Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
I want to thank everyone for the kind words they've shared so far! I'm very excited to get these interview rolling. If you would like to volunteer for an interview, see here.
This specific interviewee was actually hand-picked before the previous blog post went live. I chose Dwaggienite
for the first Community Interview because of his recent involvement with a DLC pack in The Z Axis: Continuum
, which he was able to design himself. So without further ado, here he is to share some insight into the process.
THE INTERVIEWSee the man himself as he explains the recent title update.
Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours.
Ah this is simple. My favourite pokemon is Dragonite, and my name for about 15 years online has been 'Dwaggie'. Dwaggienite sounded perfect. It rolls off the tongue, and it's a name I've used to kind of... increase my 'brand' I guess, from Mixer to TA, to Xbox, to Twitter and Youtube etc.
Previously, my gamertag was 'TSG Dwaggie', the TSG standing for the The Speed Gamers, who are a group of gamers who do Speedruns in various series in events for charity. I did full speedrun playthroughs of Metroid Prime 1, Metroid Prime 2, and Metroid Prime Pinball in the August 2008 charity event, in which I was lucky enough to have the honour of performing those games, in hard mode, live, in front of the developers of the games, Retro Studios. At the time, I did them at world record pace, before most of the speed tricks and exploits were discovered. I did the first ever live recorded one-round defeat of the Elite Phazon Pirate in Phazon Mines (Metroid Prime 1) during that speed run. As a thank you, and as a reward for doing so well at those three titles, Retro Studios sent me this...
Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?
I've had my share of encounters on TA, from some really loyal friends to some downright hatred and harrassment. Sadly, that's part of today's world when you put yourself online. I honestly don't know how the rest of TA views me. What I'd like to be seen as is that I'm someone who always tries to do the right thing, always tries to help out, and is always open as someone to talk to, if people give me common courtesy and respect. Whether people see me that way, I guess that's for them to judge.
How long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing? Do you have any fond early memories of the hobby?
I've been gaming since I was 2 years old. The first game I ever played was on a green-screen Amstrad PC when I was 2. It was on one of those computer screens that only has the bright lime green text. It was a simple maths game that would just ask simple maths questions, E.g 4x5, and you'd type in your answer. I was doing (and beating) that at the age of 2.
It should be said that I have a form of autism, called Aspergers. This does make me a little socially awkward, and rather isolated and quiet. Now, when I was younger (this is 30 years ago), hardly anything was known about Aspergers, or autism in general. It was basically just put down as 'bad behaviour'. Anyway, I was about 4 years old before I actually properly started speaking. It's not because I was slow, I just, watched, learnt, and observed. I was a very quiet kid. Anyway, long story short, I was typing before I was talking, and my earliest memory is of that maths game on that old green-screen Amstrad.
Some people wouldn't call that gaming though. I think my first proper "video game" memory, was a Sega Master System. That was my first proper console. I'm pretty sure my first game that I played for that was a game called Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap (which last year had a remake on Xbox One). I didn't have the Sega Master System for long though.
My parents bought me a NES for christmas when I was 4 or 5, and I grew up playing Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt (by cheating by holding the light gun right in front of the screen :P), Power Blade, amongst others. I'm pretty sure I had the first Legend of Zelda too. I also had a gameboy, and, like everyone, I had Tetris. One of my earliest 'favourable' memories was 'clocking' the lines of tetris by hitting 999 lines. I did that at the age of five.As per tradition, we have Dwaggie's gaming set-up for all to see.
You mentioned TSG (The Speed Gamers) in your previous response. Do you have other fond memories outside of the August 2008 event? Would you ever go back to speed-running games for charity?
Of course I would! Although, sadly, I don't think I'm good enough to speedrun at world-record pace anymore. I think I've found a good niche with the achievehunts, the full playthroughs, and the 'chill' content, such as realm royale, etc.
Let's hear about your home life.
I've spent my whole life in the middle of England. I currently live in a nice, quiet village, which is quite peaceful. You can hear the birds when you wake up, it's wonderful. It's common to see squirrels outside in the trees. It's nice to be away from the loud noises of the city. Not much else to say there really. :)
Do you have any special gaming memories? What piqued your interest in achievement hunting?
