Generating Platform Sets = Hybrid Fun

Orion’s Run is a platformer game and with that, you need lots of platforms to jump and run on.   (I mean “run” is even in the name!)  So, with that thought we decided to go with procedural generated levels.

What is that and what does that mean?

We could have placed all the platforms on a level individually.  That means each platform could be positioned in the level and we could set up some fun jump puzzles and patterns.  However if we did that, each Orion playthrough would have been the same and we wanted Orion to have some replayability. If we had the programming use randomly generated levels we ran into the issue of uninteresting platform patterns as well as issues with color switching mechanics and enemies.  Completely random platforms made the complexity of the game really hard.  So, we decided on procedural generated level sets, which is having a randomizing sets of platforms with certain rules in place for what set comes next.  Here is a picture of some of the platform sets.

orion platform set

We start with a sketch on paper on how the sets should go.  Then we build the sets in unity, which allows us to play test them and see how the art looks quickly.  We set up an algorithm in the code to randomize among the sets we have.  Using this method we are able to keep Orion’s Run gameplay interesting and fresh on multiple playthroughs.


Designing with Focus Instead of Metrics

Now a days, work at any gaming company and you’ll hear the words “metrics.” Metrics are the numbers showing player behavior.  The stats.  Traditional game designer roles have even been replaced in some places with “product managers.” These people are supposed to design towards the metrics.  Look at the number showing player behavior and adjust towards the stats.  Look at past games and adjust towards the stats.

cityville metrics

Orion’s Run has focus.  We consciously designed something in Orion’s Run without that in mind.  We are making a game that is focused, for gamers, and that we would want to play.  So that means it’s not for everyone.  Yes, we are aware of that upfront, not everyone will like Orion’s Run. But we do think some people will like the added layer of complexity of changing colors, the steam punk art style, the weaved Greek storylines, the different kinds of boss battles.  We do.  Because they are awesome.


That’s what is important to us.  Some people will really enjoy Orion, and some people will not. That’s okay, it’s not for everyone. Not every game has to be, but we think you will appreciate it.  It’s built with true grass roots indie dev spirit, from people who just want to make games.

Doodles on a Napkin


So before each loving detailed sprite Keith draws, how did Orion start out as a concept? How does a game design actually come about? On a really high level, Orion came about with three goals in mind. We wanted to make a game where:

1. It would be reminiscent of the 16 bit era of video games, a time where I think, personally, was a golden era of gaming.

2. It would be for old school gamers, but embrace the mobile platform fully.

3. It would be one step harder and more complex than current mobile games, because it would be for more hardcore gamers.

On a less high level, we wanted Orion to be:

1. A platform runner, because I love platform runners.

2. Steam punk themed because steam punk is awesome and under-represented in games.

3. A color changing mechanic, because we haven’t seen a game use that effectively since Ikiruga and Sillohette Mirage. (Look them up if you haven’t played them before. Great games.)

So, with that in mind, I made this little wireframe clipping out some Megaman sprites. That’s how Orion started. Before any game design document was made, or we had a team, this is what started it all.  My doodle on a digital napkin.

Orion Wireframe

Where the Grunts are made

After facing off against Poseidon, we find Orion in the Order’s lab. This is where discover the origins of the Grunts, and learn about the new experiments the Order is running.

Level 3 is a Labyrinth of cloning tubes and experiments filled with Grunts on many different levels, it’s a sort of factory. Here you will find a new Experiment Grunt that will surely mix up the gameplay a little bit. Lvl3BG3-01

What else has the Order been up to? And what else does it have in store for Orion?

Concerning Platforms (AKA the most important thing in the game you need to know)

Orion’s Run is a fast paced platform runner with a story. You will come across different types of enemies that stand in your way, there will be boss fights at the end of each level, but one thing we haven’t really covered are the platforms and the core gameplay mechanic they bring to the game. In any other game you run on a platform and that’s it, but in Orion which element you are currently set to could mean the difference between life and death.

