Spin Drift


As the production of Spin Drift comes ever closer to an end, I’m going to do a kind of  self “pre-mortem” view at how most of the development went with Spin Drift. This one’s a bit long, but hey, I’m really into this stuff!!! While I do go into a lot of detail about Spin Drift, I’m writing about it from a design perspective, and I am concealing a few details so that it’s not much of a spoiler.


What I started with was the concept of “Plankton Pinball”. I thought it would be cool to have  something that instilled some of  the fun of pinball, and also had the “micro-world” feel that Pikmin has. Being sort of a zoology buff, I thought doing something about Plankton would be cool for people to learn a little about (via the wiki) and visually it would capture some of the fun of looking at plankton through a microscope (without all the hassle I went through :P). It’s a pretty original idea, so I thought I would go with it. This was SUPPOSED to be a “quick little game” to dip my toe in the water and get everything established for Bio-Drone, but it became a full original title, and in the long run it’s a good thing I didn’t “power” through it.


So, starting with a underwater plankton themed pinball, I started to see what was fun and what was possible with this new concept. Here’s the first video to get an idea of what I was up to.

And here’s the most recent:

There’s a whole slew of videos in between which can be watched here. I’m basically going to break down how and why the game transformed in the direction it did.


The movement system is something that has completely transformed through out the production of SpinDrift. I originally started with what’s seen in the video;  sort of water blast “flippers” that influence the way the pinball moves. I decided against conventional pinball flippers simply because the physics programming would be brutal, and more importantly, the type of gameplay that a regular flipper can provide has been pretty well explored by pinball designers already.


 There were a number of different iterations of the “blast flipper” concept (again, check out the videos) all of them where decent, but just wouldn’t let me push the player to do more difficult actions, they where only so precise. So, after much tinkering, I developed the “auto-charge” movement system. This was sort of taken from Mega Man 4 (and all MM titles thereafter). I always loved charging up Mega Man’s buster and the timing involved with that. So, I thought a direct movement system (in conjunction with the already existing blast flippers)  where the player “charged up” and then got a chance to move the pinball any direction they wanted (towards the mouse) would make for better strategy and timing on the part of the player.


After implementing it, I quickly discovered that holding down the left mouse button was nothing like holding down a NES controller button, particularly for long periods of time. So, I had to abandon the button holding part of it, and just had it “auto-charge” so that the player’s hand wouldn’t get cramped trying to use the right mouse button as well.

As the game further grew, the need for the blast flippers diminished, and they proved to be too wonky and unwieldy for the player to really skill build with, so they had to go. So now I have a very uniquely developed movement system where the player can implement strategy and timing without it being too brutal for beginners, but certainly takes time and skill to master.


 The role of the “angler light” or mouse controlled object evolved far less than the movement system. Having already developed Techno-Drone, I didn’t really want another game where all  the gameplay hinges on the mouse. The mouse or “angler light”, is basically the Wii remote cursor from Mario Galaxy, wand over certain objects, and they fly over to you for points. But it also is where the pinball heads in the auto-charge movement system. It’s  biggest role is in the “Bubble Blast” segments, where it’s the main mode of transportation.



Originally, Spin Drift was an arcade style game, as in, endless gameplay. I designed a number of different mini-games that have completely different gameplay than the “main game”. Some of the videos contain the now defunct mini-games that didn’t make the final cut. I enjoyed making the mini-games, there’s far less pressure to make sure that it has a whole lot of depth, just a cool concept that breaks up the gameplay and keeps things a little unpredictable. The most recent major Spin Drift design change is that I have shifted the game from arcade to a finite “adventure” style game. This allowed me to give the stronger mini-games a bigger role (mainly the “Bubble Blast” game) and I re-tooled the others to fit into other parts of the game. The end of a level is now punctuated by a boss fight that comes in the form of a previously played mini-game. Because there’s so many mini-games, and now there’s a need to fit them together in some logical way, the use of visual themes to give the player a sense of purpose and space came into use.



This one was a slam dunk right from the beginning. This segment of the game helped get the difficulty up to where it needed to be, and allowed me to make the main area more about exploration and learning than making sure you don’t die. It’s super simple and fun to play. While most of the gameplay I thought of on my own, near the end of developing it, I had to admit it bore some resemblance to the Donkey Kong Country 2 “Bramble Blast” level, and redesigned those segments to be in the diagonal arrangement as sort of an homage. This is the only mini-game that doesn’t have a boss fight though, the Panic blast mini-game is better suited for that, and since Bubble Blast has a far bigger role in the game, it’s almost an extension of the regular game.




This was made right after the Bubble Blast concept, and uses the same basic gameplay, the added element was that everything is moving, so the player must keep up. This one is pretty straight forward and offers some real challenges for the player. The only influence in making this was the missile boss battle in Contra 3. I’m going to hold off on writing much more about this in fear of spoiling it ;)

The missile battle starts at 3:11 in this video, although the whole game is awesome. I like Contra 3 so much that I wrote another article on Nintendo Guy’s site, which you can read here.



The movement system on this one is actually a variation on a game I never went through with that I was calling “Trip Noid”. The left and right mouse button rotate the player around a large circle in the middle of the screen. Here’s an old video of the original Trip Noid (back when I was under the pen name Super_Drunk).

It’s a weird one, but it’s easy to control and offers a lot of ways to make it “visually interesting”. This one is better suited for more scripted specific type of challenges. I haven’t really coded much for  it yet though.



This one is also totally original, it is where the gameplay cools off a bit and gets the player to stop and think about their next move. The crosshairs circle the player (who’s stationary) and the player must time the shots that line up with the crosshairs to get keys to the next area. This kind of activity is always good for a game, it can’t all be heart pumping action all the time.



This is the newest addition to the gameplay, I don’t really consider this a mini-game, it’s an extension of the main game. This is where the player gets to solve  some puzzles and explore a more gameplay detailed area. The camera is focused on the environment, not the player, to facilitate more puzzles and movement “challenges”. I’m still working on destructible objects and jam packing it with interesting gameplay. The dungeons kind of tie everything together and give the player a better sense of traveling somewhere. Lots of possibilities with the dungeons. These areas are closely based on the NES Zelda dungeons (at least there layout is) but there’s so many other original aspects to Spin Drift that players might welcome something a little more traditional.




The main area is the place that needs the most attention (aside from the bosses) there’s just so much that has changed. The main area has changed almost as dramatically as the main movement system, so it hasn’t really caught up with the rest of the game yet. The core function of the main area is to give the player someplace to explore completely uninhibited by danger and participate in some fun free form timed challenges. It is also the main launching pad for the player to go off and explore other areas, similar to the castle’s role in Mario 64.



If you actually read all of this, you deserve a medal lol! There’s all sorts of other topics to touch on, the wiki, story, bosses, timed modes, themes, and of course the plankton themselves, the list goes on and on. If for no other reason, I wrote all this to convey that a lot of time and care goes into our games at GBS.  I also wrote this just so I don’t forget lol. Thanks for reading!


3 Responses to “Spin Drift”

  1. […] This post was Twitted by GBStudios […]

  2. Cool site, love the info.

  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
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    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

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