My name’s Fabian Rastorfer and I’m the founder and lead designer behind Slime-san, a platformer about a little slime that gets swallowed whole by a giant worm and whose goal is to escape the worm’s innards before getting digested.
When we initially started the development of Slime-san we had one particular goal in mind: Make the gameplay easy to learn but hard to master. It’s a common sentiment among developers but only a few games genuinely succeed at being both approachable yet challenging, essentially targeting and satisfying two entirely different types of players.
The concept of “easy to learn but hard to master” is deeply embedded within Slime-san’s design. One of the main abilities in Slime-san for example, is the ability to morph through otherwise solid green objects on command. While this leads to a lot of interesting puzzle challenges, the ability gets particularly interesting thanks to its secondary feature: It also slows down time. This means that in particularly stressful scenarios the player is able to hold the morph button to platform more precisely and avoid obstacles more accurately. The timer however, which determines whether the player receives a trophy at the end of a level, does not slow down. This means that skillful players will try to avoid morphing too much to get the best level completion time while others might rely on the morph slow-down as a crutch during their platforming adventure.
Another example within the game that was heavily influenced by the idea of “easy to learn but hard to master” is the level design itself. Each level is made out of four rooms and this setup is used to gradually introduce and then eventually push a new hazard or mechanic onto the player. For instance, the first room might introduce the gravity flip in a non-hostile scenario, while the fourth room uses the gravity flip aggressively to push the player’s platforming abilities to their limit.
On top of that, each level is intricately designed in a way that allows especially skillful players to skip entire sections to get the best completion time out there! This is usually reflected in the leaderboards, where completion times will vary between several minutes or mere seconds. It’s this particular approach to level design that leads to very satisfying speedrunning videos, where you might discover entirely new paths to complete a particular level. Every level also includes apples which are placed in particularly dangerous situations. These entirely optional apples can be skipped if they are too difficult to obtain, but a skilled player will insist on collecting them all to buy costumes, shaders, mini-games and even entirely new playstyles!
These playstyles are another excellent example of trying to incorporate the “easy to learn but hard to master” concept in every aspect of the game’s design. These buyable playstyles allow the player to adjust their character’s ability to suit their style of play. Every playstyle is designed in a way where the player has to give something up but also receives something in return, so that none of them feel particularly overpowered. For example, Wife-san walks significantly faster which is great for trophy times but she also falls significantly faster, requiring more demanding timing to succeed. Some levels will fit some specific playstyles and that kind of experimentation allows you to modulate the difficulty based on your own strategic planning. And all of this doesn’t even take into account hidden moves that aren’t inherently taught to the player at the start of the game but are discovered during a playthrough; slowly but surely guiding the player into the “Aha!” moment where the gameplay clicks and the platforming suddenly feels like a natural extension of themselves.
Slime-san: Superslime Edition is available now on Xbox One and we’re super excited about it! It’s the ultimate version of Slime-san and includes all of the DLC, as well as some exclusive levels and features. The Xbox One version also takes extensive advantage of achievements, hero stats and rich presence. Happy sliming!