There are 3 types of platforms: generic, fire, electric and they come in 3 sizes. The generic platforms work like a regular platform and do not react to your current element. Fire and electric platforms become solid when activated by the correct element. If Orion has fire activated and runs over a fire platform it will act like a solid platform, if fire is activated and runs over an electric platform he will fall through to his untimely death. Same thing happens for the electric platforms.

platfoms-level3-01Level 3 Platforms

Another type of platform in the game are the bounce shafts that allow Orion to bounce from side to side and propel him out of the top. Inside these shafts are energy platforms infused with the energies of fire and electricity. Be careful though, if the right element is not activated when hitting the bounce platform it will vaporize Orion.

Shaftlvl2-01Level 2 Shafts



Poseidon (/pəˈseɪdən/; Greek: Ποσειδῶν, pronounced [pose͜edɔ́͜ɔn]) is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greekmythology. His main domain is the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea”. Additionally, he is referred to as “Earth-Shaker” due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the “tamer of horses”.

We were able to smuggle out some top secret documentation to get a better look at what the Order is capable of (many Spartans died to bring us this information). In those documents we finally understand the power of their fleet of whalers and get our first glimpse of Poseidon.

Poseidon is capable of unleashing a nuclear bombardment with precise accuracy, you don’t want to be on the other end of this attack. These are the same nuclear bombs the Birdman Grunt, but in more massive numbers. Below is some early footage of Poseidon in action.



The Birdmen Rule the Sky


The Order fleet is not just going to let anyone run through their ranks, but don’t worry they have their security. In the skies ruled by the Order Whaler ships they have added the Birdman Grunt to their ranks of soldiers. They fly with lightweight wings and wouldn’t seem too threatening if it weren’t for the mini nuclear bomb strapped to their back ready to be dropped at a moments notice. Don’t worry about Orion though, his powers give him the ability to neutralize the atomic blast.

lvl02-02Early Orion Screenshot


the Order Fleet takes to the skies

We are on our way…


Having just escaped the Canal’s of Sparta we take to the skies to run with the Order Fleet. The fleet is made up of 3 types of ships: Whaler, Whaler Elite, and Poseidon.

Whalers are the general ships you see patrolling the skies and transporting grunts from various locations occupied by the Order. They are not very big, but they are big in numbers.

The Whaler Elite are the command ships of the fleet, they are big, REALLY BIG. It is very rare to see one of these in person unless there is some important business going on…Orion must be some important business. If you see one of these there will probably be a battle in the near future.

Poseidon – TOP SECRET



Cerberus /ˈsɜrbərəs/, or Kerberos, (Greek form: Κέρβερος, [ˈkerberos]) in Greek and Roman mythology, is a bronze multi-headed (usually three-headed) dog, or “hellhound”  with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and a lion’s claws. It guards the entrance of Hades to prevent those who entered from ever escaping.

One thing we want to do with Orion’s Run, while making a platform runner, is to bring back that feel of old NES/SNES games and have it look amazing as well. One way we are doing this is by adding the enemies to each level, but also having a boss fight for each level. Cerberus is the first boss you will meet. He guards the Canals of Sparta and tries to prevent Orion from making it out of the city. He has 3 attacks and 3 heads you must destroy to overcome this beast. Design-wise, Cerberus is the most complicated character in the game so far. He has a total of 30 spritesheets (don’t ask)…


Laser Attack – Each of Orion’s head have a single eye that has the ability to shoot a laser of pure electric or fire energy. By jumping on Cerberus’ head you damage the heads. Each hit disables one and lowers the number of lasers being shot at you.

Grab Attack – While running behind you, Cerberus may try to grab you as you try to escape his clutches. You will notice the tank on his back, which is filled with liquid. (You might want to pay attention to the color of this liquid at all times)

Rocket Arm Attack – As Cerberus follows you, he may try shooting a rocket at you. This is a neutral attack and the only way to avoid being punched (really really hard) is to jump over it.

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