Level With Me: Play Cohort 2 Now

Level With Me was a series of interviews with game developers about their games, work process, and design philosophy. At the end of each interview, they designed part of a small first person game. You can now download and play the final resulting game!…

As the interviewer and sole producer / artist / coder, I had a lot of control over the final result. When Auriea Harvey said she wanted a forest, what does that mean, exactly — 5 trees or 39 trees? 100 meters wide or 200 meters wide? How tall or short is each tree? What kind of tree is it? Should it look realistic or not realistic? There are countless decisions to be made about trees, not to mention everything else in the game, and as the game developer I was supposed to make them.

The aim of this interview series is the same as it was last year: to demystify game development while emphasizing its mysterious magic. How do we finish games? How do we decide when to work, and what to make? What is important to us when we are making?

You now have 7 (more) sets of answers, and you’re not expected to agree with all of them — but I think we can all agree that the diversity makes us stronger as a community.

Cohort #2 was:

1) Auriea Harvey (Tale of Tales)
2) Andrew Weldon (Bungie)
3) Richard Flanagan (Phosfiend Games)
4) Alex Austin (Cryptic Sea)
5) Steve Gaynor (Fullbright Company)
6) Liz Ryerson (independent)
7) Thomas Grip (Frictional Games)

This game was developed in two phases: in phase one, I interviewed people every few days and frantically tried to implement their designs before the next interview. The art was quite rough and the player movement was quite buggy. Being a good game developer involves being able to see past roughness and imagine possibility — or, know what roughness needs to be preserved or cut for the good of the game. In the second phase, I spent a few hours a week on cleaning up the art and fleshing out designs. Most of this development time focused on tuning the player movement, the “game feel” that makes a game interesting to interact with. There’s an adage that the last 10% of a game is 90% of the work, and it certainly felt like that here. The result is definitely not a perfect game or anything, but I think it has its charms.

Play in-browser (8 mb)

Windows (17 mb) — unzip all files in lwm_win.zip and run levelwithme_windows.exe
Mac OSX (23 mb) — unzip lwm_mac-osx.zip and run levelwithme_mac-osx.app
Linux (28 mb) — extract lwm_linux.tar.gz and run either the .x86 or x86_64

If you’re curious, the project files for this game are available on GitHub.

This game was built using Unity, a freely available 3D game tool. If you are interested in learning to use Unity, I suggest downloading it and looking through their extensive learning resources. If you have prior coding experience, I highly recommend the no-nonsense tutorials at Catlike Coding.

Remember that you do not need anyone’s permission to become a game developer (or a game journalist), you must simply just start making games and writing about games. At their cores, both activities are about conversation. Design is an interview with yourself. Now go forth.


  1. Emeraude says:

    Was ? :(

    • The Random One says:

      All good things come to an end.

      This feature has been great. I hope Robert and the Devs will return soon.

      • Emeraude says:

        Same, oh and online communication is making me forget my manners: thanks a lot to everyone involved, really loved those.

  2. Spacewalk says:

    Click and drag to move or hold ‘W’ to shuffle forwards a few steps before having to repeat it all over again? This is such a horrible way to get around I couldn’t be arsed to get to the end of the first scene before I was through with the bloody thing.

    • Robert Yang says:

      Yeah, I should’ve made it slower. Good point.

    • Wurstwaffel says:

      You can aim at the glowing pole thingies and click and drag the mouse down to drag yourself toward them

    • Bishop says:

      After carefully dragging myself into a dead end I wrenched the mouse and pulled myself through the floor to fall forever. “At least I’m moving at some kind of pace now” I said to myself for the rest of eternity.

      • frightlever says:

        That’s how I “won” Zombie Fort – I fell through a glitch into a bottomless pit forever. Zombies couldn’t get me, therefore, victory.

  3. SillyWizard says:

    Protip: increase movement speed to something slightly faster than broken-legged-drunk-zombie if you want your project to be given more than 2 minutes.

    • Robert Yang says:

      I’m not going to give this comment more than 2 seconds

      • ividyon says:

        The kind of snappy retort that really makes you think “yes I should definitely play this thing by this friendly, approachable young man”.

        • P7uen says:

          Alternatively, protip: try to be less snide and/or try to understand the background to how and why this project and control scheme arose if you want your comment to be given more than 2 seconds.

        • frightlever says:

          Go create something then see how you handle criticism. While it may not be particularly professional, it’s understandable.

    • Bull0 says:

      The game only took me about 2 minutes, in fairness.

      • SillyWizard says:

        Really? I fell into a pond and wandered around a…something…for longer than I care to recall.

        • Bull0 says:

          Three, four minutes. Fell in a pond, did a thing with a periscope, went round a corner and got sucked out in to space (?). It probably means those environments and puzzle were really intuitive. Didn’t really get lost or anything.

  4. baby snot says:

    Cannot play linux build. Very similar if not identical to this issue.

    Happens occasionally in Kairo and other Unity linux game builds. In Kairo I can get around the issue by hitting ‘r’ when the devs splash screen appears (apparently it wipes/resets game settings – game progress stays intact).

