Resin is an action adventure game, one where the player grows weaker with every boss they kill. Players will lose hit points and stamina with every victory, as well as find their movements slowing, their attacks become more feeble and clumsy.
It’s a unique take on games, where players often steadily gain power over play, and Siliconera caught up with its developer to talk about what it was like to design a game in this way.
In most games, the player character grows stronger over the course of the game, but in Resin, the player gets weaker. What made you take this different approach?
Rin Berd, developer of Resin – This game started from a little local gamedev competition, where the theme was "backwards" or something along those lines. While most people made something pertaining to time and going backwards through time, I decided that it would be interesting to explore backwards levelling, so to say. I knew only very few games that tried to do that, so, in retrospect, while it certainly was not the smartest design decision to make, it was an exciting one to try out and realise.
Does moving toward weakness, rather than strength, change the way you develop a game? How so, or how not?
It definitely changes the way you have to design level layouts and enemies. For example, while in a normal game, you would make bosses more and more difficult over time, in this kind of game, you’d have to make bosses weaker and weaker, just like the player. Maybe not weaker at the same rate as a player, but still. Or, like I did towards the end, make bosses more of a "puzzle as a boss" – not a huge enemy that you have to beat using your strength and quickness(which by that time you supposedly don’t have much of anyway).
I think there is a balance somewhere in this, but I’m not really sure if I managed to keep it balanced in that way. That’s more for a player to decide.
How do players lose strength over the course of the game? How did you decide on the best way to make players feel weaker over time?
There are several things that change as player goes through Resin. First of all, and most obvious, their hp and stamina pools get smaller, which means the player is not allowed as many mistakes they were during the beginning of the game. It also means having to do everything much more methodically (low stamina doesn’t really allow button-mashing and blind bruteforcing).
Another thing that you would notice as soon as you start fighting an enemy on a weaker stage is that your character movements have changed for the worse. These movements don’t simply become slower – the animations themselves and attack patterns change as well.
Looking back on it, this was probably one of the better design decisions for this kind of game. It allowed me to keep game from stagnating, because the way you were killing enemies at the stronger stages would definitely not work on weaker stages. So, it made players having to constantly reassess their abilities and try to change their core play style rather than just going through the whole game utilising the same kind of strategies over and over. This was one of the main tools I used to keep the game from becoming boring.
How do you balance giving players an open world to explore while steadily making them weaker?
I’m not sure I can answer this question completely. Resin is a very big game – you can go around the whole open world it offers in 5 hours or so. In this game, ‘open world’ is more of a tool that allows you to go back and pick up things you missed than a conscious design decision. I just tried to not obstruct player movement at any point in the game, provided backtracking options, and an open world came to be as a direct result of that.
What thoughts go into balancing a game where the player loses power? How do you ensure a weakened player can handle the same situation as a strong one?
Like I said before, the best idea would be to probably strive away from action-oriented gameplay to a more methodical and slow, strategic process. Maybe even begin to rely more on atmosphere and story to keep the player engaged.
And again, I’m sure I didn’t make the best design choices or balance everything perfectly. There’s still a lot of room to explore for this kind of gameplay, and not many games will explore it, because it’s counter-intuitive and seems almost wrong for a game to have it.
I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I made a terrible choice making this kind of game the whole 7 months it was in development. But there’s no telling, I can’t go back and remake the whole game without this mechanic. So it is more for a player to decide whether this feels fun and right to play.
What sorts of themes and feelings did you want to explore with growing weakness?
The most reasonable choice for atmosphere in this kind of game would be the feelings of overarching sadness, abandonment and everything around you perishing and decaying. So, this is what I went with in Resin. In a certain way, the world in this game reflected the inner state of the main character herself – it was slowly but surely dying, just like the main character was.
Some time ago, I was really impressed by a manga titled Blame! where these kind of themes and atmospheres were prevailing as well. So, that’s where I took most of my aesthetic inspiration from. If you read that manga, you would probably be able to feel the relation.