Joachim Ford About

Making games: The Bits That Nobody Notices

One of the most improtant parts of game development is having an attention to detail. This - as with most things - has the potential to go too far, and adding details may become an obsession.

It's always worth considering (and I'm not saying I did this, by the way) the "focus" of your project from early on; knowing what elements to prioritise will help you make the most of the computer's processing power. After all, even with today's technology, there are still limitations to what a computer can handle.

This article talks about some of the (pointless?) details I added to the game Io's Mission. I've only picked the best ones, so it's not too long. The subjects that follow are listed in no particular order.


For some reason, it seemed very important to make sure the crabs (the ones in the beach level) walked properly. Did you notice that they moved up and down slightly as they crawled along the sand?

The difference is only a few pixels in the real game. I've scaled the crab up a bit so you can see this "walking up and down" more clearly, but I've also put a normal one next to it so you can see the comparison. Note that in its normal state, the vertical movement is unnoticable. Unless you have very good eyes.


Another detail I thought I'd mention is the scanlines. If you want a technical definition for them, go and look it up, but for the sake of simplicity, scanlines are just horizontal transparent bars stretching from one side of the screen to the other. Did you notice them? You probably did.

The part I don't expect you to have noticed was the fact that these "scanlines" change strength in different parts of the screen. In the image below, I've exaggerated these weights 100x to help you see them better.

Pointless, if you ak me. However, we must also remember that - as my father used to say - "it's all in the details." When you think about it, you realise that these invisible weights on the scanlines are crucial - crucial! - to the gameplay of Io's Mission.


A whole week was spent on the crocodiles. The first day was taken up with deciding on the main colours and shapes, and another two days were taken up with getting the movement right (like sinking and attacking).

In the remaining four days I created the legs and the tail. Trouble is, you hardly EVER see either of those things in the real game. Perhaps you may see the tail for a fleeting moment as ths crocodile splashes towards you, or the legs are revealed for an instant when he jumps, but aside from that these parts are practically invisible.

Important note: for those who have exceptionally good eyes you actually will be able to see the whole crocodile during the game. The swamp is set to only 96% opacity, so you can see through in theory. I can't, by the way.


This article could be much longer, but thank goodness, the rest has been conveniently bunched into a single paragraph.

Did you notice that Io breathed? Or that, when he transitioned, he used a bezier movement instead of linear? (You probably did, now I think of it. No doubt, as soon as your gaze fell upon him you said to yourself: "Ah, how glad I am he used bezier movement and not linear for his inverse kinematics...") Did you notice that the grass and seaweed swayed in the breeze? Or did you even notice that the water was very, very, slightly transparent? Did you notice the lights flashed on the machines? Or that Drillo's friend was constantly walking?

I've officially spent far too much time on pointless details. Does it really add anything to Io's Mission? That's up to you. But for now I'm tired of writing articles and making games.

See you next time!

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