Design Conundrum

Hey everybody.  This is going to be a weird blog.  I’ve been going back and forth on a design problem in my head, and I’m hoping I can get somewhere with it by writing it down.  And I’d thought I’d share it to let you in on my design process, which in this case is sitting around and thinking.  Hopefully this is not too boring…or confusing.

The problem has to do with how the player exits a rotation room.  So, there’s always going to be a consistent entrance and exit.  What I specifically mean by that is there’s only one position the world can be in to exit the level.  And we currently convey that to the player using doors.  The exit door will only unlock when the room is in its final rotation/position, and if the level objectives have been met.  The question is, what should that final position be?

Right now, it can be any position we want it to be.  We design a puzzle and place the exit tunnel where it most makes sense for that room.  And we try to make this a natural place to end the level, so as you play through the level and complete objectives you naturally end up at the exit door with the room in its correct rotation.  But we’ve been thinking lately that this is maybe not the best way to do it.

We’ve been tossing around the idea of always having the starting rotation of the level also be the ending rotation.  So you wouldn’t be able to reach the exit door without rotating the room, but because you know the final rotation from the start, you’re always trying put it back in its original state.  It’s a much more natural progression, to me.  To use our Rubik’s Cube analogy, it would be like handing someone an already solved Rubik’s Cube, asking them to mess it up a bit, and take it back to its original state.  Whereas right now, the person just messes up the Cube.  So it’s a totally different mindset.  And both have pluses and minuses.

I do really like this direction, though.  I think the player has a much clearer concept of their goal from the start of the level.  It means the player will always be thinking about which direction the world needs to go, even before they reach the Rotation Cubes in the level.  And that’s what we want.  The player should always be thinking about the space and what to do with it.  They’ll be thinking several moves ahead, whereas now you mostly only think about your next move.  The current gameplay is much more reactionary.  You rotate the room, observe the new paths that have been laid out for you, and figure out your next step.  So with this new direction, the gameplay would become more strategic, and I think players would plot out their path through the level instead of just taking on challenges as they come.  You wouldn’t lose that moment to moment gameplay, but it would be a smaller part of the experience.

Levels are also a little easier to design using this method.  In fact, on the harder levels I’ve made in the past, I’ve naturally built levels this way because it helps me keep track of things.  Also, because you know where the level is going to end, you can design it from the end to the start, and in general everything feels more cohesive this way.

The biggest downside for making this a game-wide level design philosophy is…we thought of it too late.  A lot of the levels in the game haven’t been built with this concept in mind, and it would be a major major process to redesign all the puzzles that don’t.  In some cases we would have to change the core of the puzzle, which is the other downside of this method.  It limits the types of puzzles we can design, and could potentially mean that all the levels would begin to feel too similar, and play out too similarly.  And that’s where my conundrum lies.  I don’t want to give up the freedom of puzzle design we have now, though I would like the consistency of the puzzle design this new method brings.  And the more consistent puzzle solving mindset the player would be in.

In the end we’ll probably use a combination of both.  Well, we do now, haha.  We’ll take it on a case by case basis and do what’s best for the puzzle concept, and try to find clever ways to convey to the player what the final orientation of the room should be.  But you think on it.  I’ll keep thinking on it.  And I’ll try to update this post with new design solutions for these issues.

Thanks for reading,


Donald

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