A huge thing that i have learned this semester while making games is that things change, they change really freaking fast. This is by no means a bad thing. Going threw many iterations of a game gives you the opportunity to change things for the better and make the game the best it can be, this happened a lot in my last prototype that you can read about here. As i said last time this game is a play on an action stealth game. At first the only mechanics that we had planned was to be let the players be able to run, sneak, and throw rocks to help distract the guards. Theses are all great mechanics but we also had ideas for a few others such as having water to put out fires so guards couldn’t see as far, having more slaves your helping to escape follow you, and a weight meter so you could take things around the level that would help your journey such as food. One mechanic that will make it into the game was inspired byt he reference art i posted last time.
You can see that under the building there is enough room that a person could crawl under. That would be a great addition to a stealth game! Army crawling was quickly added into the game and felt right. But it did present a few challenges when it comes to level design.
This is the basic level layout, with a lot of placeholder art. In the starting area the player starts out in the slave area and has to escape from it to move on, the the spot in the middle of the two other areas. With this new mechanic it presented an issue of if it was fun that you could get threw the whole first area of the game by just crawling from house to house. By playtesting it didn’t feel very fun being the first thing you can do, so to compensate we made it so the player couldn’t crawl under the house they start next to. By doing this the player had to move out and interact with the rest of the world first before they could start going under houses. To make sure that wasn’t only thing a player had to do, we added spaces between chunks of houses and had guards patrolling in between them. Now the player would have to work on timing and pay attention to where the guards were, if that was the path that they chose to take.
Once a player gets thru the starting area they have a choice to go left or to go right, this is illustrated with markings found on freedom quilts that will help guide them along the way. Choosing to go left leads the player to the barns and storage houses. This space is small but it has a lot of guards patrolling the area making it harder to sneak through. Choosing to go to the right will take the player across a hemp field and into the woods. The woods is a big open area with less guards but the path to freedom is less clear, less light, and longer.
Letting the player chose the their own path felt right from the start. This after all is a game about finding freedom. But letting a player go into the woods, a area one would assume would be a sand box area presented some difficulties of how we can keep the player in the play area and how to make the forest feel open but still challenging and interesting. Well to keep the players in the area, as you can see from the picture, we added hills that will be “to steep” for the escaping slave to climb this keeps the player moving in the direction we need but allows them to explore. Running threw the middle of the forest is a stream that the player can go in but will find the banks on the other side are hard to climb so they will need to find a good spot to get up, or risk stealthing across a bridge that leads to a home of a farm hand in the woods.
Being able to design this first pass of a level design has been a wonderful learning experience. Setting up a playable area that a player can get threw, have fun, all while learning mechanics is not the easiest of things to do but it is an enjoyable one! But its about week four and there is a lot of work to get done till this prototype is done. Next time will be a run down of game play and the burn down!