Today I had the honor to talk to Erik Johnson. Johnson is one of the members behind a team that is developing a game called Life Goes On. As I talked to him I found his answers to be much like the game he is developing. Simple. Trust me though, that was not a bad thing.

Life Goes On is a modified take on the classic platforming puzzle genre. Where as in games like Mario, Portal, and Braid  you need to get through the levels and solve its puzzles without dying, Life Goes On will make you die. Purposefully.

In fact the point is to die, often.

Life Goes On gives you an infinite number of knights to go and kill at your pleasure. These dead knights (all different with their own specific names) will remain in the world, and you will use their motionless bodies to complete the levels and puzzles put in front of you, all in the name of getting  “a floating golden chalice”.

How does a game like this come to be?

It was all part of a ‘Global Game Jam’, these are events where teams have 48 hours to make a game. Each Global Game Jam has a theme that the teams have to implement in their game. For this particular one it was about the Ouroboros symbol; the symbol for eternity, life, death, etc.

ouroboros-1

Ouroboros, if you didn’t know

So Erik and his team tried to put together a game that would mix these elements of life and death in a fun and imaginative way. The idea of leaving dead ‘bodies’ behind came about and Life Goes On was born.

Erik and I talked at length about the fun his development team had in coming up with the different levels in the game and how the team came up with the unique ways in which the knights had to die. He emphasized how every knight [that respawns] is different, with their own names and that, “there are always more knights”, meaning you can do what you will with them. There will be more to knights for you to kill off. “There’s always a new name with a new adjective. The closest you get is that sometimes you’ll have ‘son of’ or ‘daughter of’ but aside from that their all different.”

Oh and if you want to have your own knight in the game, just go to their site and send them an email via their contact page. They’re accepting all good names… Todd the Magnificent, for example, was suggested and possibly liked.

Erik and his team knows that the mechanic can become repetitive and redundant so they have mixed in little challenges such as “don’t use more than 3 knights”, to test the players puzzle and problem solving abilities. They also have certain death traps that remove the body itself. One example he mentioned was ” in one level we have a flamethrower, you can keep throwing knights at it but the bodies will always be burned away. So you’ll have to find your way around it.”

Just to be clear, every single death trap is lethal at touch. One hit, one kill. Yes you’re supposed to die, but that doesn’t mean you can’t screw up and die prematurely.

In a game with such an entertaining mechanic the question will eventually arise: How many levels do you have in the game? Erik and his team are shooting for 40-50 levels. These levels will have you go to different places including caves, castles, and an ice realm.

life-goes-on-screen

When I asked about the learning curve, Erik said that in good puzzle games they show you “how the world works without showing you in text” and that’s what they did with their game.

As we went on it became clear that the developers of Life Goes On had a lot of interesting ideas for gameplay and puzzles some of which weren’t incorporated into the game due to time constraints. We joked during our talk about a sequel which he called “Life Goes Oner” which he didn’t deny would be cool to do especially with all the ideas they couldn’t add into this current game.

Boss fights was one thing that didn’t get added to the original game. Erik talked about how “in a real early prototype of the game there was a dragon where you had to feed it knights until it got too fat to fly” for example. Erik also mentioned how ghosts were almost incorporated into the game and how using them would get you further in the level.

Erik talked about his team and mentioned them all during the interview, mentioning how happy they were that they were getting recognized and going to conventions and hearing people talk about their game so positively and getting asked if this would come to consoles or handhelds. They all hope that this works out the way they want it to and that people truly enjoy this title like they did.

Life Goes On is aiming for a January 2014 release for PC, Mac, and Linux, but Erik stressed that it’s not definitive. You can play a seven level demo right now. The demo can be found on their site.

 

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