Role: Level, Mechanics Design; Gameplay Scripting; Artist
Duration: Sep 2015 – Dec 2016 (1 year, 3 months)
3D adventure platformer set in a world made out of cardboard. One day, amidst impending catastrophe, the player gets news that their friend, the scientist, has perfected a new technology that will save the world. On the way, the player wanders through the cardboard universe, meeting new friends and interacting with the world through cardboard mechanics.
Awards & Honors
Mechanics vs. Space
One of my most major tasks was to "make second to second gameplay interesting". I began by asking myself the question, "What is the player doing in the atoms of gameplay?"
Answer: They are walking around, getting from one place to another. The game feel there is very important because it's what players are going to be experience for the majority of the game.
The main character only slid around in our early version, and it was obvious that players wanted more than just a static object for a main character. Especially in a narrative heavy game, it is imperative to make the world come alive, and, as it stood, one of the focal points of the game, the very vessel the player uses to interact with the world was… pretty boring.
Research and Brainstorming
I studied up on game feel and found a few key examples. Whatever I was going to come up with, I needed to make sure players weren't without proper room to experiment with the core mechanic, platforming.
Testing showed that players were enamored with the cardboard aesthetic and wanted to be able to interact with it. My prescription was to:
1. The player character will bounce up and down while walking to give them more life. This also resembles what a cardboard cutout would look like if it was picked up and played with.
2. A triple jump mechanic, similar to the one in Super Mario 64. It allows players to reach new heights (exploration) and adds a degree of skill to platforming, rewarding players for masterful execution.
3. A hover spin mechanic. Holding the jump button causes the player to slow their descent by spinning like a disc. It adds another layer to platforming and visually entertains, all while adhering to the cardboard aesthetic.
Complementary Level Design
The level should capitalize on the core mechanics; its design is the reason players are going to be engaged when they use the mechanics. Without a proper space to use the mechanics, they don’t matter, and, likewise, without the proper mechanics to interact with the space, the space doesn’t matter.
One of the larger levels in the game is the hub area, the Heart of The City (HOTC), and serves as the bridge between most paths in the game. Players see a lot of this level and retread old ground often. Our old level fulfilled its purpose, but I wasn’t convinced that it couldn’t be redone, especially after the results of playtesting:
“The next element I was focused on is proper world building. Whatever I was going to come up with, I needed to make sure that players weren't without proper geometry to experiment with their movement. Indeed, this is one of the most significant pieces of feedback we received: ‘There weren’t a lot of places where your levels capitalize on the mechanics you have.'”
I took this to heart and set out to revamp the HOTC with this in mind:
Level Polish and Scripting Dynamic Elements
What I Learned