I mentioned my first video games above, but the first one I actively went back to was Tetris. I think when we look back in the past at video games, we don't look back at the video games themselves, we, as nostalgic as we get about past games we've played, look back at the memories they've given us. The 'moments' that I mention that come to mind for me are:
1. The first time I got a Tetris. Everyone remembers the first. I was sitting upside down on my bed, my legs half-way up the headboard of the bed and up the wall.
2. Our first caught Pokémon. I'd saved pocket money for 30 weeks (£1 a week at the time) to buy Pokémon Red. Every saturday for 12 weeks after that, I went to WHSmiths to see if they had it in stock yet. They didn't. I had to wait over 9 months to play that game. It was so depressing. Eventually I got it though, and my first caught Pokémon? It was a Pidgey. Level 2. High Attack stat. I named it Podge. Can't remember why.
3. The first time I loaded up the gamecube to hear that gamecube entrance graphic. I did a month's work in Toys 'R' Us as a till operator over the Christmas period. Whilst I earnt just enough money to buy that console (it was the first console that I ever bought with my own money), it served me to realise that I never want to work retail again.
4. The first time we yelled at our sibling for picking Oddjob in Goldeneye. I hate that little midget. *Grump*
5. Playing 2-player Red Alert 2: Command & Conquer, creating a butt-load of Tanyas and just going into my brother's base and taking over every single building because he had neglected to build Tesla Towers.
6. Pokémon Snap. For the first time, we saw Pokémon in 3D, and not 2D sprites. It didn't matter to me that all the Pokémon weren't in the game. The first time I saw that 3D Dragonite bellowing his roar, I saw... I felt what gaming could be.
In regards to achievement hunting... when I moved home, I got a new console, an Xbox 360. It was one of those old Pros that were super-susceptible to errors such as red rings, graphic errors, etc. I went through 5 of them (all with graphic rendering issues, no red-rings, thankfully - must have been a bad batch), but eventually I got one from Gamestation that worked fully. Got it with one game, Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix
. Despite what TA says, where for some reason it counts offline achievements as earned on the day you created your TA account, I actually completed this in about two days or so. It was my first completion on Xbox, and I was hooked.
Do you have a favorite game? What genres do you prefer?
With over 1¼ million gamerscore, it's hard to have a favourite game. I think I'd point people to what games I play specifically for fun, despite getting all the achievements in them. I regularly play Overwatch and Realm Royale with friends, because I find those very fun. I like the world of Overwatch and the lore. I've actually purchased multiple statues from the Blizzard store; D.Va (and her Mech), Widowmaker, Tracer, and Mercy. I would like them to make a Symmetra statue though. As for Realm Royalee, I'm pretty good at that. Both alone and solo, I've racked up a total of over 300 wins to date.
Off Xbox, I do like playing Tetris 99 on Nintendo Switch. A battle royale for Tetris is the greatest idea Nintendo have ever had.
What about games and genres that you don't like?
As for games I don't like, I can't stand grind-fests, such as Final Fantasy games, or any MMO. I'm not a fan of fighters like Killer Instinct or Street Fighter, either. I hate the battle systems, I hate how we have to memorize button combinations. I find it to be the complete opposite of fun, to be honest.
When it comes to Genres, I LOVE puzzle games, especially ones that give unique mechanics, such as Z Axis Continuum (shameless plug, more on that later :P), Yosumin, Puyo Puyo, Puzzle Fighter, and things like that.
Do you have a preference towards single player games or multiplayer?
It depends upon the game. I prefer stuff that can be done single player, because then you don't have to rely on others to be available, but co-op stuff, set in games that are "specifically" for coop can be fun too. The co-op only game 'A Way Out' was a fantastic example of this, and I truly hope the developers will come up with more titles similar to that.
You mentioned your Switch. Do you play on other consoles?
