Fluidity

"What starts off as a simple tilting affair soon evolves into some of the most refined gameplay mechanics ever slapped onto the Wii Remote." -- nintendolife

Platform: Wii (WiiWare)

Studio: Curve Studios

Publisher: Nintendo

Engine: Custom, Box 2D

Released: Dec 2010 

Fluidity (aka Hydroventure in the EU) is a physics-based puzzle platformer in which the player controls a body of water, block of ice or steam cloud. The action takes place on the pages of a magical book, which reproduces the movement of the Wii Remote in the player's hands.

Working in collaboration with Nintendo, I was involved with designing this game from when it was an experimental tech demo through to launch, developing core gameplay mechanics and responsible for around half of the game's level and puzzle design. 

This included main gameplay levels, boss levels, puzzle areas, secrets and self-contained mini-games. I worked these areas through from conception to final polish.

Launch Trailer

Reception

With a Metascore of 86, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.

Eurogamer: 9/10 "A beautifully original game that in another era would have been much-admired at triple the price."

VG Tribune: 10/10 "...one of the best gaming experiences I have had in all of 2010. Fluidity takes us back to gaming's true roots and reminds us why we all play games in the first place... without question, the best game available on the WiiWare service..."

Edge: 8/10 "Although the basic joy of rolling realistic water around might be short-lived, it's bolstered by the far greater satisfaction of solving the game's intuitive, well-paced puzzles"

Nintendolife: 9/10 "..easily one of the more original games on WiiWare and comes with hours of replay value, a slick physics engine and spot on controls. The huge maps are full of secret areas and unlockable extras, and the pacing keeps the action from ever becoming too repetitive or dull. What starts off as a simple tilting affair soon evolves into some of the most refined gameplay mechanics ever slapped onto the Wii Remote."

According to Metacritic, Fluidity was the best original game of 2010 published by Nintendo.

Nintendo World Report awarded Fluidity with a WiiWare Game Of The Year award.

Control/Ability Design

In addition to being responsible for around half of the game's level design, I also worked on general design tasks such as gameplay mechanics, controls and abilities. 

For example, I prototyped the squirt ability, and worked closely with one of our coders to get this unique functionality implemented. An evolution of the previously unlocked gather ability, the player draws the water together and squirts it with the +Control Pad. The height of the squirt is determined by the amount of pressure built up prior to the squirt starting, while the intuitive tilt-controls take care of the direction.

The Squirt ability in action; used to get to otherwise inaccessible areas

If the player builds up too much pressure without releasing it in the squirt, then the water particles explode and scatter. This is both a risk-reward mechanic, but the explosion itself can be used as an ability, to reach hard to obtain droplets or to unblock a path, for example.

System/Camera Design

Using our in-house engine and bespoke level editor I prototyped various game objects, abilities and contraptions. I also implemented and balanced camera areas, checkpoints, SFX, particle effects, wired up game entities and set up camera cutscenes.

 

Maintaining the focus on the main 'character' of a several hundred particles and a tilting screen, the camera system needed a lot of thought and iteration. Working closely with the programming team I designed and implement a robust, smooth and flexible system.

Self-contained Mini-games

Having "misspent" much of my youth in arcades, I came up with a mini-game based on the cross section of a penny pusher. When in the ice state, the player can interface with the machine, and just like the real thing this mini-game is all about timing as well as a bit of luck.

A physics-based puzzle based on the cross-section of a Penny Pusher

I designed, built and balanced this machine, implemented the controls and hooked up all the reactive light sequences.

 

I also designed various other interactive physics-based contraptions that function as framed mini-games including a pinball machine and a grabber:

A physics-based Pinball mini-game to unlock a secret puzzle piece

A physics-based Grabber mini-game to unlock a secret puzzle piece

I designed and built 3 of the 4 playrooms. These are unlockable by collecting hidden puzzle pieces throughout the game. Each playrrom is designed as a self-contained score-attacking mini game.

Fish Panic. One of the four unlockable playrooms

This example is Fish Panic, and is the first to be unlocked. The player must rescue as many fish as possible, and deliver them to the fish bowl in the centre of the screen. As the game progresses, the player is kept on their toes by decreasing fish spawn times, the gradual introduction of hazards and new spawn locations.

Level Design

Responsible for around half of the game's level and puzzle design, I designed the tutorial, the main hub, boss levels, puzzle areas, secrets and self-contained mini-games. I worked these areas through from conception to final polish. 

You can see some of the level design I worked on in the slideshow below:

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Speed Run  

A legendary speedrun completing the game in under 2 hours. Have a skip through to see some of the game's diverse gameplay, skills, puzzles and Metroid-like unlocking structure.