So last semester, I took an independent study with a game design professor. I spent the entire semester brainstorming interesting mechanics and ideas, and the quickly prototyping and iterating on them. Here are the projects that I worked on:
Prototype One: Adaptive Difficulty
The level on the first playthrough.
After a couple play-throughs.
The initial thought with this prototype was a level whose difficulty could be dynamically adjusted. The first idea was to let the player do it himself in return for better scores or points, but I went with a simpler approach, and made it progressively difficult on each completion.
The first aspect that I tweaked was simply platform size, which is pretty apparent in the pictures above. This was easy enough to do, and ramped up the difficulty a bit. After that, I added in spinning, red crosses. Touching the cross instantly kills you, and since one side is longer than the other, getting past it requires a certain rhythm. This windows continually shrinks as each time you beat the level, they spin faster and faster. The last obstacle was the orange platforms. They simply move up and down at an increasing pace.
Overall, I found the prototype to be successful, but not viable. Repeating the same level over and over, regardless of any variation in difficulty, simple wasn’t proving to be engaging enough. I decided that if I were to ever use the idea, it would be a smaller component of a larger game.
Prototype Two: Keyboard Level Control
This prototype came from wanting to giving a tactile feel to manipulating a level. The basic concept is having a ship move across the screen without getting destroyed.You don’t actually control the ship itself, but all of the obstacles in its way. It’s controlled by using your keyboard like a piano. Each key, A S D F H J K L, corresponds to one of the platforms, and pressing a key raises the platform temporarily. There was also a simple song that was intended to sync up with the position of the ship, making it a little easier to know when to move the platforms out of the way. To circumvent players from just holding all the keys, I initially had two ships going, one above and one beneath.
The prototype was a bit rough and complicated, and it definitely didn’t turn out the way I was hoping. While I liked using all of my fingers to control the level at once, it quickly became hard to manage. With the time frame I was working in, I also couldn’t get sound syncing in, so I left it out. It turned out to be a clunky idea, but I definitely learned quite a bit working on it.
Prototype Three: Sightless Sound Navigation
This one was pretty interesting for me, as the idea for navigation with limited sight had been bouncing around in my head for awhile. The screenshot might not look like much, but that’s the point of the prototype. Playing it requires headphones and focus, as you have to find the source of sound in each room, using only your ears. The amount of light available in each room gradually decreases as you get a better feel for the mechanic.
In execution, I was actually quite happy with this one. Playing it was pretty interesting, and it definitely rewarded mastery and patience. Anytime I tried to rush through, I’d always get lost, but simply slowing down and focusing easily got me back on track.
I actually ended up working on this particular prototype longer then the others. The first iteration was interesting, but unexplored. After talking to my professor, I was able to take more time to develop and flesh out this particular mechanic. I created a couple different rooms with varying structures, and varied the sounds as well. My professor liked it quite a bit, and encouraged me to try and find it a home at some point in time, which I most likely will.