    Edit: Starting the game in windowed mode, then Alt+F11 to switch to fullscreen helped me out.

    Man, being able to walk is cool. We take so much shit for granted in our own ways.

  5. Bull0 says:

    I mean, yeah, the click and drag movement thing is interesting, but there’s nothing to contextualise it. I decided I was some kind of orangutan-like creature with large, powerful arms and stumpy (possibly broken?) legs. The music is quite good.

    • sandineyes says:

      I don’t know why, but I thought the player character was some kind of gelatinous monster that grabbed onto stuff with its tendrils in order to help move. All in all not too bad once you get used to it, but for the first section I did run into the problem of dragging myself right through the poles stuck in the ground.

      As for what the game was about, I have no idea. I liked the telescope bit, and the music, and it was pretty cool overall, but if there was a message it was completely lost on me.

      Is this some kind of story of evolution? Emerging from a swamp and eventually mastering space travel? Is the planet in the telescope another planet with the same facility, or the same planet in some future were everything is a desert? Are we David Bowie, embarking on a mission to send water back to our home planet?

    • The Random One says:

      Just Cause 2’s multiplayer mod, after millions of years.

  6. HothMonster says:

    Love these articles Mr. Yang. Can’t wait till you come back for another set.

  7. ividyon says:

    Yeah, no, thanks.

  8. ElVaquero says:

    First scene was gorgeous. Movement controls aren’t nearly as these babies make them out to be. It’s something new, something different. Good show.

    Hope we get a series 3!

    • kzrkp says:

      An art game about interface that demonstrates a terrible interface, 2edgy.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Amen. I’ve only played it for a couple of minutes, but I loved that I could turn around and explore. Then I remembered the interview where that was suggested. I shall return.

      • Charles de Goal says:

        Turning around and exploring is quite a new concept in games, indeed.

  9. yarn says:

    This was prey cool Robert. Made me feel like a crippled spaceman with only a wrench tied to a rope to get around. I like how earlier ideas carry over into other peoples ideas linearly. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Its cool how the movement and environments create their own thing even without the designers designing with intent.

  10. Scandalon says:

    Dollars to Donuts the folks with the greatest problems with the movement were using the web version. I was, anyway, and on a hunch tried the standalone download. (Windows). The drag-down-to-slide-forward movement that was previously slower than than the “press w, wait, press w” was suddenly much faster – you actually accelerate with enough force to have some inertia, and with a bit of practice can jump from anchor to anchor. With some refinement could be an interesting mechanic/feel (sensitivity adjustment, scroll-wheel to pull forward, gamepad trigger…).

    I still got stuck trying to go up the first obvious obstacle/hill, went the easy way down to the sub, couldn’t do anything w/ the periscope but turn it, and wandered empty, identical corridors until I quit, mind.

    So…inadvertently showed the technical issues that can crop up and cause part of the 90% of the work. Mission accomplished I guess? :P

    • baby snot says:

      Go back to periscope and look into from different positions…

  11. trout says:

    i hate to be another complaining person, but having played the game just right now this moment – the movement issues significantly cripple the experience – for me, the drag to rapidly move forwards wasn’t reliable (would only work on certain ‘poles’). also, it seems like you’ve arbitrarily limited the agency of the player – and thus restricted the ability to explore the world you’ve created which is a shame – i really liked what i saw of the art you made (simple, semi-cartoony, but rather evocative!) i’m sure i read all the interviews, but can’t remember which particular one explained the rationale for the movement scheme (anyone know which one it was?)

    at any rate, i love this series, it’s fascinating to see how game ideas can germinate into a final tangible product! thanks for writing them, and producing something (even if it wasn’t quite accessible for me)

  12. CookPassBabtridge says:

    For those that may have missed it, the portal maps from previous years’ LWM are worth a look, especially the final one. Hurts so goooood :)

  13. richardeflanagan says:

    Robert, this turned out awesome. Design by committee turn out decent in this scenario!

    Thanks again for taking the time to take on this TOTALLY INSANE project. I really like how it ended up, and am curious if future playthroughs will yield different discoveries.

    You nailed the tone of what I was after in my little chunk perfectly, it felt just like how I imagined it, thank you!

    And to the rest of the cohort, thanks for making this with me :)

  14. MayhemMike says:

    Reminds me on my own little project.
    It went like this:
    yeah lets do this, but wait, in order to make it work we need this and that added, no problem, done, but that screws the timing of another thing damn so we need another 2 of those but they have an impact on the first thing which changes the behavior of those other 2 thing we added, which now needs a third thing that doesn’t work with something else,….

  15. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Thanks for the series and for the resulting game, Robert! Throbert!

  16. jamesgecko says:

    I used the periscope to go to a Mars base, and then while dragging down the hallway was suddenly warped into space for no apparent reason. It looked like a normal hallway, was that supposed to happen? The falling into space bit reminded me a little bit of Riven.

    Yeah, not a huge fan of the “drag to move” thing. I’m not sure if Robert had a mouse with a much higher DPI, or if constantly having to pick up my mouse and move it away from the edge of the desk was supposed to be part of the artistic experience.