The first step in advancing the design of the game was for me to decide how I wanted it to play. Milosz and I met with our tutor James to discuss possible genres for the game and receive critique on our ideas. When first coming up with the game idea in semester 1 I envisioned it as a puzzle platformer, but after careful consideration we determined this would be a huge task because the atmosphere I was aiming for was too realistic for floating platforms, and otherwise I would have to allow for platforms and ledges to match up across the vastly different architectural styles of the two cities. Additionally, I wasn’t interested in a parkour style of progression through the cities.
Another genre we considered was point-and-click puzzle game, such as those by Amanita Design, as their visual style really appeals to me and I thought it would allow me to create the perfect atmosphere for the cities, utilising 2D artwork in the level designs. However, James suggested we didn’t limit ourselves to the constraints of a point-and-click, and Milosz’s skills lie in 3D modelling, so we would have had to design a 3.5D point-and-click puzzle game, designed in a 3D space but played in a 2D format. At that point I realised the appeal of the genre was no longer there for me if it lacked the illustrated environments.
In order to really settle on an appropriate genre, James asked me to reflect on what the key experience I wanted to create with my game was. I decided that it was simply for the player to feel like the two groups in the game have become so far divided that they are actually missing part of what makes them a fully functioning society, and it then became clear that my game’s mechanics would need to reflect this message. We settled on the idea of a puzzle game that makes use of the world switching mechanic, and Milosz went away to brainstorm some puzzle ideas whilst I produced concept art to help settle on a visual style for the game.
However, as Milosz’s skills lie in more technical areas, he was unable to come up with any compelling mechanics so I then took on this role instead, resulting in us losing a bit of time. This was partly an oversight on my part because I should have really confirmed that my partner was confident handling this task before we allocated it. If I could redo this project, I’d have taken on puzzle design from the start and stayed true to what I know our individual skills are, me in design and Milosz in development, because we had limited time for this project and should not have taken that chance.
The game structure that we settled on was 5 enclosed locations, each with their own puzzle within that must be completed before progressing to the next area. I decided to go with bespoke puzzles for each location because this would allow me to get creative and have fun designing each and every individual one, and this concept of unique puzzles instead of one recurring puzzle mechanic is an element of Amanita Design’s games that I really enjoy. Together, we brainstormed ideas for the locations and starting points for the puzzles, which I then went away and developed further. The 5 locations we initially planned were:
- City gates leading to a marketplace
- Street lined with shops
- Residential area
These locations changed with time. I realised that a street lined with shops was a relatively mundane location that didn’t offer much in the way of puzzle opportunities. A park is a place that would only appear in the yellow city, and I couldn’t think of what it could be in the blue city. The blue city, although set in Industrial Revolution England, would not have a church because there would be no place for a seemingly functionless building.
As I developed the puzzles, I realised that the order of the locations needed to be changed too, so that there was a steady incline of difficulty. I also had to cut out 1 location due to time constraints, as I underestimated how long it would take me to design the puzzles. I wished I had started to design the puzzles earlier so we could have one more location in the game, however after actually playtesting it, the 4 locations we ended up with seem substantial enough for a full game because they are quite complex. The final order in which you visit each location is as follows:
- City gates leading to residential area
There is more information on why I decided on each of these locations in the puzzles blog posts.