Core Puzzle Mechanics

Hey everyone, Sam here to talk to you about our core puzzle mechanics in the game. Of the many elements of the game, the puzzles have been one of the elements that has been constantly revised (whether it was drastic overhauls with different types of puzzles or with minor tweaks to playability). Initially, we had many different ideas on how we wanted to tackle the puzzles in our game (from having blocks that required multiple stars to moving doors). Eventually, we decided to focus on a few core elements that players found fun in play-tests, including: racing against a platform to catch up to it, trying to stay on a platform as it keeps moving, and climbing a huge tower. While these puzzles were received pretty well in playtests, problems became clear the more we playtested the game. The first problem that emerged was not in the puzzles themselves, but in how we laid out the level. We initially decided that it would be best to have players be able to play any puzzle in any order to foster a sense of exploration. However, this meant that puzzles were designed to all be relatively equal in terms of difficulty, which did not allow us to build upon previous levels or properly introduce mechanics to players.

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The second problem that emerged was that the puzzles were not focused. While they did feature the player in a different scenario for each puzzle, the player was basically using the same set of strategies to overcome the puzzle, and the puzzles therefore felt somewhat similar. Additionally, the openness of each puzzle meant players would often lose track of their stars and that the difficulty of missing a jump often resulted in a great deal of lost progress. Thus, to counter these problems, we decided to pivot the core of the puzzle design into something simpler and easier to understand. Instead of focusing on different scenarios, we decided to focus on the 3 basic ways objects can be manipulated: transform, rotation, and scale. This allowed us to create more interesting puzzles that felt more focused that also built upon the knowledge that players had accumulated as they played. In addition, we changed the game from semi-linear to primarily linear to allow for our puzzles to build upon themselves. This has allowed players to actually be able to complete our puzzles and allowed for a lot more players to enjoy the game. KISS (Keep it simple, silly) continues to be a core way to streamline and improve our design.

Designing the Intro

Hey everyone, Sam here to tell you about how we are designing the intro (at least the non-interactive aspect) of our game. One of the problems with a designing only a small fraction of your game (be it a simple prototype or a vertical slice) is in choosing what information to convey to the player (both in terms of story you want to create and also in terms of instructions/tutorial). A game designer’s instinct might be to cram as much information as possible in your vertical slice. After all, the more jam packed your game is with content, the longer people will play it and want to replay it, right? Unfortunately, more content/information != players wanting to continue to play your game. In fact, the opposite tends to be true. Therefore, it is best practice to be very selective and smart about what you convey to your player. As some members of our team like to say, KISS (Keep it simple, silly).

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Not only is conveying too much information detrimental to the overall experience of the game, but it also takes away time that could better be spent polishing your game. Therefore, for the intro of our game, we were directly inspired by games like Orchids to Dusk (the game can be found here). Although the intro to that game is very simple (and the story conveyed is also very basic), it gives you all the necessary information you need to start and is very efficient with the information. Thus, instead of trying to convey the very intricate story we mentioned a few weeks ago we are going very minimalist and basic with our approach in order to tease a basic story, but not waste the player’s time. Furthermore, we are designing our demo in that matter as well, keeping things relatively short, so the demo does not become bloated. We would much rather have players want more than for them to lose interest and give up. Below are two examples of screens we plan to use (both are WIP that will be changed as we progress further in development). Tutorial-Example

Loading-Example

Sure, these are super basic, but can breeze through the information if they want to skip it and is not distracting to the overall experience. The second image gives you a little bit of insight into the story, but is deliberately vague and simple to both keep the flow going and to peak a player’s interest. Obviously, these will be fleshed out more as time goes on, but we would much rather design simple and to the point than make something that serves no purpose besides looking pretty.

Laying out the Lore

Hey everyone, Sam here to tell you a little bit about the lore of our game. One of the problems that emerged while working on this type of game was the need for some sort of basic lore in the game, as there were elements in our game that seemed out of place and did not mesh well. Those elements were primarily the platforms in the game. While players loved the general background art in the game, they were not fans of the platforms, which felt out of place with the environment (since they were pretty basic rectangles that feel inconsistent). Thus, we needed to detail the lore for the game way more to help us connect elements that did not match. After a lot of discussion, here is an excerpt of the lore we created:

“In our game, constellations are worshipped because of their ability to grant wishes. Constellations and stars are created by Artemis, goddess of nature, to handle fulfilling dreams for the people of Greece. During this time, Orion, a famed hunter with legendary exploits, wanted even the Gods to recognize his fame and started hunting down every creature in Greece. To protect the animals and teach Orion a lesson, Artemis turned the mortal man Orion into a constellation, with the intent that he fulfill the dreams of the people he hurt . However, Orion, furious that he was changed, unleashed his fury on the animals constellations of the world and severly weakened many of them, leaving them a shell of their former selves. The only animal constellation to survive was the trickster fox, Vulpecula, but she was very hurt and needed to rest in Artemis’ observatory, which serves as the place of worship for the constellations .

Orion grew more and more support from the people of Greece not only for his exploits, but also because the lack of animal constellations meant that dreams were no longer being fulfilled. Therefore, shrines and previous places of worship were largely abandoned by the people of Greece. While the other gods are content with Orion’s actions, as has promised that he will have his followers praise them in his places of worship, Artemis is displeased with Orion’s actions and asks her father, Zeus, to stop this madness. Zeus says that he will intervene only after the animal constellations have proven themselves capable of handling themselves. With Vulpecula being the only remaining animal constellation, Artemis tasks her with reviving the other constellations with her celestial powers and stopping Orion’s lust for power. This is the overall arching story of the game, but for the sake of clarity and a shorter time frame, the player simply wakes up and goes to save one constellation, Corvus.”

That all sound nice and dandy, right? Well, while we did have a better understanding of the world we were building, this is far too much exposition for a brief, 10 minute video. Therefore, we decided to simplify this further and just explain that Orion was a bad constellation and threw the other animal constellations to the Earth, hurting the animal constellations. The stars left an impact in the forest they landed in, causing objects to float in the area effected and are now able to be manipulated by one with the power of constellations (aka the player). This simpler lore still explains the players goals, but ties the mechanics better into the lore and allows us to explain the story in a short amount of time.