Piddy the Fool
Pid by Might and Delight
Published: August 2. 2012
A walk on the mild side with Might and Delight’s upcoming platformer, Pid
The setup behind Might and Delight’s upcoming Pid is like something out of an 80s movie. As a young boy, you’re dropped onto a mysterious planet on your way to space school, when you stumble upon an interesting bit of alien technology. The gadget lets you toss a marker that brings about an illuminated beam; two of these can be activated at a time, lifting anything caught in their beam of light in tractor beam-esque fashion. The entire game flows from this mechanic, and is already looking to be something very special.
The game is the first from the Stockholm, Sweden-based studio, with a team largely comprised of former members of the development studio GRIN—the folks behind Capcom’s Bionic Commando sequel, as well as its side-scrolling companion Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and Terminator Salvation (among others). Target platforms include Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC—with more to come, quite possibly. Pid, then, had everyone’s attention from the get-go.
“Initially we were pitching to do some retro remakes,” recalls Might and Delight’s managing director Wendy Young of the project’s earliest days. As the gaming landscape shifted, however, the team ended up itself shifting gears. Despite a fair amount of time spent pitching franchise extensions to various publishers, they moved away from the licensing arena, and decided to create an original concept for a retro platformer. “For us, having a strong core mechanic was really key, and Pid was born out of messing around with cardboard cutouts trying to figure that out.”
Jumping into the game, Pid’s light beams are immediately fun to manipulate and at times reminiscent of the Portal gun; both required a change in the player’s approach to traversal, and providing plenty of opportunity for player creativity. Over time, the player is exposed to situations of increasing intensity: Spotlights that block the path, enemies of varied shapes and sizes, and various flips of gravitational pull. You may need to lay a beam down under your feet to let you float higher, or set beams diagonally and time your drops carefully. Enemies can’t be dealt with head-on; instead, they’ll need to be navigated around or manipulated. Bombs become useful as well, in timed-detonation and instant-detonation varieties, and figuring out how to use them to get past obstacles and hostiles is key to survival. It’s thoughtful, exciting fun.
> Our needs were fairly basic; we didn't need something that had tons of bells and whistles.
Getting Pid’s early concept working was fairly smooth, despite the project’s recently switched gears. Which is not to say that it’s been an easy ride: “Once we had the idea, we were flying—but of coarse with limited resources, says Young. “Making the game was easy, getting the game made is the hard part.” To do so, Might and Delight turned to Unity, whose Stockholm offices were just a short distance away.
“We had our coders research the options once we had decided on making Pid” says Young. “Our needs were fairly basic; we didn't need something that had tons of bells and whistles. Not to say Unity isn't complex—just to say that we don't need to support a lot of high tech middleware, rendering, etc. Unity is an ideal tool because it has been affordable and easy to integrate into our working pipeline. It just allowed everyone work fluidly and independently. We have had easy communication with Unity staff, and they have been supportive of our endeavors. That means a lot to us. because we are such a small studio everything is just so critical.”
The team, which stood at seven for almost a year before growing to its current size of 14, needed to be lightweight and quick on its feet—something which Unity allowed for. “Our coders were looking for something that freed dependencies, allowing the artists to work more independently,” says Young. “We chose Unity based on coder commentary and studio needs.”
Unity scalability also proved essential. “The scale of our game is really small, and we really can't say we manipulated all of Unity's features,” says Young. “However, the key for us is that it opened up our work pipeline and prevented dependencies from weighing coding team down. The creative team was able to work with the engine much more independently, because the editor is just easy to use.”
The game’s aesthetics are of special note as well. Colorful, softly lit interiors merge well with the bouncy, lovingly animated characters, creating a tone that feels impressively distinct in what is a very crowded genre. “We love works like ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland,’ Studio Ghibli's movies and puppet animations, and games such as Uforia and Little Big Adventure,” says Young. “We wanted to create a world that was just as imaginative, charming and rich with unique characters and culture.”
Indeed, the game feels like a holistically conceived and executed piece of art, brimming with personality and layers of depth. The merely hinted-at story already appears compelling, and the inclusion of cooperative two-player action only sweetens the deal. “The game is really a beautiful art house experience, and we were able to achieve this in technologically simple ways with limited resources,” says Young. “It is amazing and inspiring! It’s just such a testament to the talents of the team, all working together under really challenging circumstances. I am just proud and privileged to get to work with these guys everyday.” Stay tuned: The game releases as soon as this month, and may very well be one of the year’s best.
Moments of Clarity
“Our light bulb moment grew out of that newly freed pipeline that I keep talking about,” says Might and Delight’s managing director Wendy Young. “The programmers create the gameplay pieces as per usual, but the level designers were able to combine things in ways we never could have anticipated because it was just more intuitive to use the engine editor.” Young says designers were were able to freely experiment with gameplay components, which allowed the team to truly handcraft their levels. “We think it just adds to the retro charm and matches our project and company goals.”
“As a developer that is licensing an engine you often hang on every piece of information and update,” says Might and Delight’s managing director Wendy Young of her studio’s reliance on the Unity forums. “Just the nature of the beast. We are very close to launch, which means time and communication is critical.” Young says that the steady flow of updates have been useful to the team, particularly those geared towards exporting for consoles. “[Deployment] for PS3 has been especially helpful, because we need a stable product for release very soon. The Unity guys have been working very hard to provide a quality product for their customers.”