Yes, I play on Nintendo Switch occasionally, although I don't own many titles for that, smash bros ultimate, tetris 99, minecraft (for the achievements :P) are basically it. And I'll be getting the Zelda: Link's Awakening remake in September. I also still own my gameboy colour, gameboy SP, Pikachu N64 (20+ years old and still working like a dream), and my gamecube. I was a huge gamecube and N64 fan. I have most of the classic games for those two consoles.
Would you ever create a new tag, or switch to achievement hunting on a different console?
Nah, I'm at 1.25 mil on this tag, not gonna change tags now :p I've got no interest in playstation trophies, or steam achievements, but I do enjoy playing the above-mentioned games on Nintendo Switch :)
Share your biggest accomplishments on TA! Do you hold any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?
Oooh! Now I have a few things to be proud of here. I've been the first person to complete multiple games, Taptiles (Win 8)
, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition
, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition (Xbox 360)
, The Culling
, The Jackbox Party Pack 5
, ACA NEOGEO Gururin (Win 10)
, Awesome Pea
, and Puyo Puyo Champions
However, I think my proudest moment is a world record that I seriously believe will probably never be beaten. I purchased the japanese-only release of Puyo Puyo Tetris
for Xbox One. To date, I am the only person who 'clocked' the scoreboard of that game, hitting 99,999,999 score, but going above that with the game bonuses after I purposefully ended the game so my score could be uploaded. Puyo Puyo Leaderboard
As you can see from the leaderboard, I ended up with a score of 137,057,499. You can see a video of me purposefully ending the record-setting run here:
This was less of a score run, and more of an 'endurance'. How long could I continue? How long would my body hold up? I decided to go until I clocked the scoreboard, and so, to my knowledge, I'm the only person in history who's ever done that.
Your site rank on TA is #33. This is pretty impressive. Are there any gaming goals that you're working towards as you climb the ranks?
I'll be honest. Dependant on if I'm in the mood for gaming or not, I've been fluctuating site position between 33-38 for months! I'm more focused on the completion leaderboards, where I've been #1 in England for quite a while, and 2nd in europe. I've been fluctuating from 6-8th worldwide for the last couple of years, also. I'd like to continue completing games, and doing videos. I've kind of created my own Hashtag, #AchieveHunt, which I use for my streams, and I upload these achievement hunts to my youtube channel. This is where I basically take a shortish game (normally an ACA, Sometimes You, or Ratalaika game recently :P) and do an AchieveHunt of it, popping all the achievements in one sitting. Heck, if I can do it, anyone can.
So you stream and use your own hashtag? Do you have other goals with your content? Any favorite pieces to share?
My goals are just to entertain. If I never get big, or even if I do, there's a gigantic archive of my content on YouTube, which people can always watch. All of the various youtube content is also linked to from the 'About Me' part of my mixer stream page. I've pretty much standardized my youtube thumbnails too, so that anytime people see a thumbnail, they should be able to go, "Oh, that's Dwaggienite. I know him, he does good stuff.", and then, watch it. And unlike most youtubers, I refuse to put my face on the youtube thumbnails. xD I HATE people who do that. I believe it shows extreme narcissism. I think the content should be the game being played, not the player playing the game.
As a content creator yourself, are there any Youtubers or streamers that you enjoy watching?
I like watching some streamers. I completely stay off of Twitch because I find the community to be so extremely toxic. It's a junkyard of idiots, in my opinion, just like youtube comment sections. Lol. I stick to Mixer nowadays. The community is much nicer there. I'm also trying to push for partner there, and I satisfy all requirements except the concurrent viewers before I get to get that.
I love watching SovietWomble's stuff on youtube. I also love watching both Slinkonage and LyndonSG on Mixer. I count both of those as very good friends.
Looking at your completion percentage, it's quite high. Are there any games you regret starting? Any that were too difficult to finish?
Oh god yes!!! I wish I never started Dead Rising 1. A game that has to, in my opinion, go down for the worse gameplay and saving mechanic in the history of any game. And don't get me started on the freaking survivor AI in that game. ARGH. Absolutely BAD game and I would happily lose the gamerscore from that title if I could get that POS from my card.
