Game Design Deep Dive: Dandara’s singular jump-only transformation mechanic

The Gamasutra Deep Dives are an ongoing series with a suspicion of shedding light on specific design, art, or technical facilities within a video game, in sequence to uncover how clearly simple, elemental pattern decisions aren’t unequivocally that elementary during all.

Check out earlier installments, including creating gentle UI for VR plan game Skyworldachieving seamless branching in Watch Dogs 2’s Invasion of Privacy missionsand formulating a perplexing turn pattern of Dishonored 2‘s Clockwork Mansion.

Who: João Brant, Long Hat House cofounder

Hello! we am João Brant. Alongside with Lucas Mattos, we founded Long Hat House. We met on a internal mechanism scholarship university, where we motionless to pursue a dream of creation games and started Long Hat House in 2014. We didn’t stop creation games ever since. we wish we never do!

Lucas and we work especially with programming and design! We worked on a latest and largest plan Dandara for around 2 regulating years, together with a musician Thommaz Kauffman and a artist Victor Leão.

What: Fast-paced platforming transformation when we can usually jump

Dandara began as a mobile game. We wanted to communicate quality, fast-paced transformation mechanics on a reason screen. In this text, I’ll try to explain a sight of suspicion that we went by while building a control intrigue in Dandara, and how it developed later, for gamepads as well.


When a growth started, we were on a unequivocally conflicting position. We didn’t have a publisher or any kind of financial assistance, conjunction we had many knowledge or a portfolio. Our suspicion was to make it into consoles, though self-publishing there wasn’t an option.

That done us demeanour during mobile platforms in a surprising way: perplexing to emanate mechanics that done clarity for mobile natively, designed from a belligerent up, instead of bringing gameplay from other platforms or repeated to a winning marketplace ideas. The height is able of so many more, though was generally neglected by (non casual) players and developers since of what a marketplace had become.

In a core of a project, Raw Fury assimilated and helped us concentration full time on Dandara. But they also uninterrupted so many doors. We motionless to try a intrigue for gamepads, and afterwards to change concentration to a Nintendo Switch where it could accommodate both forms of controllers. In a finish we were ancillary many of a other platforms (PC, PS4, Xbox, TVOs). That certainly shabby a growth of a diversion a lot during a final year!


“Touch Release” and “Swipes”

I don’t know how simple is this notion, though after creation a initial game, Magenta Arcade, we satisfied something about reason screens: both initiating and releasing a reason feels as pleasing and evident as dire a symbol on a controller. And a appropriate suit is unequivocally absolute – a same transformation can be started, given a direction, and afterwards finalized with a same palliate it started. It feels healthy to a reason shade too, while regulating overplayed gamepad controllers wouldn’t.

Drawing of a initial representation of a game

The initial pitch: Your impression ignores gravity, and snaps to platforms, jumping in a true line from one to a other, while aggressive with projectiles. Platforms, on a bottom and tip of a screen, would pierce towards something that would kill we (or out of a screen), so we can’t mount still for too long. Also, there would be an rivalry fighting we in a center. That would (hopefully) beget a dance between a actor and a enemy, to find a ideal position to keep alive or to get to a enemy’s diseased spots.

At first, we would try indicating and touching to pierce or attack, though finally motionless to concentration on swipes. At one side of a shade we aim your movement, during a other we aim your attacks. Releasing a finger would endorse a action. This approach we could pierce and fire quick by regulating swipes, though constantly covering a shade with your thumbs too!

You would use a mobile phone laterally like a diversion controller. It also has a good side outcome on a player: by requiring both hands and carrying to reason a device like this, we’re enforcing some-more concentration and attention, that is a conflicting mindset from infrequent games. So with Dandara, we felt like we had a flattering cold environment to start personification with.


In a unequivocally commencement we didn’t have any story, it all came by a gameplay, and developed with it. A lot altered as we started prototyping.

Back then, a impression could travel by holding a appropriate to a direction, though deliberation a angles, a actor would always pierce a bit when perplexing to jump. So we attempted a “dash”, instead of walk, shifting in a building on a recover of a appropriate when a instruction was forked to a ground, though it was tough to get players’ intentions. Also, jumping to a conflicting belligerent combined so many kinetic value to a transformation and it was always so quick to pierce around that we private a walking duty altogether.

As a game’s pattern unequivocally enabled scrutiny on a mobile game, that felt novel, we left behind a bound locus structure from a representation turn and embraced some-more formidable and connected maps.

After we motionless for usually jumping, we attempted withdrawal transformation as giveaway as possible. But vouchsafing a actor aim and land everywhere current itself to be a nightmare. Moving quick felt great! But a actor had to be too clever to not “miss” a burst and finish adult “falling” out of a scene, murdering a gait of a game. Also, jumping to neglected places meant that a actor would have to, often, burst behind to “fix” a movement, on a risk of blank a burst again, that was frustrating.

It is intrinsic to have a extent on how distant we can jump, and it didn’t make clarity for a actor to be creation leaps of faith out of a screen, so we singular a operation of a burst and didn’t let jumps though current alighting positions. And to minimize a neglected jumps, we tested adding platforms usually in places of interest. That’s when we came adult with a white aim areas where we can jump.

