Downwell’s Dual Purpose Design | Game Maker’s Toolkit

Downwell’s Dual Purpose Design | Game Maker’s Toolkit


Hi! This is Game Maker’s Toolkit, I’m Mark
Brown So a few months ago I made a video about controllers,
and when I said “there is incredible elegance to be found in games designed around a single
mechanic” I showed this game. And way too many people didn’t know what the
game was. So let me introduce you to Downwell: a stylish
and brutally difficult arcade game, about plummeting down a randomly generated well.
And it’s also one of the most elegantly designed games I’ve played in a long time. And the reason I say that is because almost
everything in the game serves two, or even three purposes. The game’s creator, Ojiro Fumoto, was inspired
by a Shigeru Miyamoto quote that goes “A good idea is something that does not solve just
one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once” – and boy, does Fumoto run
with it. Take the jump button. Downwell was made with
mobile in mind, so Fumoto only wanted three buttons: left, right, and jump. But because
the jump button can do something else when you’re in mid-air, that same button also fires
bullets out of your boots. These gunboots serve multiple purposes as
well. Not only do they kill enemies, and not only do they carve paths through blocks, but
they also slow your descent and help you maneuverer in mid-air. Enemies are, well, enemies. They try and kill
you from all different directions and you can blast them with your gunboots. But they
also serve two other purposes. Your gunboots have a limited charge, but if
you land on an enemy’s head you’ll instantly reload. And this will also start a combo chain:
bop a whole bunch of enemies in a row and you’ll get special bonuses like extra gunboot
charges and more gems. Landing on the ground also serves a couple
functions: it reloads your gunboots, and it finishes off your combo. The game is full of gems, which are used for
a bunch of different things. Gems collected during that run can be spent in shops, and
your overal collection of gems is used to unlock new game modes and visual styles. Plus, collecting lots of gems in quick succession
unlocks “gem high” mode, where your bullets are bigger and do more damage, for as long
as you continue collecting gems. These sub rooms give you a chance to breathe
– especially if you’re in the middle of a frantic combo. But they also let you pick
up some more gems or, sometimes, get a new gun. If you’ve been paying any attention so far,
you won’t be surprised to learn that the gun pickups serve two purposes. They not only
give you a new weapon to play with, but the pickup also boosts either your gunboot charge
or your health. And getting health not only boosts your hit points but, if your health
is full, starts building up towards boosting your max HP, too. You can also look at things outside of the
main game. The styles, which are alternative ways of playing, make the game both easier
and harder to play. Boulder style gives you more HP but fewer upgrade choices. Arm spin
style gives you more gun upgrades but shops are now ultra rare. And the aesthetics don’t just give the game
a quirky, retro style but also make the game immediately readable at 100 miles per hour.
Foes and obstacles show up in red, and enemies can also be all red if you can’t jump on them,
or just red on the bottom if you can. So, as you can see, pretty much everything
in Downwell is working at least two jobs. And this carries some substantial benefits. For one, Downwell can offer a huge amount
of depth with, essentially, half the number of moving parts. It doesn’t need separate
buttons for jump and shoot. It doesn’t need a reload button or ammo crates. It doesn’t
need separate items for gun, health and charge pick-ups And this means you don’t need to learn loads
of obtuse systems and have to figure out what everything does because as long you understand
the basics, the rest will flow. And it also allows Fumoto to nudge you towards
playing Downwell in his intended way. Which is to play the game at top speed, turning
the levels into a barmy dance of jumping from one enemy to the next. So if you collect gems to use in the shop,
you’ll also enter gem high mode which encourages you to act fast and quickly collect gems to
keep that meter going. And if you bop on a few enemy heads to reload your gun, or because
these jerks turn into evil nightmare skulls if you shoot them, you’ll want to keep doing
this to get a bigger prize, which makes you go faster and take more risks. These combo systems also act like a difficulty
mode, without making you select it from the main menu. Want to make Downwell more difficult?
Try getting a combo over 20, 30, 40 points. And they make the early levels more fun on
your 50th go. Oh, Downwell is a roguelike with permadeath. Did I forget to mention that?
It’s basically Spelunky: four different worlds and then a boss.
And like Spelunky, the first world eventually becomes so easy that it’s a bit of a chore
to work through. But in Downwell, you can use this first world to practice your combo
skills, and build up a nice stockpile of gems and goodies for later stages. Fumoto also wants you to make tough decisions
and, again, this is reinforced through the game’s dual purpose design. You might not
want to pick up the unpredictable noppy weapon, but you do want the health boost that comes
with it. Hm! The styles come with tricky trade-offs, as do the upgrades collected between levels.
Making your bullet casings deadly sounds good, but it could screw up your combo game. Downwell shows how a game can do a lot, with
a little, as long as every part of the game is working over time. And it shows how a game
can provide a lot of depth without being overly fussy and complex. And so all that, is why you really should have heard of Downwell. Thanks for watching. Game Maker’s Toolkit
is funded entirely through Patreon. Thanks to all my supporters, including these super
special five buck a video heroes.