Another game I regret starting is Mirror's Edge; not because it's a bad game, but because the time trials are so ridiculously difficult. I also regret Dark Void. This one's a weird one, however. At the time I bought it there had been DLC with achievements that had not been added with the Xbox Achievements service for approximately 11 months. So I bought the game, and got the easy 1000G from the base game. And then, just my luck, the DLC achievement were added to the xbox service a week or so late. The DLC achievements are very hard. Just my luck, right?
Finally, another game that I fully regret starting is Pure Pool, on Xbox One. The developers outright refuse to put a top-down viewpoint on it, and seem to think it's fun forcing people to level up across hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours to get that last achievement for the highest rank. Message to developers: if your game does it, you're unconsciously telling me something: "We're putting this achievement in to get people to play for long periods because our game can't get people to play for that long on its own." - THAT'S what your developer choices tell me. And you know what that tells me? The game's crap and not worth my time. Actively doing that LOSES you a sale from me; SOLELY for that reason.
I think I can only think of three games that have been actively too difficult for me to finish at the current moment in time, or at least, the ones I've not mentioned above.
1) Tetris: The Grandmaster Ace Achievements. This was a japanese-only, region-locked xbox 360 launch title which couldn't even be played if you weren't a gold xbox live member. Now, I want to make it clear, I am phenominally good at tetris. I'd estimate myself to be in the top 1% of all players worldwide. However, as this game is in full japanese, and there's no pause, I have to translate with my very bad japanese to work out what I have to do, and you have extreme time limits for the last few achievements that I've not attained. Sadly, I gave up. Still, I ended that with 43/50 and 805/1000 so I'm relatively pleased with that. I really wish I could have finished it, however.
2) F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon Achievements. This game had some really crazy achievement score divisions. Whilst I only have 5 achievements left out of 47, that totals up to 210G. Including some achievements require me to go through the whole playthrough under specific rules (killing every enemy, less than 500 rounds of ammo, etc.), and some of that I fear is near-impossible. I'd love to complete this game, but tbh, I can't see it ever happening.
3) Perfect Dark Zero Achievements ; One of the hardest games I've ever played, tbh. I would literally pay someone to carry me through Co-Op Perfect Agent and Co-Op Dark Agent so that I could unlock those achievements, just so I can get the 75% done for Rare Replay. Rare replay is the ONLY reason I started this title. I was playing coop with a friend a few months ago, and we've just not gone back to it.
What's something that irks you about gaming? It can be a game mechanic, developers, or even habits of other gamers.
Buckle in, this is going to be detailed. Lets segment this between game mechanics, developers, and other players.
1) Players who join into a competitive team game, whilst they're in a private party chat with their friend. They join team games in pairs, and don't communicate, then complain or rage quit when they're losing. For me, this is a massive problem with Overwatch. If you're in a party chat and don't communicate with your team? You instantly get avoided after the match and reported for bad sportsmanship/teamwork. If you want to do that, go to Quick Play. Not competitive. By not communicating, you're putting us at a disadvantage, and to me, that's unsporting conduct.
2) Leaderboard hoggers. People who've known me for a long time will know exactly which games I'm talking about here. There is a group, many of whom are long-term members of TA, who actively block leaderboards in certain games to stop people getting achievements. I'm not going to mention the games, or the people, but we all know who they are. Yet, they're allowed to continue using TA to communicate and actively block these leaderboards, and there seems to be no repercussions for them. If I had my way, I'd permanently ban them from the site. They are NOT good for the gaming community, and they are incredibly selfish, asking large amounts of money to ALLOW you to get the achievements with their hard work. Not only is this against Microsoft's TOS, but it's morally wrong.
A few years ago, I was involved in (and organising) getting people some leaderboard achievements in a set of games where their stacks all got their leaderboards reset in a one-off event. It was going fine, until the original blockers of the leaderboard decided to infiltrate and ruin it. These people are scum, and should be actively removed from our community, because they've consistently shown that they are not contributing to it, and do not deserve to be a part of it.
