The last time we caught up with Swedish developer Kevin Andersson was way back in issue 32, when he’d recently made his charming tile-swapping puzzler, TaniNani. Nearly two years on, and Andersson’s just finished Hoplegs: a 2D platformer with an entirely different pace and tone from that previous outing. Like a combination of Super Meat Boy and I Am Bread, Hoplegs sees you control a cuboid character which can only be moved by shooting out a leg from four of its surfaces. Each leg is mapped to four face buttons on your controller, and traversing each level requires carefully timed presses in order to bounce, fling, and generally cajole your cube in the right direction. In other words, Hoplegs’ controls are the opposite of intuitive – which, of course, is precisely the point: wrestling with the game’s physics is as much a challenge as learning the layouts of each level, and the sense of chaos only increases when you rope in a friend for its co-op mode.
Andersson began work on Hoplegs immediately after TaniNani’s launch in early 2020, and if you’re a watcher of his livestreams on Twitch, you may have seen its genesis unfold in real time. “Since I live stream the majority of my development, I had a spontaneous little idea one day and I just had to try it out,” Andersson tells us. “It was a green box with coloured legs that extended, which let you jump in a weird way. It wasn’t easy to control, but I recorded a GIF after the stream right before I went to bed.”
Without thinking too much of it, Andersson uploaded the GIF to his Twitter account. It was only when he woke up the next morning that he realised the tweet had blown up overnight. “In the end, it became my biggest tweet ever,” he says, “so I knew that there was something interesting to work with.”
Spurred on by the hundreds of likes and retweets, Andersson continued to develop large chunks of what would become Hoplegs on his Twitch stream, with viewers suggesting ideas as the game gradually took shape. “Some of it was really fun, and (their suggestions) often didn’t take long to try, which led them to feel invested,” Andersson explains. “A fun community started to grow.”
Hop to it
Hoplegs’ design is similarly designed to foster a sense of community: the mechanics themselves seem tailor-made for streamers to wrestle in front of their viewers, while a level editor means that players can create infuriating obstacle courses of their own. Andersson also put the game into Early Access within a few months of development – all the better to get feedback from players. “The best part must be seeing everyone play the game live and cursing my name,” Andersson says. “Then having this back and forth again with the community and their levels. I didn’t change much in the story mode after Early Access, but the biggest work was on the level editor. Although there was this one section of a level I added some safe landing space because almost a third of the players stopped playing in one specific level.”
Indeed, ensuring that Hoplegs’ difficulty isn’t too infuriating for newcomers was one of Andersson’s major considerations as he began designing its levels. “It was important to me that a new player could pick up the game and slowly get through levels and learn how it worked, but also leave room for skilled players to have fun if they replayed a level. I actually made sure that the earlier levels barely had any upward direction, so there wasn’t a risk of falling down and losing progress, that would make the player quit the game. Getting the actual second-to-second gameplay to feel good is a combination of luck and a lot of testing.”
Both before and after Hoplegs’ release on Steam and Nintendo Switch, Andersson’s been constantly impressed by some of the level designs created by its growing community. “The best one before release was someone who made a space level; the game has zero gravity fields, so they filled a big area and placed some ground circle objects as planets, and you had to push yourself through the level. I first saw that during a livestream, so it was a good moment for the community. Then, after release, someone made an escape room level… That was very well executed and I was blown away.”
Andersson doesn’t yet know whether Hoplegs will be ported to other platforms, but he’s keen to keep supporting the game for some time yet – and, as ever, keeping players involved in whatever comes next. “I want to do more updates because I have more ideas to challenge players,” Andersson enthuses. “I hope to have a communication between me and the players about what they want to see as well.”
You can follow Andersson’s game dev livestreams at twitch.tv/anderssonkev.