How Snake Pass Works | Game Maker’s Toolkit

How Snake Pass Works | Game Maker’s Toolkit

Hi. I’m Mark Brown, and this is Game Maker’s
Toolkit. Every year I like to celebrate one game for
its innovation and creativity. Because, game of the year lists tend to focus
on games in well known franchises and genres. Amazing games, but ones that build, incrementally,
on past successes and well established formulas. But it’s important to recognise games that
do something completely different, and work to push the industry in new directions. So in the past I’ve talked about the non-linear,
murder mystery search ‘em up Her Story; and the creepy chatbot puzzler Event[0]. But this year, the game won’t be about typing
words into an antique computer! Instead, it’s a 3D platformer. A genre that saw a fierce comeback in the
last 12 months. Mario broke new boundaries with the incredible
Super Mario Odyssey. Some Banjo Kazooie alums teamed up for the
so-so Yooka Laylee. Indie dev Gears for Breakfast made the hidden
gem A Hat in Time. And even Crash Bandicoot got remade. Plus, there’s Super Lucky‘s Tale, Knack
II, and Sonic Forces which are all games that… exist. And then… there’s Snake Pass. This game has all the trappings of this
genre. It’s about a stripy snake with big
googly eyes who explores scrumptious cartoon levels with his hummingbird sidekick. All this while collecting coins and grooving
out to catchy music composed by Donkey Kong Country maestro, David Wise. But don’t be fooled – this isn’t your
typical 3D platformer. And it’s all because of one key thing that
the snake can’t do. But lemme back up a bit. Snake Pass was created by this chap – Seb
Liese. He got hired by Sumo Digital – developer of
Sonic Racing, LittleBigPlanet 3, and the upcoming Crackdown 3 – because of his impressive user-made
levels for the older LittleBigPlanet games. After he got the job, he was told to figure
out how the Unreal Engine worked, and so tried to make a dangling rope that would use physics
to realistically respond to a character walking into it. But, by accident, he forgot to attach the
rope to the ceiling and, when he pressed play, it fell down and coiled up in an interesting
way that sparked his imagination. So, he made it so he could control the rope,
and then added a head to turn it into a snake. Turning this clever snake tech demo into an
actual game, though, proved challenging. The team had all sorts of ideas in the early
days, but none of them quite fit. Having the snake sneak up and kill things
was too scary. Having the snake coil up and spring out was
unrealistic. And eating fruit to grow or shrink made the
snake either too short or too long to be fun. So, ultimately, the team had stop thinking
about what the snake could do – and instead think about what the snake can’t do. And it’s something that every 3D platforming
hero does all the time: jump. But sometimes, taking a mechanic away can
lead to all sorts of interesting consequences. Designers can find fertile ground by asking
themselves, what does it mean for a shooter where you can’t shoot? A driving game where you can’t brake? Or a platformer where you can’t jump? And this lead to a game about climbing. About manipulating this snake’s body to
navigate crazy vertical levels. About the bizarre biological structure of
a snake, and what sort of crazy movement that can lead to. And this would require changes to just about
everything that we know about 3D platformers. Starting with the need for a completely new
control scheme. So, here’s how Snake Pass works. Moving the analogue stick moves Noodle’s
head around on a flat axis, but in 3D space – all relative to the camera. So you can use that to point Noodle’s head in
the direction you want to go. Holding A – typically the jump button on other
games – lifts Noodle’s head up. And, because of gravity, letting go of A naturally
lets Noodle’s head drop. This set up allows you to aim the snake’s
head at any point in 3D space. And then, you can hold the right trigger to
drive Noodle forward in that direction and – oh. Why’s he going he so slow? Ah, yes. That’s the thing about Snake Pass – while
you only really have direct control over the head, you also have to think about this big
old body that’s forever trailing right behind you. Under the hood, Noodle’s body is actually
made up of 35 different “collision spheres”, which all track things like what they’re
touching, what their neighbours are touching, and whether they’re part of a bend. And holding the right trigger stretches those
spheres out – which is why you must perform that famous serpentine zig-zag manoeuvre to
build up any real speed. And the thing about this body is that you
can use it to your advantage. If you move your head around a pillar, the
body will naturally follow afterwards – which creates traction and grip that can anchor
Noodle in place. Repeat this a few times and you can move up
or along all sorts of crazy structures. You can even create anchor points and then
swing underneath platforms. But on the flip side, this body is also working
against you – because the whole thing is affected by gravity, so having half your body – and
thus, half the spheres – dangling into nothingness, can cause Noodle to slip and fall. So it’s this body – this wibbly wobbly serpent
structure – that really makes Snake Pass stand out. I mean, we’ve seen games where the character
is a physics object, like the slapstick squid simulator Octodad and Human Fall Flat which
is like trying to work in an Amazon warehouse while you’re hammered. And even physics-driven games about climbing,