3) Gamers who try to push their labels on others. I'm being very careful with my words here, because the people in question are so sensitive to any sort of criticism that they call it ____phobia, or whatever. Fact of the matter is, I'm a gamer. You're a gamer. That's all that matters to me. Gaming is transcendent above everything. I don't give a rat's ass what your gender, sexuality, race, political leanings, or any other label that you wish to give yourself are. My only care is, 'Can we work together to accomplish the gaming objective?'. If we can? Great! Lets get on with it! If we can't, go away. I don't care about, nor do I have the time or the will to care with drama. I see you as an equal. Period. No exception. No labels are needed. If you feel the need to bring labels into it, that's a 'you' problem, not a 'me' problem.
4) 'The Blazers'. You know the type. These are the ones who are most likely to have 'XXX', '420' 'BLAZE' 'Snypez' or the like in their gamertags. If you're have these in your gamertag, or you go on about how high you are, I'm not going to think you're cool. I'm going to think you're an uneducated moron not worthy of my time.
So, before I start, I'm going to make it quite clear. I analyze what developers do very carefully, and I look beyond public remarks to what they aren't saying. You may have thought this from an earlier question. So I'm going to list some things that Devs do that irk me, and I'm going to say how I read the situation, and how I read what they're not saying in whatever it is that they do.
1) Lootboxes for pay-to-win items (This specifically does NOT include cosmetics, e.g. Overwatch).
Oh boy, I'm sure you all knew where this was going. So Devs, I'm speaking straight to you. If you put lootboxes (that you can buy with real money) in games that are full retail price? It's an INSTANT no-purchase for me. If I've paid for a full game, and you're asking me to dish out more money for a chance of getting a better gameplay item, you can shove your game up your arse. You will not see a single penny from me. Needless to say, this automatically cuts out all EA Sports titles, 2k sports titles, and quite a few other so-called 'AAA' titles, such as Call of Duty. Please note that, dependent on the situation, if your game is free, I understand the need for these pay-to-win mechanics, otherwise you simply cannot support the game unless your game is completely covered in ads. If you simply must put lootboxes in game, put them in for levelling up, and just have them as cosmetics and stuff. Also, and I can't stress this enough, if you're going to put it so players can get duplicates of items, allow players to transfer these duplicates into equal-value game-currency, or allow them to upgrade/trade these items to higher-tiered items. NEVER should lootboxes be paid for. Any items from lootboxes should ALWAYS be tradeable to other players in-game.
2) Escort missions. Ugh. The bane of my existence are escort missions where the escortee is a damn moron. If you're escorting someone who you can't give a gun to, or a melee weapon to, THEN WHAT USE ARE THEY?! Resident Evil 4... "LEON, HELP!". Mmmf... I was so pleased when I got her the knight armour for the Professional Difficulty playthrough. I renamed her 'The Human Bollard', which I felt was much more adequate.
3) Griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinding. Now, I know some of the JRPG players love grinding in RPGs for levels and such. Fair play to you. I find it monotonous, boring, and a waste of my time, which is why, until recently, I've never played a Final Fantasy game in my life. I recently started Final Fantasy VII on Xbox One at the behest of one of my friends who said, "Give it a try, it's easy.". I honestly can't see why this is a cult classic. It's BORING AS ALL HELL. Oh my god, lets run around and grind levels and kills to level up our limit breaks and our materias so we can grind gold to get decent weapons and get the awesome super power mega golden chocobo. WHOOHOO. -.-; Seriously though? I don't enjoy grinding for levels and stuff in videogames, and I can't see why anyone does. That's just my opinion though. If you like, it more power to you. I won't criticize you for that. Different folks enjoy different things.
4) Unobtainable achievements. This one's a simple one. If you can't be arsed to test your game's achievements; which has been a vital part of the Xbox system since launch 2005, then it's clear you can't be arsed to test the rest of your game. If you aren't going to test your game and make sure everything works, why the hell should I play your game, Devs?
