#5 Building a delivery puzzle
Welcome to the fifth devlog of “Package Party”!
What do we have so far? A very simple terrain to walk on, a player that can pick up and drop packages, and random deliveries being created (and shown in the interface).
Now comes the real fun (and challenge): creating a level that turns these deliveries into cooperative puzzles.
As stated before, I want this game to be very easy to learn, whatever your age or gaming background. Every level should introduce 1-3 new things, that you’ll learn as you use them to solve the level.
And then I thought: well, isn’t the best way to figure this out, simply to start building levels (in the right order)?
I created a new campaign Word file and wrote down all the mechanics that needed to be taught, how I would divide them between levels, how I could keep things simple, until I had a concrete plan for level 1.
The First Plan
This was the first plan:
(I forgot that there was music in this video. Well, now you know what the main theme for the game sounds like :p)
Notice that many mechanics are half broken – it’s basically a playground for me to very quickly test things.
I thought: “what’s simpler than a single zone in the center where you can pick up packages, and four zones surrounding it to drop them on?”
This level worked quite well. I gave every destination a slight challenge:
- The red one requires you to jump a sort of stair case
- The yellow one requires you to move carefully, or you’ll fall.
- The blue one requires you to use the trampoline (there’s no other way to get there)
- The lightblue one requires you to use an elevator, activated with the seesaw in front of it.
It’s a good start, but it was nowhere near a proper level.
- The “tutorial texts” weren’t read. The players only read them once I said: “The level explains itself! Look there!” Why is that? Because players start in the center, so they don’t know to read the tutorials in the correct order, and there’s many different objects vying for attention.
- There was no cooperation required. You could do everything yourself. Even the seesaw + elevator, if you were quick enough.
- The level was too big. I want to scale the levels as we go, but if the first level is this large, the last levels would become HUGE.
NOTE: Many of the mechanics you see here (such as the trampoline or elevator), will get their own article in due time.
The Second Plan
The second plan was aimed at fixing all the issues mentioned above. (The video below is actually the third plan, because I forgot to film the second plan. As always: I need to learn to regularly take screen captures of my game, or these devlogs are out of order all the time. Still sorry about that.)
- I made a separate “alley” where players start. You can only walk to the right, and as you do that, the tutorial texts tell you exactly how it works (at the exact time you need it).
- Once you get out of the alley, you enter the central area. Similar to before, there’s a small space in the center, with the four destinations surrounding it.
- The first difference you’ll notice is: THERE’S A HUGE CRANE! (More on that later.)
- The other difference is: the destinations are closer together and require cooperation. I made players walk and jump slower, and turned some parts of the ground into wooden planks to walk over. The only way to get to the lightblue destination, is by getting into the platform (connected to the crane), and asking someone else to press the button that slowly turns the crane.
One thing I noticed while designing these levels, was that I was kind of “shy”. Every element was small, they were very spaced out, like I was afraid to actually put something in the level.
Once I made the crane, I immediately thought: “… what if we make this much bigger, and put it in the center?” And so it happened. The level became much better, it became more recognizable, and it looks much more like a finished level from a game. (It’s far from finished of course, but it’s way better than the first attempt.)
I’m also searching for “multiple strategies”. You need the crane to get to the light blue zone. But if you want … you can also use the crane to get to other zones. There’s also two buttons: clockwise and counter-clockwise. You only need one button – just keep the crane rotating in one direction, and you’ll eventually get where you need to be. But if you dare, you can take shorter routes by turning the crane along the shortest angle.
Keeping it simple
You might be asking: well, can’t players just throw the packages? No. I disabled that. I made a list of all mechanics and when I’d introduce them. Package throwing will only be taught at level 2 or 3, I think. Similarly, packages will NOT consist of multiple components until you’re at level 10 or something.
New mechanics are introduced slowly. Every level has a “big mechanic” (such as hey, you can throw packages) and some “smaller mechanics” (like hey, this is a trampoline, and this is a button, you can probably guess how those work).
For example, one mechanic I also already implemented here is package damage. If you play too loose with the packages, they’ll be damaged, and eventually break. It’s a great mechanic, because it requires you to balance speed and carefulness. But if I introduce it immediately at level 1, people will certainly feel overwhelmed.
The same thing applies to the old level design. It introduced too many mechanics: trampoline, elevator, seesaw, etc. Now the first level only teaches you buttons (which are fairly simple and intuitive), and the core controls (moving, jumping, packages). The other mechanics are planned to be introduced in level 2 and 3 and so forth.
That’s it for the fifth devlog! The next one will be about environment (lighting, sky, etc.) … and my main frustration with Godot game engine.
Get Package Party
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