like the mountaineering gem Grow Home and the goofy toast ‘em up I Am Bread. But it’s giving Noodle this gigantic body. This huge lump of stuff that is only half
way under your control. This thing that is simultaneously both your
greatest asset and your biggest enemy. This is what makes Snake Pass so brilliant,
and leads to this crazy tug-of-war between upwards momentum, sticky friction, and sinking
gravity that I could mess around with for hours. Now, the game is not easy. That much should be obvious. But learning how to climb is enjoyable in
its own right. Seb told Nintendo, “mastering Noodle is
a learning process and it’s a skill that you acquire. So it requires training. Anything that you get better at, it doesn’t
even need to be video gaming, is satisfying and triggers a certain area in your brain
that makes it pleasant to do. So, we knew the controls were difficult but
we also knew it wasn’t impossible to control him from the start and it is that self-improvement
that makes the game so appealing.” And the phrase “self-improvement” is key. Snake Pass’ advanced mechanics are never
taught to you explicitly. The tutorial gets out of the way very quickly. Which leaves you to simply play around, experiment,
and practice. And over time, you’ll learn a whole repertoire
of moves and start to understand, intuitively, how to make all sorts of complicated manoeuvres
that would never be possible in another game. You also get two safety nets. You can hold the left trigger to grip Noodle’s
body more tightly for greater friction. And you can hit Y to have your Hummingbird
friend Doodle pick up your tail. Neither of these are necessary to get around,
but they are helping hands if you need them. And, ultimately, it’s up to you how hard
the game really gets. You can just focus on the three key stones
in each level – or you can find the blue bubbles and gold coins which require exploration and
extra climbing skills. Up to you, really. Once you’ve got some of these advanced moves
down, Snake Pass obviously gets much harder. In the same way that a platformer can ramp
up the challenge by increasing the space between platforms, there are lots of ways to increase
the challenge in Snake Pass. Like, by removing the end caps on these bamboo
rods, it’s easier to slip off the end. The space between bamboo, and the different
angles, can cause problems. And while early puzzles are over safe ground,
so falling off is just a set back, later climbing frames will dangle over spikes, fire, and
thin air. Moving platforms are also introduced. And these are a nightmare at times. You don’t just need good timing to get on
and off the platform, but you’ll often need to get your snakey body in a position where
Noodle will be safe when the platform goes upside down. Woof. But Snake Pass also shows that not every new
mechanic needs to add to the challenge. Water is, actually, not that much of an obstacle
and Noodle can – for the first time – move easily and freely through these lakes, giving
you a brief respite from oh my god help me I’m gonna die. So, this is Snake Pass. One of my favourite games of the year, and
definitely the most inventive game I played. And I think there’s some really key takeaways
from this game. One is to look for inspiration from outside
the world of games. Sumo certainly borrowed ideas from 3D platformers
like Spyro the Dragon and Banjo Kazooie, but the core idea came from the real world. Seb actually had pet snakes in the past, and
he used to be a biology teacher, so he had the knowledge to make a game about snakes. So it’s beneficial to look for inspiration
beyond other games. It’s been a key thing for Shigeru Miyamoto
who has turned real world hobbies like music, pets, gardening, and beating up gorillas into games. And Lucas Pope has said that Papers, Please
was inspired by real-world passport checks he encountered when travelling. Takeaway two is to think about the consequences
of removing things. Designers shouldn’t always add and expand,
but also consider what unique outcomes will arise from ditching stuff. For Snake Pass, not having a jump mechanic
meant entirely new gameplay was possible. Takeaway three is to look for interesting
sources of danger and conflict. Way too many games go for the obvious solution
of adding enemies who can kill you, which leads to a combat system and – well, it’s
now like every other game in existence. But having something like gravity, or your
own body be an enemy can lead to new gameplay and new ways of thinking, And I suppose the final takeaway is, if you
do something bold – not everyone is going to love your game. Snake Pass is a divisive game, with as many
people calling it a frustrating mess as there are people calling it a fantastic challenge. That’s the price you’ll pay for trying
something bold – but I think it’s worth it. Original games like Snake Pass keep the hobby
fresh and exciting, and give us something truly new to play with. Thanks for watching. I want to give a thank you to Chris from Sumo
Digital who answered my questions about the game, and SplitHareGames on my Patreon who
did the artist’s rendition of the rope in Unreal Engine. But I really want to say thanks to all my
Patrons who have supported me at any point in 2017. You’ve made this year’s videos possible
– plus, the game jam, boss keys, speaking at events, and more. And also thank you to everyone who has subscribed
to the channel, commented on a video, shared my stuff with their friends, or sent me lovely
tweets and emails. You’re all brilliant. Have a great Christmas or whatever holiday
you’re into it, and I’ll see you in 2018.

