The Game
How to play
Online Demo

Coding the Design

All began with the basic game design ideas of a snowman melting in hell and throwing his detachable head around as a weapon. The traditional 2D-platformer genre was chosen as the starting point for the gameplay, as it seemed to serve the ideas the best. Strong puzzle elements were added to maximize variation in the application of the design.

The first demo version of the game (never released in public) had only two levels, but all the main ideas were already clearly present. It even featured vertical scrolling, which was dropped later on, in order to simplify the gameplay.


A scene from an early version of the game. The style of the background graphics has since changed significantly, but the clay is alreay there (click to enlarge).


A screenshot from the second demo version, which already looks much like the final game, though with larger scale graphics. The bitmaps were made smaller later in order to increase performance and playability (click to enlarge).


Going Beyond Physics

For the final version we decided to spice up the gameplay by implementing some laws of physics in the game. This proved to be quite challenging, as the balance between realism and playability was not easy to find. The task was made more difficult by Director itself and its limitations, such as lack of precision in operations with floating-point numbers. Another problem was pure performance, as all the graphics, including the animations, were constructed of heavy bitmap images.

To achieve more realistic motion of the game characters and their bouncing off the cave walls, all mobile and immobile objects were modeled using two-dimensional vectors. In the game the vectors are hidden behind the visible bitmaps and animations that form the visual style of the game.


Discovering the vectors in the beginning of level 1 (click to enlarge).


One of the best features that came out from the “para-realistic” physics simulation was the ability to play around in the game, instead of just trying to win the game. Kicking and throwing monsters can have funny, unpredictable results as they bounce around the playfield. For example, an elevator may be jammed by a corpse blocking its path, or Snowman may end up wearing a dead monster as his head.

Some have claimed that we ended up with a game that is a bit too difficult, but this was a conscious choice. Most games today are way too straightforward, so we wanted to make this one more challenging in good retro spirit. And after all, being a snowman in hell IS hard as hell!


Some Tech Specs

Snowman in Hell is programmed entirely using only the basic Lingo scripting commands in Macromedia Director MX 9.0. No additional Director extensions are used, other than the built-in Xtras. All the scripts are created from scratch, though naturally using the net – and the laws of physics – as a reference. The final game includes somewhere around 5000 lines of Lingo code.

The still images were imported as PNG bitmaps and the animations as Flash animations. All the graphics are 2D, though a “fake 3D” effect (also known as Parallax scrolling) is created by scrolling the separate background and foreground layers at different speeds.