100 thoughts on “Downwell’s Dual Purpose Design | Game Maker’s Toolkit

  • September 28, 2017 at 6:24 pm
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    Loved the final boss fight

    Reply
  • October 1, 2017 at 3:30 am
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    I watched this video a few hours after I got the game.

    COINCIDENCE?!?! Who knows, It just turned out that way.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2017 at 1:36 pm
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    Oh this game seems really fun, maybe I'll pick it u-
    "Downwell is a rougelike with permadeath"
    Nope. Words can't express how sick I am of that shit.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2017 at 10:55 pm
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    I bought Downwell twice.

    Reply
  • October 12, 2017 at 9:49 am
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    Dual-purpose design is really great in platformers. There's the relatively common "deal damage to refresh doublejump", attacks that give air time, Metroid's morphball that shrinks your hitbox, gives more precise control over movement, and allows you to lay trap bombs, attacks that create or turn enemies into platforms/cover, I've even seen a game where getting hit by your OWN bomb gives you a slight boost to jump height, encouraging you to fight in melee even as you sling long range bombs around.

    Reply
  • October 15, 2017 at 2:17 am
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    Why am I just now hearing about this game?

    Reply
  • October 16, 2017 at 6:17 am
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    This is an example of truly perfect game design (or at least the closest thing to it).

    Reply
  • October 16, 2017 at 9:46 pm
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    Best played on vita

    Reply
  • October 22, 2017 at 12:41 am
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    god this game is so fucking hard

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  • October 23, 2017 at 8:29 am
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    most people haven't heard of this game. I fond it by looking for shoot em ups in steam lol. A very great game

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  • November 8, 2017 at 8:46 pm
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    I bet it has a lot of DEPTH…… but it also breaks my hand after 1 minute of playing.

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  • November 12, 2017 at 12:58 am
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    One thing you didn't mention is the interesting incentive to end combos. Since the rewards cap out around 25 (I think, I forget the precise number) you have an interesting incentive to land on ground to stop your combo and collect rewards because any extra enemies in that combo are wasted since you wont get any more rewards. This has been critized a lot elsewhere but I thought it was interesting to try and pace myself in early stages to get as many combos that were nearly exactly the optimal legnth

    Reply
  • November 22, 2017 at 10:23 pm
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    I still haven't gotten past the first world, even though according to you, it's supposed to be easy. 🙁

    Reply
  • November 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm
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    This isn't a rogue like, restart on death doesn't make a game like rogue.

    Also I wish the term perma death changed. Perma death is permanent death, but this is just reset death

    Reply
  • December 3, 2017 at 7:01 am
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    Wow I just got this game 4 hours and I'm loving it's such a chaotic fun romp.

    Reply
  • December 8, 2017 at 5:14 pm
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    So basically, take every single one of your game mechanics and ask "What else can I make this do?"

    Reply
  • December 12, 2017 at 7:39 am
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    been playing games since 1984 and this game takes everything great from the old days and mixes it with everything that's been learnt over time to make it feel fresh and highly playable. the simplicity of it's design is disgustingly brilliant…just awesome. it's a real "gem"… 😉

    Reply
  • January 7, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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    fabcy

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  • January 9, 2018 at 6:56 am
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    stop. talking. about. spelunky!

    Reply
  • January 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm
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    Thanks for the recommendation. Just bought it

    Reply
  • January 14, 2018 at 9:40 pm
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    This game has so many 5-star reviews…

    Reply
  • January 21, 2018 at 4:24 pm
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    5:25 A lot of "depth"

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  • January 22, 2018 at 3:23 pm
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    a good mobile game? the legends said it wasn't possible…

    Reply
  • January 23, 2018 at 4:01 am
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    I picked this game for a dollar knowing nothing about it. Best dollar ever spent.

