Exception developer interview

Impressed with his recent Tron-inspired platformer Exception, we got in touch with Traxmaster’s Will Traxler to learn more about his inspirations for the game and how he went about creating it.

How have other games inspired you to create Exception?

I grew up playing simple games, first with the Atari 2600 and later with the original NES. I have a deep appreciation for titles that are easy to pick up. I’d say that 80% of the games I played as a kid were side scrolling platformers. Today, most platformers look similar to the ones I grew up with. There’s pixel-art and generally simple visuals. I wanted to take the straightforward gameplay from those early games and combine it with modern graphics.

Platformers like Nebulus, Pandemonium and Fez are examples of other 2D/3D platformers from the past 30 years – how do you view these games?

Wow, I had to look the first two games up on YouTube. Nebulus looks really impressive for the time. Pandemonium also has some interesting concepts. One of the circular levels is very similar to a level in Exception. I wish that I had known about these titles before now.

The most impressive aspect of these titles, particularly FEZ, is the level design. I learned while making Exception that level design really isn’t as fun and freewheeling as it’s cracked up to be. It’s a very meticulous process and the designer has to be aware of the unintended consequences of their decisions. I can’t imagine how much work went into designing the puzzles for FEZ.

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How are you using technology for Exception’s visual effects?

Particle effects are my favorite thing in the universe. I really can’t get enough. I need help. Luckily, particles are something that modern game engines can produce very efficiently. This, combined with the computational horsepower of modern machines makes a particle effect fanatic like myself very happy.
I used bloom-based glow frequently in Exception. The effect reminds me of playing games on the old CRT monitors in the arcades and it adds an electric feel to the game. It’s also very effective for hiding hard edges on level components.

What are some of the best examples of what a 2D/3D hybrid perspective can do for gameplay mechanics?

The best examples come from situations where a player is presented with a solution to a problem or a path forward that they never expected. I think people are so conditioned to playing standard 2D platformers, that alternating to a third dimension creates a very novel experience.
The downside to this is if a designer strays too far from the accepted norms, the experience can become frustrating. There were several occasions where I designed levels which veered too far from standard 2D expectations and the result was confusing.

Exception is a solo project – what have been some of the bigger challenges during the development process?

The biggest challenge is easily time management. I’ve been very fortunate in the sense that I never felt too rushed to complete Exception. It took me just under six years to get the game across the finish line. Despite having all of this time, I still feel like the game was rushed. Unfortunately at some point you have to just stop and say, “Development ends here.”

The second biggest challenge is just flat out ignorance. There’s no substitute for experience and when I started Exception, I had none. Although I created a lot of headaches for myself and screwed up a lot of stuff, the whole process has been a great learning opportunity. Looking back, I would have done a lot of things differently, but I would have still taken the same path.

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