Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension
- Lead Gameplay Programmer
- Co-designer of the game
- Created original story and screenplay
- Designed and implemented three epic boss fights
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension was simultaneously the most exciting and frustrating project yet. Of all projects I’ve been a part of, I wore the most “hats” during this production of this one. I was the lead gameplay programmer, half of the design team, wrote the screenplay, designed and implemented the user interface, worked personally with our producers at Disney Interactive, and picked up various responsibilities in production. However, driven by the combination of my personal desire to see the project succeed with the belief that even young audiences deserve great games, I tried to do each aspect to the best of my ability.
The Gelatin Monster is actually a character from an episode of the television show that we all though was pretty cool and I personally felt would make the perfect boss. Sometimes you just see a character and you know that that character would make a terrific boss. The game was not originally tied to a movie license, so we were trying to pull in a few references to the show, and a giant purple monster made of gelatin is basically begging to be placed into a video game!
He was the only segment of gameplay to survive from the first draft of our game to the version tied to the film. Because of that, he was a little harder to get working in the full game, but it was worth it: he ended up being a very popular level. For example, the Gelatin Boss is able to leap into foreground and crush the players, sucking them inside of him. The players then need to swim to the left or right to escape.
The level also features giant wiggling jello molds that can trap the players, a rush attack that slams the players against the wall, and giant crushers that break the giant beast into tons of little “Gelatinettes.” And what better to defeat a monster made out of jello? Why, the Carbonator of course – a gadget that fires orange soda! And to finish the guy off? Once you smash him into a ton of little Gelatinettes, you have to run around and eat each one of them up. Any that get away will reform back into the Gelatin Monster, so the better you are at catching them, the smaller and weaker the boss becomes.
I had been wanting to create some sort of gameplay related to altered gravity since I had played around during an earlier (never-released) project. I had created a test world where you could run around a bunch of 3D surfaces (spheres and toruses), jumping between them and playing with the gravity. It was a simple proof of concept, but it was cool.
During the development of Phineas and Ferb I still had a desire to create a level with dynamic gravity, but with the game being developed for a younger audience it brought a bunch of new complications. Eventually I decided that it would be cool to create a 2D version, where you fight in an arena where the player would walk on the “edges” of the screen. That evolved into a circular room with the boss sitting in the very center of the tube.
Once the controls and player code were working, I was able to fool around a bit and add some neat moves. I wanted to keep the player moving so most of the moves were about controlling space: a laser attack that made you move clockwise or counter-clockwise around the arena, mines that made parts of the level dangerous temporarily, a rolling attack that forced the player to leap over at the right time.
The last trick was letting the player figure out the controls without killing them right off the bat during the boss fight. The solution was just to have the Dr. Doofenshmirtz rattle off a HUGE opening monologue so that the player would feel free to experiement with the controls. It worked very well, since the controls were pretty simple and the player really only needed that calm first minute to suss out how they worked. On replays of the level Dr. Doof would jokingly refer to the prior monologue as “long” and skip it, preventing you from having to hear it if you died.
Writing the Script
Disney was pretty open to handing over writing responsibility to the game, and I jumped at the chance to write the script. I’ve been wanting to get my hands into writing and I had previously made a request to do so, and writing the screenplay for a Phineas and Ferb game would be a fun challenge. The show has a really smart sense of humor and well defined characters and we needed to nail both of those to feel authentic. I also strongly felt like our story should compliment the film, not redo it. That way the game ends up being an “extra chapter” to the story, instead of just feeling like we got a bunch of parts wrong.
Overall it was a great experience and I feel we got a really funny story that captures the vibe the show and the movie pull off so naturally. I ended up with a 22 page script that was turned into about 12 minutes of pre-rendered cinematics and the rest was turned into in-game cutscenes.
Download the Phineas and Ferb Game Script.
Terry the Turtle
Early on in development we need a co-op partner for one of show’s main characters: Agent P. I decided to pitch an idea that we create a new ‘secret agent’ that could team up with Agent P for his levels. (for the uninitialized, in the Phineas and Ferb world, secret agents are seemingly household pets that actually lead a double life!) I suggested that we add an Agent T (a turtle, name Terry) that would join the team while they traveled through parallel dimensions. The idea went over well both internally and within Disney Interactive.
The creation of this character far exceeded expectations: the creators of the show liked our character so much they ended up adding him to the movie! Even considering it was a pretty simple idea (and one that I came up with at 2am) I could not be more pleased. He was used as a major selling point for the game (“With a new Agent created just for the game”) and was featured heavily at E3 in the Disney booth.