An interview with the all-star Flowlab Developer and Artist Sup3r87 - focusing on his process for the Flowjam-winning game Universal Crumble. From the United States and currently 17 years old, Sup3r87 was probably the youngest person to win a flowjam to this date!
A picture from Sup3r87 after receiving his Summer Flowjam 2022 prize, a Nintendo Switch Lite.
This is the second episode of the ongoing series ‘Developer Spotlight’, where we talk with developers from the Flowlab community to discover their process and thinking when developing games.
Hi! Welcome to the Developer Spotlight!
Thank you, thank you!
What was your process when creating Universal Crumble?
I started with the movement system. The very first thing I created was a very rudimentary movement system because I actually had the idea of a WASD Spaceship kind of game before the Flowjam. And when the theme was announced, “Out of Space”, I was like, “Yeah, I think I could actually make this work with my Space controls theme.”
After the movement system, I made a simple placeholder player sprite and started adding things. The average game creation process where you make obstacles, a health system, and a menu. And I slowly just built it up from basically nothing, as a game-jam game should be.
Did you have the game idea first, or did you jump right into Flowlab?
I had the idea of the WASD movement, but other than that, I came up with everything on the spot. When I was creating the game in Flowlab, I thought that to make this game more engaging - I should include something new at each level.
So, on level one, you learn the WASD movement. Level Two, you learn Boosting. On Level Three, it’s the laser canon. On Level Four, safe platforms are introduced. And then Level Five is like a final test where the void goes really fast, and you have to use all that knowledge you gained from playing the game.
Right, that was awesome! I actually played the entire game for the first time today because I was recording some footage. The other times I played, I didn’t get to the safe platforms or the Boss. But this time, reaching the end was amazing. I noticed all the little details and how you introduced the mechanics at each level. And then when it gets to the level where it doesn’t teach you anything, it feels like, “Okay, THIS is the final level”.
Beginning of level 5 on Universal Crumble
Nice! Well, yeah, it’s one of those games that it’s a pity if you only play the first two levels because most of the game’s substance is in the final level and around that area. So, if you don’t play level three, it’s almost as if you just played a light version of the game.
But yeah, really well done.
What were your favorite and most challenging things to add to the game?
I really enjoyed adding the laser weapon. Adding weapons to the game was really fun. I had never actually made a proper weapon in my games before, so doing that was a lot of fun.
Playing with the Laser weapon on Universal Crumble
I think the most challenging thing was… honestly, the time constraints. I realized that in the second week of the jam, I had the Asteroids done, I had basically most of the game systems done, and all I really had to do was assemble the levels. But for some reason, it was really mentally challenging, and I was already a little burnt because I worked my butt off for the first week of the Flowjam, just making everything.
I think assembling levels was probably the hardest part just because you’re not really making anything new; you’re just putting something together. It’s not the same as if you were implementing a new system or anything. So, there’s not as much satisfaction as when you’re putting something together, such as making a new game mechanic.
I’ve watched a few videos where people do those game jams, and I’ve noticed that if it’s one or two days, they don’t sleep. They spend the first day preparing, sleeping, and doing everything, and then they spend the next entire 24 hours working on the game, which is honestly really impressive. I don’t think I could press on for that long.
Yeah, it’s a bit crunchy (crunch culture), to be honest. That’s why I stopped doing those. It was really fun and challenging, but was it actually good for my health?
I’m very glad that Grazer made the Flowjam longer. I think it gives us more time to develop ideas and make better games. It’s not as rapid as a traditional game jam, but I think it’s worth the two weeks.
For sure, and ‘Universal Crumble’ proves that.
Yeah. Thank you!
What was your biggest lesson from making Universal Crumble for the Summer Flowjam?
Honestly, my biggest lesson was that you can’t work alone when it comes to really anything programming. I asked many questions during the jam to people. I hit a few technical walls while making the game, I don’t remember exactly what those were, but I could not figure out a solution until I went on the Flowlab discord.
And then somebody said, “Oh, the solution is right here. You just do this”. And I was like, “Oh, why didn’t you think of that?” - I had a few moments like that. I don’t know what I would have done if that wasn’t the case. So, unless you absolutely know everything about what you’re doing, sometimes it’s best to ask questions on discord or the forums. It is part of why Universal Crumple was so good.
Yeah, that’s pretty cool, to be honest. And I can learn from that because even playtesters help a lot. So, when making a game, it’s okay to ask for help and to ask people to test your game.
Exactly! The game was initially the hard mode. It used not to have difficulty settings at all. But many people were like, “Man, this game is so hard”. And I was like, “All right, I’ll add a mode where the player gets double the health, and the void moves half as fast”. Now, the easy mode is the standard mode, and many people don’t know that the hard mode is the game’s original difficulty. I think that with enough practice, anybody can beat the game in hard mode. I don’t really play competitive games, and I can beat the game on doom mode.
Changing the game difficulty on Universal Crumble
Yes, but you are the developer - you must account for that. You know everything that will happen because you have played the game so many times.
That is true. That is true. While “nerfing” (decreasing difficulty) the game, I made many obstacles easier to deal with throughout the entire game. And doing that was really hard because when you take away certain parts of their shapes, such as the asteroid belts, you suddenly lose the point of it. There are areas where the player is supposed to transverse in a certain way, but now they don’t have to go that way. Players can just fly straight through it now because there are fewer asteroids in that area. It was pretty difficult to “nerf” the layout of the levels, but I’m glad I had people playtest it because the game would have been a lot harder to beat for many people if I didn’t.
What are you currently working on? And can we expect something new in the upcoming months?
So, as most people know, I’m currently working on ‘GALACDRIVE’, which is a mobile-intended, kind of endless game with randomly spawned boss fights, really good music made by my friend Logan, and some extra stuff as well.
Check out the ‘GALACDRIVE’ development version on Flowlab as @Sup3r87 progresses and prepares the game for release!
I’ve also been working on games for school projects because doing something as creative as making a game for open-ended school projects gets really good grades. And I might as well make a game for a school project if I can do it.
I’m currently working on a game for a school project, and I’m actually collaborating with another person from the Flowlab community. It will be a shorter game because it was made in three weeks, and it will probably be released and playable by the public when this interview is out.
That’s awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit and talk with me. Until next time!