Development Notes: ‘The Lake’

Aug 3

The Lake came out of a brainstorming session I had last month. (I was finally starting to feel my creativity returning after being completely drained from 3 years of school.) The idea for the game was really simple, and I knew the success of the game would depend mostly on the look and movement of the characters.

Initial Sketch for The Lake


The programming for this game was fairly simple. I was able to get a prototype (sans-art) running in almost no time. Most of the programming time was spent trying to get the fish movement to feel right. I had a pretty specific idea of how I wanted him to jump, with slight rotation and hang-time.

The main challenge for The Lake ended up being the graphics for the fish.


Preliminary Fish

I wanted the fish to be somewhat cartoony, but still be a believable fish. I actually used a very cartoony fish in an early version (on the right in the picture above). It felt very out of place with the lake environment I had already created (and liked). Plus, I was having a lot of trouble getting the fins to animate in a realistic way.

Zoe's Sketches

I tried to have my friend Zoë draw some fish for me. Although she clearly has superior drawing skills, all of her fish came out looking too realistic and somehow depressed.

Final Fish Frames

I finally buckled down one morning with my lightbox and drew a couple frames of a swimming fish that I thought looked pretty good. Although, I didn’t use any of Zoë’s sketches in the creation of my fish, they helped me to realize that I was abstracting my drawings too much. A simplified vector fish is cartoony enough—it didn’t need any googly eyes, or funny fins.


Screenshot of Earlier Version

Initially I was doing all this fancy stuff to get a really nice look for the game. I had multiple layers of semi-transparent water, with the fish going under the water. The mayflies had semi-transparent wings, and I was using Flash’s Blur filters for the background elements and the underwater stuff.

All this was fine here on my beast of a computer, but it slowed down to an unplayable degree on slower machines. Most of the changes I made ended up being imperceptible. I re-colored the flies and made them opaque. I replaced all the blurred vectors with pre-blurred jpgs. The only change that I miss is the transparent water. It was really nice to see the fish coming in and out of the water like that.


I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the game. I think the control scheme is really successful. The main complaint I get is that the game is too hard, but I think that’s okay. It wouldn’t be much fun if there wasn’t any challenge to it.

A lot of people have compared the game to Ferry Halim’s games at Orisinal, which I think is a huge compliment.