Here We Go Again

The IGF just released their deadlines again. 11-1 is the day. 11-15 is it if my acceptance to Cal State comes though, again. Middle of September is the last day my ADA will be really available, so we need to be mostly done by then. Time, as always, is of the essence and in short supply. I’m feeling good though. I have 2 months to get it in the can, and then I’ll have almost another 2 months to get it polished, feature complete and running like a well oiled machine. All in all, I’m feeling good about what we can do, especially now that the heavy lifting regarding the coding is through.
What I’m working with now is the content. Give it enough stuff to really showcase the mechanics and do some really cute crap. I’m thinking that moving forward, each level could introduce a different kind of play or variation on the basic concept. Sonic 2 did something like that. Each Zone had it own specific thing that it did, be it super speed, water, oil pipes or those rotten bouncing springs. Since the core gameplay was reasonably spartan, the designers made up for it with clever level design and thematic elements. Compare that to Super Mario, where each level is basically a variation of the same stuff, just more complex. I may regret this later, but I’m in with Sonic Team on this one.
Right then, the basic workouts go like this:
The Cliff level is designed around destructible environments with break away sections and some pretty heavy scripted events. The point here is to threaten instant death and make the level seem more frightful that it actually is. In the designs, the puzzles are actually pretty easy, they just don’t give you all the parts in advance, while still being square*. So you may jump to a handhold, have the wall collapse around you and drop you down to a different, far more precarious, handhold. Basically, the concept here is evolving the puzzle.
The Wall level has been re-construed to be a maze with a front and back. Basically, you’ll move outside and inside the walls, while keeping the same spacial orientation. In other words, a screen may have a doorway that leads to the other side. So if you’re inside, you can jump through a cleverly applied Portal Rectangle to the outside and the puzzles will be designed to make use of that. I’m forcing the player to think in 3 dimensions here.
The Castle level is going to be designed with heavy use of scripted traps (like saws and spinning blades) and level switches and locked doors. Oh, and spikes, lots of spikes. It’ll be designed to force a certain level of backtracking that works in a game like this. Besides, a two way puzzle gets more mileage. I’ve always felt that Warrior Within got a bad wrap when it did that so well. It’s an open PoP game and all the puzzles are 2 directions. The others don’t even try that because it is hard.
Finally, The Tower level is built around the concept of movement and danger. Large parts take place inside a giant clock (cause it’s a tower, of course it’s got a clock in it natch) with moving platforms and dangerous stuff. Other parts take place outside the Tower and force acrobatics and precision. While enemies crawl all over it. So it have traps like the Castle and inside out stuff like the Walls while also having a bunch of its own puzzle concepts that use moving walls and platforms with the constant threat of being squished.
Right then, with all the hard work out of the way (HA!) I’ll get to the nice and easy part of building the levels now.

Speaking of the concept of “Square.” It’s a carny term and is usually proceeded by regular folk with the words “Fair and…” In carny terminology it means that the game is not rigged. I use it in the sense that the game is above board. I will never kill the player because of something that I didn’t tell them. They should know in advance what’s going on. So the traps in Stage 5 won’t appear just as you’re on them and the Cliffs will never give way and let you die outright. In other words, the game will not kill you. Only you and your lack of skill can kill you. It’s square.

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