    Reply
  • January 23, 2018 at 3:56 pm
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    I consider this game a masterclass in game design.
    Just like "The Witness", "Portal 2" or almost any Mario game

    Reply
  • January 23, 2018 at 4:37 pm
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    He got hired by Nintendo so the Miyamoto quote was appropriate!

    Reply
  • January 24, 2018 at 4:22 pm
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    Very interesting

    Reply
  • January 29, 2018 at 12:53 am
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    Haha I love seeing people I recognize in the patrons, I caught sight of arin hanson for a moment in there

    Reply
  • January 29, 2018 at 8:27 am
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    I hate-love this game, I’ll never be good at it 😫

    Reply
  • January 30, 2018 at 5:12 pm
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    I actually like the noppy weapon, good with laser sights

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  • February 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm
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    i get why nintendo hired him now. they’re very big on the dual purpose thing. even with their console

    Reply
  • February 3, 2018 at 12:54 am
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    ah, now i want to play downwell again! such a great game!

    Reply
  • February 9, 2018 at 7:46 pm
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    Am I the only player who like's Noppy. I can kill enemies from other wise impossible angles with Noppy as well as clear loads of enemies in a small area with out moving much, plus it ties ammo use with the other most economic weapon the default Machine gun.

    Reply
  • February 17, 2018 at 3:01 am
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    "Downwell can offer a huge amount of depth"
    slow clap

    Reply
  • February 20, 2018 at 12:37 pm
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    Downwell is definitely a favorite of mine. After hearing about how enticing the gameplay is from Jim Sterling, I decided to spend the few bucks on it and haven't regretted it at all. I've put so much time into it not only can I reliably beat the game reliably in hard mode using any style, I've unlocked everything and still play it. It's just that good.

    Reply
  • February 20, 2018 at 8:24 pm
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    Noppy is the best weapon, you can aim by moving left or right

    Reply
  • February 21, 2018 at 4:10 am
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    This game reminds me of Planet Diver, though maybe only at the surface level.

    Reply
  • February 23, 2018 at 6:45 pm
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    Downwell is one of my favorites. The way all these mechanical systems bleed into each other and gently nudge the player towards playing the most fun way (switching weapons frequently, playing fast and risky, striving for big combo) is brilliant and this video does a grand job of shining a light on all that good stuff.

    Reply
  • March 14, 2018 at 8:07 am
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    Downwell is an amazing game and I highly recommend picking it up and PS4 so you can use an actual controller, its sadistically difficult but highly addicting.

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  • March 24, 2018 at 4:28 am
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    A bit of an old video to be making this comment, but I really gre to like the Noppy. You can already bounce off of most of the enemies below you. Using Noppy to hit enemies more off to the sides where you can't get a good beat on them could be handy. It was Laser I was never a fan of. Not enough charges, not much spread.

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  • March 24, 2018 at 8:25 am
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    3:25, Nice unintentional pun Mark!

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  • April 5, 2018 at 12:35 am
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    Why does everyone hate noppy it's just an aimable machine gun and it's my personal favorite since it has high ammo and great for getting enemies in hard to reach places making it good for combos.

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  • April 8, 2018 at 1:23 am
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    I was playing the game and as soon as I got my first combo I started to realize just how genius it is

    Reply
  • May 5, 2018 at 3:08 am
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    You should do a video about Enter the Gungeon. It might just be the most masterfully designed rogue like I’ve played

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  • May 13, 2018 at 12:02 am
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    i just realized that rotating brave copied this.
    I never even played downwell before…

    Reply
  • May 13, 2018 at 9:03 pm
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    Ok, I get the Downwell in Tower Fortress now

    Reply
  • May 19, 2018 at 4:17 am
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    I got Downwell a few months ago on mobile just because of this video, even though it's hard to control, it's really fun to play with when I don't have a 3DS to play with, thanks!

    Reply
  • May 19, 2018 at 6:27 pm
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    Most importantly, it has a Virtual Boy color mode.

    Reply
  • May 22, 2018 at 8:02 pm
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    Anyone else notice that Downwell's Game Over text is ripped directly from Cave Story?

