The Heart of Cherry’s Sky

I’ve developed some strange habit of writing a blog entry to completion, finding myself content with organizing my thoughts, and then never pushing Publish… So, let this be the post to break this odd streak:

Three years in and on the tail end of Cherry in the Sky’s creation, it’s only occurred to me how even more amazing certain games I look back fondly on are.


Almost 3 years to reach a playable World 5, but I made it!

With the greater majority of the levels built, I’ve had to think in a few circles to get down what exactly would constitute higher-level play in Cherry’s game, a 100% run, and it’s brought me to an even greater appreciation of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, which I think I’ll consider my favorite platforming game of all time.

Yoshi's Island Neutral Pic
The older I get, the more I love this crayon aesthetic.

When attempting a perfect run of anything demanding, there tends to be a natural process: x seconds into challenge > minor perfection ending error > pause > restart. I can’t find any specific praise for how Yoshi’s Island avoids this. The game approaches it a lot like hitting a wrong note while playing a song on guitar: you improvise based off the error and continue jaunting to the end of your solo without anyone noticing, or you’re so talented that what constitutes a mistake to the trained ear, can’t be heard by most. Is that still “perfection”? Perhaps “excellence” would be a better phrase here: “What constitutes player excellence”.

Yoshi's Island Scoreboard
Making the grade in Yoshi’s Island.

When Yoshi takes a hit, Mario is lost, and your stars function as your timer to return him to your possession before a game over–basically, stars are effectively subtracted when you’re hit. So while the coins and flowers prompt full exploration of the nooks, crannies, and nuances of each world, stars kind of do, but double as your lifebar, which prompts perfect play, a no hit run–however, after being hit and recovering Baby Mario, you could potentially find more stars; obtain a second chance by scavenging to find a “?” cloud filled with them, pound a stake into the ground and find stars underneath, peel and poke at the level in hopes of finding more stars–assuming you can catch the stars once they’re released–assuming you haven’t exhausted all available in the level–assuming you’ll be able to find them if any are still present–assuming you don’t get hit again in the process–this anxious thought process can go on for awhile…

Yoshi's Island Baby Mario Lost and Stars
Baby Mario lost, timer counting down, and loose stars at the same time. A wonderful chaos you can only blame on yourself.

There’s this wonderful, massive gray area over the idea of an ideal run which softens the proposition of perfect play while still retaining the tension. There’s a greater uncertainty than what a standard lifebar can provide, as the difficulty of the situation you lose the baby in can determine how much recovery is necessary, if not resulting in an outright game over, and the further you are into your exploration, the more minimal the errors need to be; playing a song on guitar, you hit a wrong note, but were still in the proper scale, so you swing back into the main melody to work yourself back in line. As long as you put out an excellent performance, you’re golden.


There’s a substantial exhaustive drama to that, a natural excitement. Quick restarts work well in games of frustration (Super Meat Boy being a standout example), but in something slow-paced with lengthier, exploratory sessions like Yoshi’s Island, this is a far more accommodating way of handling “perfection”, one that I’m using as a guide while implementing judgement for player excellence in Cherry in the Sky. I want to take a different approach overall–the verb I’ve been using to describe perfect playthroughs of a Cherry level is “graceful”, while Yoshi’s Island is more “thorough and careful”, like a good parent to Baby Mario, but I do want to gear perfect playthroughs towards “excellence” rather than “perfection”.

A Perfect score in Cherry is currently considered “Breathtaking” instead of “Perfect”.

While I feel close to my final system, I realize the way all this is implemented in Yoshi’s Island really reflects the childcare theme, the anxiety caring for a yougin’. So, perhaps the last bits I need to figure out involve diving in deeply into the emotional themes of Cherry in the Sky, honing in on what makes sense for Cherry Sundae as a character–what exactly should constitute excellence for a graceful, hardworking, sky-fruit picking, umbrella-flying farm girl? What sort of judgement would align the player with her goals, opposed to causing dissonance. That’ll probably clear the clouds in front of the answer.

We’ll figure it out, Cherry Sundae. We got this.



Gaspar’s Ghost Panic


There’s no two ways about it, making your own game requires your entire soul, and every ghost that has ever haunted you gets included.

When I started making Gaspar’s Ghost Panic, the thought was: “Cherry in the Sky’s gotten kinda big, and I know a whole lot now. I’m a little burnt out, so maybe I should take a breather and make something small, finished. A one month side project.”

5 months later:

The ghosts that throw magic at our titular Gaspar couldn’t better reflect the game’s development journey: Horrifically enjoyable, and wonderfully grueling, independent design is stimulating, character building, and soul revealing.

You make every line of code, you construct every 3D model, and you make every design decision that requires every ounce of psychological reasoning in your body–and all that leaves you so drained that your insecurities can easily saunter in and haunt you to increasing extremes–sure you can always do something to make them go away, but break time’s only temporarily–you’re not free until you see that great, green End Game Button.

GGP Action Shot
Have no doubt, your ghosts will throw everything they possibly can at you.

But then it’s wonderful when your impossible suddenly seems easy.

There’s this kind of release. From incubation to freedom–you can’t turn back, you’re a bit more than calling yourself a game designer on Twitter, you’ve now got something to live up to–not something to try to be. Something you want people to notice.

It felt like years, and probably would have been if I didn’t have my Game Design Sensei bumping me in the right direction with a little advice here and there:

Coffee With Cross GGP Episode 2:

After that, it all comes down to hard, hard work. And lots, and lots, and lots of teleporting.

But talk is just talk–gameplay is its own language, one that’s easiest to understand when you play.

We’ve all got ghosts that haunt us, but with a clear head, endeavoring passion (and maybe a rocking theme song), we can all get past our ghosts, and teleport into the future.

I really do believe we can all be teleport masters. So go check it out: Go become a Teleport Master!