5) Sales on Season Passes (ESPECIALLY for episodic games) before the entire season/series is available. Ok, launch day for Episode 1 comes out for £4, with a season pass for £16. Four more episodes to come. I'm loyally supporting the game by buying these two items day one. Episode 3 (of 5) is released. Season pass, which has episodes 2-5 in it, is down to £8. Devs, please tell me why I should keep buying season passes at launch when you're gonna put them on sale for half price before you've even released half the game? Telltale were and Dontnod (Life is Strange) are NOTORIOUSLY bad for this. It is a slap in the face to the loyal Day One supporters of your game. This is specifically the reason why I refused to purchase Life is Strange 2, and decided to play it on Xbox Game Pass, for free. It's your own fault you lost a sale, Dontnod.
Developers I actively avoid: EA, 2K, Ubisoft, Activision, Rockstar, Epic Games, Bioware, and Konami.
Developers I actively support: Rebellion (I LOVE their games, some of the best I've ever played!), Artifex Mundi (I love their graphically beautiful hidden-object titles), Sometimes You, Ratalaika, ID Software, Indie Developers, ID@Xbox Developers
Do you have any opinions to share on industry news? Loot boxes, micro-transactions, poor developers? Feel free to be opinionated.
I think most of this I've said about already. However, omg Doom Eternal can't get here quick enough.
Also, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remake on Nintendo Switch. I'm really wanting the limited edition to this, but they've all been bought up by ebay scalpers who want at least double the price. It's disgraceful. Nintendo need to pull their finger out and meet the demand so that the scalpers can't make profit. Nintendo always has this problem, whether it's with amiibos, limited editions, or their damn consoles. It's so disappointing.
What do you enjoy most about video games? What do you enjoy most about TA?
The escapism, as well as 'The Moments'. I've spoken about the 'moments' earlier in this interview, so let me explain 'The Escapism'. Games that have the ability to put you into the games, and make you feel isolated, are some of the greatest games. Telltale's Episodic games did this well. However, more recently, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and A Plague Tale: Innocence did this phenomenally well, by putting us in the stories, and letting us be the characters, feeling AS the characters. It's little things of development brilliance that bring us into the game rather than making us feel like a spectator. It's those developmental tricks that turn good games into great games.
As many already know, you designed your own DLC to the game The Z Axis: Continuum. Tell us about the experience!
To answer the question about the title update, it basically goes back to a few days after the game was released. I basically had a thought where it was simply, "I can do things with this engine.", and I put an email across to Jamie to ask if I'd be able to design some levels. This was in early August 2018.
Originally, Jamie was considering giving users the ability to make their own levels, and share them across the Xbox platform (similarly to how Doom 2016's level share works), however, due to limitations of the Xbox platform's service, this idea was shelved.
Instead, he gave me the go-ahead to design some levels. You can see one of my early designs for Trial 1 here:
Now, for those who have played the title update, the latter half of that Trial changed considerably to what has now been released. The reason for this is because the Unity development system (Unity is the software that the game was coded in) was causing frame-rate drops for longer, 'thinner' levels. This was easily fixed by instead of having two long segments (like in the design above), we could instead change it to four shorter segments in a square-level formation, and having a warp-door for each ball that was going to be created. In the design above, the balls haven't even been added into the design yet. The final design was designed to teach new players (i.e. those who had not actually played far into the main game) to look at 2 things at once, rather than a single item. This is a skill necessary for the final trial (more on that later).
After we set the basic design for Trial 1, I set to work on Trial 2. I wanted to use a mechanic in the game (the moving segments) that hadn't really been focused on with gravity rotation for multiple items at once in the original 30 levels. I decided a simple 'logjam' trail would work for this, which would teach the player to plan ahead for the movement of the logjam pieces, whilst also being careful to not have the player character fall into the logjam 'passageways', and get killed by the spikes. This was to teach the player to check the surroundings before rotating gravity.
Trial 3 is where things get really interesting, as it introduced a mechanic not available in the main game; ball collisions. However, this caused a major issue in the game engine. The game would completely lag down to about 0.2 frames per second.