    Reply
  • May 25, 2018 at 5:56 pm
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    Mark, i have a question:
    Can we fully consider Downwell a roguelike?

    I belive a feature that a rouglike must have is that the random loot forces you to chose a build of items that works toghether, that sinergize. Downwell doesn't have that, because at the last level you have almlost all the items at once.

    I don't adjust my playstile depending on my build, and often I don't even chose my next item considering what i already have (while i do all that stuff in evry other rouglike)

    Reply
  • May 31, 2018 at 12:41 am
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    Noppy is actually my favorite weapon because it feels so nice with lazer sight. Usually if get all junk upgrades I'll pick lazer sight just in hopes that I'll get a noppy.

    Reply
  • June 11, 2018 at 6:18 pm
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    Dear FSM! You managed to get so much info along in such a short amount of time! Is this because the game does the same or because you're really good? Why not both!

    Reply
  • June 18, 2018 at 8:29 am
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    I had it from playstation plus and give it a go on my Vita, the last time i got so addicted was after trying binding of Isaac. After that I immediately got it on my phone also, I couldn't stop playing it!

    Reply
  • June 20, 2018 at 8:49 pm
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    I beat it 😀

    … it's time for hard mode ('._.)

    Reply
  • June 23, 2018 at 10:30 pm
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    Downwell is glorious. The company, devolver digital, has made some great stuff. They made my 2nd favorite game, Enter the Gungeon. PLAY THIS GAME AND DOWNWELL THEY ARE JUST MMMMMM SMEXY VIDEO GAMES

    Reply
  • July 20, 2018 at 6:39 pm
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    Downwell has a lot of depth
    get it

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  • August 8, 2018 at 11:49 pm
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    But its FUCKEN HARD!!

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  • August 12, 2018 at 5:16 pm
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    I really, really don't like the idea of elegance being reduced to "everything has multiple uses"

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  • August 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm
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    Hang on. I literally played this game like 20 mins ago on the playstation, get back on my laptop to see this In my recommended?

    Reply
  • August 31, 2018 at 1:50 pm
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    a game looks fine but for some people can be very complicated, especially graphics, character is not highlighted

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  • September 4, 2018 at 5:25 pm
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    3:25 Oh, I get it! Depth because you're always falling deeper!

    Reply
  • September 13, 2018 at 2:46 am
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    Noppy is great. What are you talking about? It's not "unpredictable," it gives you more control over where your shots go.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2018 at 7:30 pm
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    I picked up Downwell after watching this a while ago, and I realised that this design, while cool and all, is kinda frustrating. The gunboots act as both a movement tool, and a weapon, which can mess you up when you only wanted to do one of those things. I could fire to line up with an enemy to land on it, but end up hitting that enemy out of the way, or killing it, meaning I don't have any ammo to try again. This also means you're discouraged from taking on enemies that require you to shoot them, because you're exhausting your ammo and not getting any in return. It's like how some games put having a friendly conversation with an NPC and attacking them on the same button, but you actually kill the NPC's

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  • September 18, 2018 at 1:13 am
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    I just got this game, but the noppy is my favorite weapon…

    Reply
  • September 23, 2018 at 3:05 am
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    Reminds me of Adult Swims House Of Dead Ninjas.

    Reply
  • October 9, 2018 at 12:05 am
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    MB – Downwell's Dual Purpose Design | Game Maker's Toolkit

    youtube – must be spelunky

    Reply
  • October 9, 2018 at 2:49 am
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    Also like Spelunky, the soundtrack was done by Eirik Suhrke!

    Reply
  • October 13, 2018 at 2:50 pm
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    This game is way too difficult for me…

    Reply
  • November 13, 2018 at 10:41 pm
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    Would be fun

    If I could get past the 1st lvl

    Reply
  • November 16, 2018 at 10:26 pm
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    The creator now works for Nintendo

    Reply
  • November 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm
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    I love this game.

    Reply
  • December 15, 2018 at 8:29 pm
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    His voice sounds like a distorted meme at 1:56

    Reply
  • December 26, 2018 at 10:59 am
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    This is my favourite mobile game ever

    Reply
  • December 27, 2018 at 11:25 pm
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    I just got the game cause it's on sale on steam for 50% off. It was only $1.49. As much as a bag of chips.

