. Learn from peers
"This genre in particular has a rich heritage. If there are things you can add to the mix to make it innovative or fresh, thats how you can best make changes, as opposed to trying to completely reinvent everything from the ground up."
5. Make it more convenient
"Most games in this category typically have very fixed checkpoints within the world, which can be great, but you can sometimes find its very difficult to advance. With Ori being able to save everywhere using Soul Link, it allows a faster process of trial and error against puzzles."
6. Learn from other genres
"In addition to the core capabilities that you must unlock in order to progress, theres also the ability to improve your character along these specific skill trees. So you can embellish things to change how Ori plays according to your likes and tastes. Thats something that were proud of, that we feel moves this genre forward."
7. Focus on the core idea
"Xbox Live has a very vibrant ecosystem of novel, shorter and focused games. The scope of a project like this enables you to take an idea and really think it through and expand on it, as opposed to a huge, multi-year-budget title where you have to explore the project along so many different vectors."
8. Dont worry about sales
"Customers are armed with tools that let them make smart decisions around games, so I dont view it as a particular pressure. The best games will always have a place, regardless of their scale. As long as their entertainment value is high, theyll always find a following."
9. Surprise with side characters
"During the adventure you run into a colourful cast of characters. Its an allegorical tale of self-discovery and sacrifice. You learn that maybe you cant judge everybody at first sight, that not everything is what it seems. But I dont want to give too much away!"
10. Nail the music early
"Like with every other element, Moon Studios has held itself to a very high standard with the music. We brought the composer into the development process very early on, well before we were ready to finish or finalise anything. So he was already very familiar with the world of the game and characters."