2019 (7 weeks)
Momentum is a first-person puzzle platformer game that was developed as a school project for 7 weeks in unity. The player is in control of a device in which they can manipulate the time force of objects.
Modular Level Design
Given that our game is a puzzle platformer we felt like a modular approach with our assets would be best.
This helped me so I could quickly iterate on our puzzles and levels. I looked at our levels as Lego pieces and designed them in a way that if a level was too hard in the beginning I could switch or move them if needed, to create a balanced flow.
I wanted the game to feel larger than it was. I knew that the wrong approach would be to either build more levels or bigger levels as this would mean more work and not enough time to polish them. I concluded that the best approach to invoke this feeling would be by having tall ceilings. This was also used in reverse, where I created levels that were smaller to make the player feel uncomfortable to fit with the latter narrative parts.
One idea that I got that came from our discussions about going for a modular approach was to create a HUB area that the player would come back to throughout the game, but also something that connects the levels. I designed it in a way so that if we were to add more levels to it, we could do so without having to redesign it.
Teaching the player
My original thought process was that I didn't want to break the player's immersion by having text pop up that would draw them out. It led me to create a tutorial where the player faced simple challenges to overcome before they could proceed. Not having texts led to the player having to use their intuition.
While playtesting proved that people could get through the tutorial, there was however a flaw in its design. It doesn't take into account inexperienced players, who might not know that the common button for jumping on PC is spacebar; it caters mainly to experienced players; it leads to unnecessary frustration where the player needs to test their way forward instead of being able to enjoy the game.
The first thing I wanted to teach the player was the jump, to do so I created a raised step that the player had to get over to proceed.
Here I teach the unactivated state of interactable objects looked like. By using the primary ability they would activate it, moving it towards them so they can get on it; once on the platform the players need to use the secondary ability to deactivate the second platform to move it towards them. This was also to teach the players that only one object can be interacted with at a time.
Finally, I teach the player the correlation between the locked doors and the mechanism to open them. I did this by placing the "key" next to the door, so the player could clearly see it.
I also bread-crumbed an activated version of the jump pad before the key/door as that was the next gameplay mechanic I would teach the player in the coming room.
Having previously introduced the player to an active jump pad I now introduce a non-active platform. Shooting the pad activates it; the player uses it but are launched to an active pad that launches them back to where they came from; the idea was that having introduced the player to a non-active platform they would realize that they need to use the mechanic to unactivated the second platform to prevent being launched back.
Having gotten familiar with the jumping pads I wanted to introduce a new element to the players, a movable block that moves in and out. It begins in a dormant state and is pushed in. The idea is for the player to time their shot so that the block moves out, allowing them to land on it. If the player were to miss their first shot I made it so that the run back to the starting point was short so that they quickly could back to trying again.
Looking back at this project it is obvious that some design decisions that were made could have been better; how we teach the player the fundamentals of the game, the beat of each level and how they play out, when and what they see in the levels and how the levels play.
I am happy with what we accomplished given that we were still students and missteps are necessary to learn and become better.