January 7, 2014 8:20 PM | John Polson
It may not be immediately apparent, but Sets & Settings' Trestle is what happens when you put Super Crate Box into a Mega Man Battle Network world, according to developer Folmer Kelly, who also says Trestle's quick prototype became a game about patterns and felt fun almost immediately.
The whole thing started when Folmer was watching Mega Man Battle Network Let's Plays on YouTube. He loved the visuals and the lush action displayed on screen, but became "super frustrated and pulled out of it all whenever the player would change chips." (The game pauses and goes into inventory management mode frequently.) Folmer went on to make a quick prototype to see what he could do with more arcade-type of gameplay while keeping the grid-based, limited movement play space.
"I thought I would make a quick little game out of it, but when I started designing and balancing content, I quickly found out that my little prototype had way more depth to it than I had planned for or anticipated."
"Everything takes place on two 3x3 grids, with the player occupying the left side while the enemies have the right," he explains. "That in itself allows for a buttload of different patterns as far as spawn points, attack range, and attack order go, but as I keep designing new enemies I'm constantly finding new patterns. What's really interesting is that even though it's all design-through-patterns, the game actually feels like it's about skill rather than pattern recognition."
Trestle all happens in real time. On the player's side of the grid, crates will spawn that the player collects. Crates are score but also weapons (just like in Super Crate Box, but it feels like Mega Man when switching to a defeated boss power), and every weapon type has different properties that demand players to switch up their strategy.
Folmer says these properties are damage, attack speed, and cooldown, with some weapon-specific quirks. "For example, the Energy Disc bounces off the edge of the screen back to the player's side, dealing damage to enemies on the backswing but also dealing damage to the player."
Along with Trestle's constant action is an element of strategy to handle all the patterns of enemies and their attacks. "Even the most basic enemy type has 3 attacks and a fairly sophisticated AI when it comes to picking attacks and trying to outwit the player," he says.
Trestle seems to take place in some kind of futurisitc setting, but Folmer didn't want to spill all the beans on the story. "It has to do with the fact that the trestle itself is that thing in the center of the universe that keeps balance intact. So when anyone wants to fuck up the balance in the universe, that's where they do battle, on the trestle. And then there are defenders of the trestle. It's also a story about patterns but I can't get into that, that's for players to deal with."
Folmer says he decided to delay the release of Trestle to keep working on it until it feels like he's fully explored its depth. During that exploration, he figured out that because of the limited grid movement, it's a really tight experience on mobile platforms, too. Therefore, Sets & Settings is looking to target iOS and Android along with a full PC release in early 2014.