This all enabled a good transformation rhythm! Only infrequently damaged by incorrectly aiming out of a white spot. Releasing a finger from a screen, for example, could unexpected change a bit of a direction. So burst helpers were implemented as well. First, we “saved” where a final current aim position was, and that’s where a actor would burst to.. and this avoided jumps being unintentionally canceled when releasing a touch.

How a diversion played in a beginning, 2 months into development

We went serve to assistance a palliate of uninterrupted swipes, and not usually use a instruction of a swipe, though a length as well: a some-more we lift divided from a start position, a wider a diversion would hunt for current points with side raycasters. The suspicion is to minimize a difficult transformation compulsory from a player’s finger to change instruction and find a burst spot, and make a relocating preference easier.

How a hunt works, a some-more we lift a swipe, a some-more a raycasts open, like a flower. If a aim is found, it doesn’t need to hunt anymore

Attacking also developed a lot! Inspired by games like Contra, we started with a simplest weapon: a “machine gun” that would fire uninterrupted to wherever you’re indicating with no operation limit. And since we wanted to welcome speed and action, we combined an auto-aim to enemies as well.

That’s a ubiquitous suspicion of an “easy miniboss”. Which is still in a final game!

In a end, it was too easy. The actor could stay distant away, and discharge enemies even from outward of a screen, though risk. That went opposite a suspicion of action, and it didn’t inspire exploration. We updated it to a tighten ranged far-reaching shotgun-like attack, though auto-aiming. An present improvement! The tighten operation speedy players to burst into a conflict forcing a dance with a enemies. It also combined value to positioning and good aiming. A full strike tighten ranged would strike a rivalry with many projectiles during once, causing a lot of damage!

Level Design

Without any references for levels for this diversion design, we had to come adult with all a manners that would make a good play area in Dandara.

One of a misfortune phenomena that happens in a turn design, is what we call a mini dead-end. It is a mark that, if we go there by blank a jump, we can’t keep relocating towards a instruction we intend though carrying to burst back, to a other direction. Whenever a actor hits a mini dead-end, it’s always frustrating. Piling adult that kind of disappointment mixed times leads to a bad knowledge altogether and they should be avoided as many as possible.

Here are a few examples of dead-ends. The pinkish route (after creation a mistake) will many always feel like going backwards.

Other things also done scrutiny harder, for example: jumping roughly alongside a wall feels uncomfortable, rivalry position that leads to a proxy mini dead-end, camera triggers properties and positions not vouchsafing we see a drift or enemies, and many others.

Some of these problems can seem obvious, though it took a prolonged time until we started bargain their causes and formulas. Eliminating them became, then, a large limitation in any turn room. We had to cruise conflicting instruction intentions and pathways, and nonetheless it got easier as collected experience, it took us a lot of time in a beginning, and we had to re-design whole levels since of how they played. Doing playtests also helped us a lot with that, though it usually came after in development.

Creating and regulating all those manners while perplexing to make enchanting levels, training mechanics and progressing a cohesive actor upsurge was a fun, wily challenge!


In a core of a development, we sealed with Raw Fury for edition Dandara and, shortly after, they got us an event to pier a diversion for a Nintendo Switch and we started perplexing gamepad options for it.

The initial thing we suspicion about was to directly pier reason controls: one analog hang leaps and a other attacks. Pointing a hang to a instruction was like starting a appropriate and releasing it would be, as we can imagine, a release. This was bad, as releasing a hang wasn’t as evident as releasing a reason shade and a final instruction could change vigourously when doing it. Also, confirming a transformation by buttons, though aiming to conflicting directions with any analog was unequivocally tough and unintuitive, even with shoulder buttons.

We gave adult a ability of aiming transformation and conflict during a same time, on a controller. Mapping buttons for any transformation and regulating usually a left analog hang to aim for both. This still wasn’t perfect, as any jump compulsory a transformation in a hang to ready for another leap, that could get overpowering in prolonged sessions.

The resolution was to counterpart a jump instruction matrix if a actor was aiming by a ground. That approach when he finished a leap, a actor wouldn’t have to pierce a hang as it would be already indicating forward. So, during many cases we usually need to aim in one instruction and keep dire a jump symbol whenever we strike a ground. This supporter authorised relocating so quick and fluidly, that it done us trust that gamepad could be gentle and fun for Dandara.

Mirror example, a immature clear is a instruction in a analog stick

We disturbed about a training bend for a gamepad, it felt bizarre to play during a beginning. But as we played a game, playtested it, developed it, showed in events, and with Raw Fury’s fad about it, we gained a lot of confidence, and a Nintendo Switch solemnly became a categorical aim platform. Even improved as it housed both forms of input.


We trust that, one pivotal indicate here is to uncover how, by conceptualizing natively for conflicting submit methods, we can move life to a totally new diversion design. And we wish that with Dandara, and a flourishing volume of reward games that are entrance natively to mobile, we can give another demeanour into these devices, and re-evaluate a intensity as a unequivocally permitted platform.

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