I was delighted in 2006 when I heard that Line Rider was picked up by a developer and headed to the DS. And almost immediately that short rush of excitement, I was perplexed.
How was anyone going to take such an open, simple design and turn it into a traditional game without totally screwing it up.
Turns out I wasn't the only one worrying about that.
"We knew (Line Rider) was a good platform", said Chris Keenan, producer of Line Rider 2: Unbound for InXile Entertainment.. "We knew there was something we could make a game out of, but we didn't just want to abandon what everyone had been playing around with".
The developers knew they would have to include a freestyle mode in the, but they also wanted to beef up the title by creating both a puzzle mode and a story mode.
"The great thing about Line Rider is its elegant simplicity", Keenan said. "We knew there was so much we could do to it, but we didn't want to ruin it by making it too complex".
So the development called on game creator and Slovenian university student Boštjan Čadež to help with the concept work early on.http://publish.kotaku.com/ged/new
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"He came out for about a month and a half", Keenan said. "We put him up across the street and have him come over every day. He and our lead engineer here, started playing around with the next update of the flash version.
"After they did that we sat down and bounced around ideas like game design stuff and what we wanted to feature in the new games".
Chief among the features the team wanted to include in the new game was the ability to capture video and share it.
"The PC build has video capture built into it", he said. "You just push a button and it spits out an AVI".
Of course the story mode was another big feature the game included.
In this mode instead of being able to draw lines wherever you want, you play through an existing course that has chunks missing. The missing areas are located in green regions on the screen. Players have to draw their own lines in those green regions to allow their rider to finish the course while hitting targets and collect tokens.
To help create these pre-made courses, InXile called on TechDawg, a gamer considered to be the best Line Rider artist around.
"I started watching these videos come out on YouTube and called up TechDawg", Keenan said. "We had him come here to help us with course design. He amazingly has really good design sense. He flew out for about three weeks and sat down and went over game design ideas and tried to figure out what we wanted out of story mode maps".
While adding new modes to the game to give Line Rider 2 more depth was a challenge, an even greater challenge for the team was figuring out how to bring the game over to the Wii and DS.
"The differences with the Wii are basically in the user interface", Keenan said. "When you go into a console version they want more screen real estate. We have collapsible menus, but other than that they are very, very similar".
Playing around with the DS version of the game, I was astounded at how well Line Rider translates onto the screen. Creating and editing course lines are a breeze and in freemode you can have your character riding your lines as you create them. You can also drop clip art into freemode tracks and even create invisible "trick triggers". When your rider slides through one of these triggers they pull off one of pre-created tricks.
The story mode, which I initially thought was going to be the game's weakest link, quickly sunk its hooks into me. In this mode you have to figure out how to complete an existing course by drawing one of three types of lines: standards, one that speeds you up or one that slows you down. In this mode, after you draw a line it creates a number of handles along the line that you can use to shape it by dragging them around.
To complete a level you need to run over all of the targets, but there are also tokens which can be collected for bonus points. Getting those tokens, though, often mean having to travel a much more difficult path, one that often involves multiple loops, drops and tricks.
While I didn't have time with the Wii version of the game, the developers told me they spent about a month working on the controller trying to finesse more precision out of it.
The team said the game won't support Motion Plus, but that they'd love to have a chance to use the Wii's new feature.
While I was taken aback by how well the game translates to the DS, I was even more surprised to hear the developer's plans for DS and Wii track sharing. The team knew early on just how important the ability to share and show off your tracks was to the game. And doing that for the PC version was a no brainer. But it wasn't as easy a task for the Wii and DS versions.
But the team were able to get Nintendo approval to allow them to have their DS and Wii versions of the game sync up with a special website where players will be able to download and upload approved courses. That means that if you have either title you will be able to download gamer created courses directly to your console or handheld.
On both versions the game gives you a code that you need to enter on the Line Rider website. Once you create a login on the website and enter your code you can sync up your DS or Wii with the page.
Using this system you can upload or download any tracks from your personal page.
On the webpage you can manage your tracks, adding them to the public database. You can also flip through tabs which separate the tracks by platform.
After the game launches the team hopes to roll out a system that will allow gamers to rate each other's tracks. Those ratings, they hope, will then affect a person's score. The idea is that those gamers who create better tracks will earn high scores for themselves and gain a reputation.
And player creations won't be limited to straightforward tracks, players will also be able to create and share puzzles.
Keenan said that the game may even support downloadable content for the Wii down the line, allowing them to release new puzzles, tracks and clip art through the Wii's store.