#28 Evolving mechanics


Welcome to the twenty-eighth devlog!

In the previous devlog, I explained that I was able to playtest the game (a lot) and gained valuable feedback from that. This week was all about implementing that feedback, fixing the last bugs (and annoyances), and getting the game ready to upload again.

(Because it’s been a month since version 0.2 and I can’t wait to show you all the new levels and other improvements!)

As always, I also made a video devlog:

 

Designing 10 new levels

Previously, you moved packages by kicking them. Now, after the feedback from last week, you automatically stick to the packages. This required significant changes to the old levels to make them work again, or in some cases just a completely new level design.


The core ideas of the levels, however, are still the same: the first world is meant to …

  • Make players comfortable with moving (and the controls for doing that)
  • Teach players about pushing things (sliders, bridges, buttons)
  • Introduce a few mechanics we’ll see a lot during the game: trampolines, conveyor belts, etc.

Why is pushing things so important? Well, I wanted the game to be extremely accessible, and if all you can do is walk around (in the first few worlds) … you don’t have many more options than pushing buttons to make stuff happen.

Besides, as the game progresses, more and more “steps” are added to a delivery:

  • Currently, packages appear automatically when an order arrives.
  • In world 2, however, you must create the packages yourself.
  • In world 3, you must label their destination yourself
  • Et cetera

During my playtesting, I found that many players were confused if I introduced these steps too rapidly. In the earlier versions, level 6 was the first time you saw a button, level 7 already taught you how to create your own packages (by pushing a button!)

Confusion!

So I wanted to introduce the general concept of pushing (and pushing buttons) earlier and more often in world 1.

 

Evolving mechanics

Does this seem a bit messy to you? Well, it does to me, which is why I created a HUGE SPREADSHEET.

As I’m developing this game and researching similar (successful) games, I noticed a trend: mechanics usually evolve over time.

Let’s say we introduce trampolines in level 1. Because it’s the first time, we need to keep it simple: trampolines allow you to jump upwards. That’s it.

Then level 3 comes around and we think it’s time to use those trampolines again. It would be boring, however, if we used them in the exact same way. Instead, we evolve the trampoline mechanic by saying: “here’s an angled trampoline, which allows you to jump at angles!”

Then in level 5 we might evolve it again with: “Hey, this trampoline can be rotated by pressing a button!”

In level 6 we might say: “Guess what? The trampoline IS a button now! If you jump on it, a gate on the other side of the level will open!”

I think you get the idea now. To keep every level fresh and challenging, yet not too difficult and unfamiliar, I find evolving mechanics to be by far the best strategy. 

To get your creative juices flowing, here's another example:

  • Level 1 introduces a block you must push out of the way to deliver a package.
  • Level 2 introduces a platform you can push to different sides, so players can access different areas.
  • Level 3 introduces a train/vehicle you must push over a track to visit different areas.
  • Level 5 introduces a button you must push to make something happen.
  • Level 7 introduces a button that must be pushed by two players simultaneously.
  • Level 9 introduces a rotating camera which you can push to make it look the other way.

It's a single mechanic - pushing - yet every level where it appears will be different and bring something new.

To do this properly, I created a spreadsheet that shows all the core mechanics at the left, and all the levels at the top, and which documents how the mechanics evolve over time:

 

Book Portals & Main Menu

Lastly, I created a nice transition between two worlds (or “books”). Now, a portal appears and when you walk through it (for the first time) a story video plays.

I also (finally) added a main menu. This menu also includes other options, such as a button to give me feedback and a settings menu. The settings are bare bones for now, but most essentials are already there (audio volume, graphics settings, etc.)

 

Conclusion

Version 0.3 will be up today or tomorrow! It will have 13 brand new levels, many improvements in all areas (interface, graphics quality, bug fixes, quality of life stuff), and I can’t wait to show you guys all the good stuff :)

When I’ve uploaded the new version, I’ll surely create another devlog to let you know.

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