For a month or so, we couldn't think of any solution to this issue. Jamie then came up with an idea. He introduced a bit of coding to the engine named 'The Dwaggie Optimization'. You can see this here:
When building each level in the game, there's two 'layers' that get drawn into the game. The first is the obvious textures - the shapes of the wall, i.e. the black 'walls' that you see. The second layer is the collision detection, a.k.a. hitboxes. When all the balls were hitting each other, it was sending so much physics data to the engine that the engine couldn't cope. Ironically, the achievements for this level are the 'K4rn4ge' achievements.
The workaround for this was to have a special bit of code (the Dwaggie Optimization) which on every frame, checked the velocity/speed of each moveable bit of collision detection on each frame of the game, and it would preemptively work out the physics of the collisions in advance, thus stopping some of the framerate stuttering. However, this still slowed the game down to about 2 or 3 frames a second. For Trial #3, that was completely unacceptable with what the level was designed to do.
Further optimization was needed, and with that, Jamie came up with a brilliant idea. Segmenting collision detection into three groups. The first group was 1/3 of the hitboxes of the level. The second group was the 2nd 1/3 of the hitboxes of the level. The third group was the 3rd 1/3 of the hitboxes of the level.
What this new optimization did was turn off 2/3rds of all collision detection for every frame of gameplay, but the thirds that were turned off would alternate every frame. So the new optimization worked like this:
First frame: The game would turn off collisions for the 2nd and 3rd 1/3rds of hitboxes, and would examine collisions for only the 1st 1/3rd hitboxes, then it would play the physics of the collisions out on the next frame.
Second frame: The game would turn off collisions for the 1st and 3rd 1/3rds of hitboxes, and would examine collisions for only the 2nd 1/3rd hitboxes, then it would play the physics of the collisions out on the next frame.
Third frame: The game would turn off collisions for the 1st and 2nd 1/3rds of hitboxes, and would examine collisions for only the 3rd 1/3rd hitboxes, then it would play the physics of the collisions out on the next frame (which would be the 'first frame') and the sequence would repeat.
This simple bit of coding basically opened up the engine for much more levels, and it solved all the framerate stutter. It was a very, very clever bit of coding, and I can only give my admiration for Jamie coming up with it. With all this done, Trial 3 was designed to teach the player how to interact with multiple physics-based moving objects, and how to get one of those objects to do exactly what the player wanted it to do.
With the first three Trials now being done, and ready in the title update, it was time to put all the skills that the player would have learnt in the first three trials to use in the 4th trial. This was the big one.
Trial 4 is designed to get the player to put to use everything they've learnt from the previous 3 trials. From rolling balls proficiently, to using the gravity to get round a maze quicker than running, to being able to control multiple moving logjams, and being able to control a single, specific ball amongst the chaos of multiple 'annoyance' balls.
This final trial is a trial that didn't really change much at all from the base design. The only major modification was that originally, the player character was supposed to stay in one segment, and rotate the camera around with it zoomed out massively. However, on smaller screens, this made it near-impossible to actually see what was going on. To get around this, we introduced a simple 'warp room' in the middle of each area, which would lock the player in place until the task of each area was completed. The player character could then get back to the 'door corridor' to allow them to progress to the next segment of the trial.
The final segment of the final Trial was one of the most engine-intensive bits of level design that we had to do. With well over fifty switch-doors, and well over 150 physics-collision balls, this really put the earlier-mentioned 'Dwaggie Optimization' through it's paces, and luckily, it passed with flying colours.
Originally, this room was going to be designed to be a more pachinko-like level, with pins and such sending the balls in annoying directions. I then came up with the idea to have segmented switch doors. At the top of this final room, there are five white doors which need to be opened. However, they can only be opened by the single glowing white ball that the player can move around in this area, and to open them, the player has to guide that single white ball through the chaos of 150+ red balls to five switches located in different segmented alcoves of the room. With all the flashing switch-doors, however, we found that finding the switches was hard for a player.
