Developer Tom Happ on how he’s tailored the game for the speedrun community
Hey everyone – this is Tom Happ, the sole developer of Axiom Verge. I did all of the art, music, design, animation and programming as a labour of love. After five years of working on Axiom Verge in isolation, I’m finally getting close to launch. I can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on it. I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to make as a team of one, but the ultimate judges will be you, the players.
One of the newest features I’ve added is a Speedrun Mode. For years I’ve loved watching ridiculously skilled players 100%-ing great games like Super Metroid, Shovel Knight, Guacamelee, and more. The recent AGDQ festival also made me think deeply about creating features specifically for the speedrunning community.
To understand how Speedrun Mode works, it’s important to understand a little about Axiom Verge. In Axiom Verge, you play as Trace, a scientist who wakes up after a lab accident in a strange, alien world. Similar to classic games like Super Metroid, Master Blaster, Bionic Commando, and Contra, the game involves a mix of exploration, new weapons and power-ups, new enemies to battle, and epic boss fights.
As you make your way through the world, you also encounter a number of secret areas that are randomly generated each game – both the location of these secret areas and the actual layout are procedurally generated so no two playthroughs will be entirely the same. In addition, some creatures in the world behave erratically and randomly.
When people play normally, a big part of the fun of the game comes from exploration and discovering all of the secrets. Speedrunners, though, want to know that everything is where it’s supposed to be. It’s important that random elements are minimised so that every playthrough is comparing apples-to-apples.
Originally, I considered just making the game the same for everyone on every playthrough, but I decided that that would take away some of the challenge and replayability. So instead I created a separate mode for speedrunners where all of the random elements are based off of the same seed number every time you play. So when you’re playing through in speedrun mode, every enemy is in its place, and there are no secret areas to serve as a distraction from the main game.
Another feature that is important for speedrunners is being able to bypass dialogue quickly. For regular players, there is an interesting storyline that falls into place as Trace makes his way through the alien world. Not everything is always as it seems, and I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that.
But speedrunners will have seen all of that already. They don’t want to keep tapping the X button repeatedly just to skip past the dialogue – they just want to keep going, so I’ve set it up so Speedrun Mode works that way.
The ability for speedrunners to track how they’re doing at certain points in the game is also really important. Fortunately, the boss fights serve well as landmarks along the way. So in addition to having a timer (which is based on elapsed frames rather than real time in case there are subtle differences between the speed at which the game runs) always going in the upper-left hand side of the screen, players will also be able to see how long it took them to reach each of these milestones.
For players who don’t necessarily want to compete with the best of the best to squeeze out as much time as possible, this feature also lets people set more modest goals for themselves. Try to beat your time to reach and defeat the first boss, the second boss, and so on.
Last but not least is the Share button functionality. I cannot wait to watch players streaming their runs on Twitch and ultimately having them displayed on sites like speedrunslive.com or speeddemosarchive.com.
Speedrun Mode is just one of the features I’m adding to Axiom Verge to make it the ideal game for diehard fans of the genre. Axiom Verge has been a passion project of mine for a really long time, so it will be very exciting to experience it with people who share my love for those classic games.