    Reply
  • January 6, 2019 at 6:13 am
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    I have love hate for this game. I love it because it's addicting but I hate it because I got it on mobile and touchscreen control is not perfect for twitchy fast button pressing. Also the bloody bird(bat?) who keep attacking from above and since I fell from high height sometimes landed very close to that bird and it immediately fly to me causing damage from above. Since I can only attack downward My top side is very vulnerable. My suggestion: Go get this game on PC and play with actual controller it's way better and fun than the mobile version.

    Reply
  • January 6, 2019 at 5:08 pm
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    Thumbnail is inaccurate the skeleton only appears in world 2.

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  • January 6, 2019 at 11:59 pm
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    Boots with guns?

    Reply
  • January 14, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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    Now coming to switch!!!!!!

    Reply
  • January 25, 2019 at 10:08 pm
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    Nice

    Reply
  • February 1, 2019 at 3:36 am
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    Just got it for Switch (GREAT use of my Nintendo coins!). And I'm kinda addicted to the hypnotic flow of this game. @[email protected]

    I wouldn't even categorize this as a roguelike. It's an arcade game. If this is a roguelike, then so is R-Type. XD

    Reply
  • February 9, 2019 at 9:05 pm
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    Attention downwell citizen. An assassin by the name of Corvo…

    Reply
  • March 10, 2019 at 6:54 pm
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    Also the character's name is Welltard

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  • March 16, 2019 at 1:38 am
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    I swear I've seen the health bar from another game. . help?

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  • April 5, 2019 at 7:00 pm
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    Idk if I'd call it a roguelike, its much more arcade style, like doodle jump. I think roguelikes have a more exploratory element to them, this is much more, oh shit oh shit oh shit, ok I'm dead feel.

    Reply
  • April 18, 2019 at 9:09 am
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    Good video, but there's just a thing that bother me about this video. I would've preferred that this video focuses more on the intention and goal of such a design rather than on the design itself. "complexity and depth balancing" is – if I'm not mistaken – what we're looking for when we do "dual purpose design", and it is what I would've preferred to see this video focus about more.

    There's nothing wrong with the concept of "dual purpose design" but putting it in the center like that, like you did in the game contest and in this video, I feel like it drives away from what the actual end. In other games, gaining up momentum and shooting could be a pain and actually harm the gameplay rather than completing it in an elegant and smart way. To put it simply, dual purpose design should be a tool, not an end.

    Reply
  • April 22, 2019 at 3:10 pm
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    I have got 100 combo in downwell but still haven't finished the game.

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  • May 12, 2019 at 5:45 pm
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    I’ve been playing this game for years and it’s really awesome, so any one still questioning to get it should just do it, it’s way worth it and you won’t put it down

    Reply
  • June 5, 2019 at 4:11 am
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    Subrooms = "Timevoids" apparently from some source

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  • June 9, 2019 at 9:09 am
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    $3 on steam

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  • June 24, 2019 at 11:04 pm
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    I think the best way to play downwell is floaty with stamina upgrades to get the biggest combo possible, once getting 25 touch the ground. that's just my opinion

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  • June 30, 2019 at 4:41 pm
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    6 minutes of oggling over a game that looks like a vomit that explodes regularly.

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  • July 29, 2019 at 3:16 am
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    The dev: jumping on enemies is so mainstream, it needs guns

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  • August 14, 2019 at 5:45 am
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    Video on katana zero when

    Reply
  • September 13, 2019 at 12:59 pm
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    Virtual Boy theme Gang Rise Up

    Reply
  • September 23, 2019 at 11:48 am
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    Free on google play rn

    Reply
  • September 25, 2019 at 3:38 pm
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    Heard of this game first in this video. Finally got it tonight. Barely last 70 seconds per run. This is brutal.

    Reply
  • October 11, 2019 at 1:12 am
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    you can jump with the shoot button and even do ONE wall jump! 😉

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  • October 20, 2019 at 8:17 pm
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    Song name?

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  • October 21, 2019 at 4:58 am
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    This is a lot of fancy talk for what amounts to just a really unique arcade game. Would have fit really well in the 80s arcades of the day.

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  • November 30, 2019 at 8:36 am
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    Id love to see more episodes focused on more “simple” games, like this one, where there’s only a few mechanics, but everything is really thought out and everything has a purpose

    Reply

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