To counteract this, Jamie came up with the excellent idea of highlighting the current switch target by a red 'spotlight' around the alcove in question, showing the player where they needed to direct the white ball next. This solved the problem, and also gave the player a sense of direction.
With that being done, all we needed to do was get the code compiled and put into the Xbox game via a title update, and thus, The Dwaggienite Trials came to fruition, and at 1am on 8th July 2019, the title update went live, bringing 500 gamerscore to a title which many people had sadly overlooked.
Many people have asked why we did only four levels. The simple answer is that we wanted to see how far we could push the purpose-built engine that Jamie had created. This title update allowed us to see how far we can push it, especially with physics objects, and we now know what we can do with it.
I do intend on creating many more levels for this title in the future, so any further updates will have more than 4 levels, and also, have more achievements in free title updates.
Both the developer, Jamie Holub, and I believe that once you have played a game, you shouldn't have to pay for additional content. We also firmly believe that achievements should be based on what the player can do, not on if a player can be faster than another player (i.e. leaderboard achievements). Speedrun leaderboards may come in the future for each level, but it is a 100% guarantee from us that there will be no achievements tied to the leaderboards (or your positions on them) at all.
As it is, this is a bit of gaming history for me. We have provided a bit of gaming immortality for some gamers by getting their gamertags as the names of achievements, and that's something that can't be replicated, and is something that a very, very small amount of people have been able to have. I believe this might be the first time that this has ever happened, and in my opinion, that is truly, truly something special.
Gaming is about those single moments in time where, throughout the rest of your lives, you can look back at those single, small moments of time, and go, "I remember, and that was awesome." It doesn't matter if it's getting your first 'Tetris' in a game, catching your first Pokémon, beating Bowser for the first time, this update provides memories for those named in those achievements, and they're memories that will never be forgotten; "Achievement Unlocked: You."
Having moments like that is what games should strive for; to have something memorable, and for those people named in those achievements, it's a small part of immortality that will live on for as long as the Xbox Achievement system exists.
There are a few other TA members honored in the achievements besides yourself. Are these friends of yours? And if so, are they excited to see their gamertags attached to a game?
Yes, the TA members named in the achieves are those who have supported me in my streaming channel, and markhamfists is a long-term friend of about 9 years. I wanted to give these individuals something that will be forever there, as a thank you, giving a little bit of immortality to these people who I really care for and appreciate.
For those who are hoping to complete your new addition to the game, is there any advice you'd like to give them?
The DLC is simple, but the par times are slightly more difficult. Trial #1 is basically teaching you to use both eyes to move things. Trial #2 basically teaches you how the physics of the logjams work. Trial #3 teaches you how the physics of collisions work in the game, and teach you to move one physics object through a large amount of others. Trial #4, the final trial, is the culmination of these lessons. To get under the par time, you'll have to learn all three.
Now that it's out for everyone to see, is there anything you'd change about the DLC?
I am extremely happy how the DLC turned out, and ignoring a timer bug (which the dev has already patched and put through to Microsoft in a hotfix which should be released ASAP), I wouldn't change a thing.
You mentioned that you have plans for additional levels? If you could, who else would you give shout-outs to?
I can 100% guarantee you that additional levels for Z Axis will be designed in the future. Both myself and Jamie have some excellent ideas now that we know how far we can push the engine, especially with the use of the Dwaggie Optimization. I have plenty of ideas which will be unlike anyone has seen before. There will definitely be more shoutouts to those who I couldn't get into the achievements for The Dwaggienite Trials. I believe that loyalty and friendship should be rewarded, and I want to give things that can be permanent memories.
Are there any friends you'd like to give a shout-out to now as the interview wraps up?
There's too many to mention, but I'd just like to thank everyone for their support, and I'd just like to give shameless plugs to my twitter (https://www.twitter.com/Dwaggienite
) where I commonly have giveaways for easy 1000G games. My Mixer channel (https://www.mixer.com/Dwaggienite
), and my Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/Dwaggienite
I always want to entertain, and that's what I try to do with my streams. I want to help people, that's what I do with my achievehunts. I want to build a community that cares and looks after each other.