100 comments / Add your comment below

  1. "There's Super Lucky's Tale, Knack 2, and Sonic Forces, which are all games that…exist." That's a nice way of putting it.

  2. they should try and release a game based on hunting as a snake. this kind of gameplay will definitely generate a lot of emotions to players, as the tester described how it felt creepy, etc.
    you could have different kinds of gameplay, like playing as a constrictor snake and playing as a venomous snake. on the first, you would have to tangle yourself around your prey to crush it. on the second, you would have to go fast and swiftly bite jump and bite.
    they could make use of the analog triggers, a progressing squeeze on it would be a normal extension that you use to move around, while a fast squeeze would be a violent straightening that you can use to jump forward on your prey. a mechanic to somehow go backward would also be interesting, you could let your head hang from a tree branch, bite or strangle a prey, then lift it back in the tree.

  3. Someone Make This A First Person Game

    Except Your Human And Control Your Hand

    Sounds Like Human Fall Flat But ALSO FUN

  4. My favourite game this year would be A Way Out because it’s based of 2 players not just co op where when one enters a cutscene the other gets teleported across the map and like any developers should make that kind of stuff if they want a good game

  5. I freaking loved Snake Pass. It was beautiful, challenging, and had fantastic music. Plus there were the golden coins for extra challenge.

  6. Great review! I'm not sure the game's for me but this is an excellent analysis on a game I was curious of, but scared off by from the reviews I've seen

  7. Wow, this game looks great. I guarantee that I would never have heard of this game if it was not for you. It looks super cool.

  8. Ho, honestly, i didn't know about this game, but seriously, i like the style even tho i don't feel like playing it, but watching someone playing at this game will be pleasant for sure, that's a nice game ^^

  9. i bought this game because of you and i thank you i liked the game a lot, it also made me wanna throw the controller in the ground hoping it smashed. 10/10

  10. Oh I'm torn on this.
    I'm rubbish at Snake Pass, and have accepted I'll never finish it – BUT also accepted this is my fault.
    I think maybe my frustration is that you can't 'cheat your way through it' – almost impossible to make a guide saying "this is how you solve x"
    Buttons you're given are simple, but how these impact the game are just stupendously 'analogue', with all the variations – well you're going to still have to figure it out yourself.

  11. I find it odd that the creator decided to go for a coral snake design rather than something non venomous like a king snake.

  12. For Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft decided to remove the shield, to make combats more exciting, and encourage the player to take risks. Hope they’ll try more things like this in the future.

  13. For me as a visually impaired player on PC with keyboard/mouse, Snake Pass doesn't work. It's confusing, the snake refuses to be tamed, visuals crowded with objects which just get in my line of sight. The game got infamously uninstalled 🙁

  14. I would've appreciated a stealth game maybe not killing things but stunning them with venom and sneaking off because they're apex predators.

  15. I think we should have a shoutout to Sumu Digital for not only making the step of inventing a new IP with something that has never made been made before, but for hiring somebody who made awesome usermade levels…

    theres a japanese company that should do the same… but i guess sega does once again what nintendont with sonic mania…

    Oh and btw LOOK HOW FUCKIN ADORABLE NOODLE IS!!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  16. Near the end of Simon the Sorceror 2, there is a monster whom you must prevent from hearing, smelling and seeing you. To prevent him from hearing you, you transform a dog into hush puppies!

  17. Just bought because I saw this video and I got it on the "to play list" for PS4, only 5€ and it's being great. Looks childish but it's challenging and I'm having fun with it!

  18. This video really helped me! Now i know my game is interesting!

    Retirating Key Mechanic: A boss rush plataformer that you can't attack.
    Real-Life based: The character reactions are like what a normal human would do, not like a knight.

  19. Such a great video and analysis, thanks for introducing me to this game. Love the new mechanics. I have always hated jumping in platformers.

  20. I like snake pass, but something about the visuals have me headaches, and the checkpoints are WAY too far apart, and there should be more motivation to get the coins and such

  21. Unfortunately, I know adults who just downloaded this game from Xbox gamepass to occupy their children, as they see it as a kiddy game.

  22. Yay a game you play as a legit snake. One problem though and just going to say this

    Red on black, friend of jack.
    Red on yellow, one dead fellow.

  23. At 8:28 I see a big box game collection in the background. Does anyone know the name of it? looks like Lucas Arts but I can't find it anywhere online.

  24. Started playing it a bit, the fact that head movement is relative to the camera instead of just the head is really infuriating. Honestly the reason I haven't played it much, this combined with the shit camera leads me to constantly think I'm gonna go left and then the snake just shoots right, usually killing me. If they could update it with an option to change it so that left was left for the head regardless of where the camera is I would be in love with this game

  25. Yea I still hate snake pass the controls just were incredibly unfun with pointless collectibles

    Octodad can deal with bad controls because the game is funny and the point is it to be goofy

    Human fall flat has teamwork and adventure feel so the bad climbing controls are ok

    Snake pass just has you either moving the joystick left or right or clunkily moving noodle around something

  26. I keep skipping over this game on my game pass… this video has now made me want to play it… glad I have remote download now days.

  27. It's certainly possible that a good chunk of the people who think Snake Pass is a hard-to-control mess are people who play it on the PC and try to use keyboard controls. When I first got the game, I didn't have a controller; and I found it incredibly frustrating to play. I'm a very easygoing person, so it means quite a lot when I say that a game had me screaming angrily. It was a complicated mess with unintuitive controls that I was constantly fighting against, hoping that it would actually work out the way I wanted it to.

    Then, when I finally got a controller, I picked up the game. Having already gained an understanding of how the controls were supposed to work earlier, the moment I started using a controller everything just made sense. From that point to completion, the game was a joy to play.

  28. I tried SnakePass today for the first time and I really enjoy getting used the controls and the movements. However, I wonder – what do you think about the checkpoint-system?

  29. First I thought this was some sort of mobile game like those snake games. Now I'm really interest about this game. We need more 3D platformers.

  30. Another stellar video <3

    The idea of removing something to make a familiar experience new and exciting is something I've always been fascinated by, if anyone's interested in reading about Unworthy, a Metroidvania without jumping, I interviewed the designer a while back and brought up some similar things to what Mark discussed here!

  31. 8:30 "He used to be a biology teacher…" proceeds to show Noodle blinking. Snakes do not have eyelids.

  32. The music of Bol-Dor's Realm is by far the best music in the game. From the Donkey Kong games, even King of Cling does not come close to this level of musical composition. Bol-Dors Realm is a place much lusher, richer and more awe inspiring than Honeybloom Galaxy.

  33. Had to go and buy this after seeing this video. I'm 10 levels in and I love it, really unique controls. would snek again 🙂

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