It’s been a little bit since my last update, and during that time I’ve been expanding the world of my newest project. Last time I talked in some detail about a maze-themed area called the Warren – this time, I’m going to be describing a bunch of different areas as briefly as I can.
While there are many areas/concepts that I have come up with and would like to add to the game, I’ve reached the minimum number needed to make the game a larger, more interconnected world. At a very basic level, the game’s world is a wheel with spokes on it – the player starts at the hub, and ventures out into different directions from there. However, the spokes are connected to each other in different ways to support lots of different potential paths, so for the wheel to really fit together, there need to be enough spokes.
Through an extremely scientific process, I’ve landed on five spokes. We know about the Warren, so what are the other four?
This one is really awkward to talk about, so I figure I’ll just get it out of the way quickly. The concept is a desert area where the player navigates mostly by way of sound. This ties into the “pick up and move around ghosts” mechanic by way of the ghosts emitting sounds, which differ in volume and stereo based on your position relative to them. So you can use them as audio guides for where you are, and you can move them around to build a path of sounds through the wide desert areas.
The issue with this is, of course, that none of this is visual, so I really don’t have much to show. While the art for the area is still unfinished/nonexistent, even when I have created that, it’s going to seem pretty bare, since the whole idea is to deny the player visual landmarks so that they rely on audio guides. And it’s, y’know, a desert.
The mechanic behind this area was pretty fun to implement. Basically, the passable terrain is camouflaged as background, and the way to uncover it is to walk across it. I implemented particle effects and physics into the game not too long ago, and one of the first things I wanted to do was add an effect to this mechanic that made it appear as if the player is chipping away at the hidden area!
Honestly, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. The main thing is that as you progress, the hidden areas become less and less easy to discern. In the above example, the hidden bridge is hinted at, and is the only apparent way forward, so it’s easy to find – but later on the cues will become scarcer, until ultimately you’re walking around in complete darkness and cutting the path entirely on your own.
Somewhat absent from this is a real sense of challenge. Unlike the previous two areas, the game isn’t really trying to disorient the player here – in fact, the game is constantly reminding them where they’ve been and what path they’ve taken. However, I think there’s just something inherently satisfying in searching for the different hidden paths and clearing out all of the hidden terrain, and there’s lots of potential for hiding things of interest for the player to uncover. For at least these first few areas, I think the action of exploration/discovery, and an intrinsic appreciation for that, should be the focus.
So far, none of the areas pose any serious threat to the player – they’re completely focused on exploration in their own ways. The player could get lost, but there’s not much to knock them back to a checkpoint, despite hazards/enemies/checkpoints being some of the first things I implemented. That pattern stops with this area, which takes the “hidden terrain” concept and adds onto it in a few ways.
First, the hidden terrain comes in different colors. Some of these colors require the player to be holding a certain kind of spirit in order for the “color” to be cleared away, revealing the terrain underneath. This very quickly becomes important, as the hidden terrain is now placed on a higher layer – meaning it obscures vision of everything underneath it, including the player. And finally, hazards/enemies make their appearance in this area, where they can be found underneath the “colors” to stop any player who is being a bit too careless.
The obstacles are still fairly rudimentary, so it’s not like this turns the game-play into anything that could be considered “action” – the main point is that it introduces an element of resource-management into the “hidden area” concept, as the player will have to juggle between different spirits to clear the path forward.
This brings us to the last major area. To explain the idea behind this one, I’ll have to go back to the first area – the Warren. In that, you need to carry spirits from area to area, as they will guide you on where to go, and sometimes warn you if you’re heading down the wrong path. Well, I initially thought it would be interesting to have that same concept, but applied to everything, rather than just where to go.
That may sound vague, but contextualized with the theme of Hallucination, it’s application is clear – things are not always what they appear to be, and so you need to use spirits to help you figure out what is real and fake.
Ultimately I decided that to implement this in the same way as the Warren would be too clunky, so instead I made it so certain spirits have a sort of “aura” around them. Rather than having to constantly talk to these spirits for them to give you hints, the aura passively reveals things as they truly are – all the player has to do is move them around to navigate through the hallucinations.
This may look straight-forward, but as the number of hallucinations increases, it becomes a bit more complicated. There are also a few tricks I can use to trip up the player, even if they’re being careful – and since I’m throwing hazards into the mix, the stakes are a tiny bit higher.
Also worth noting, with the theme of hallucination I came up with a bunch of different ideas while I was working on the previous areas. By the time I got to this one, there were a lot of things that didn’t directly tie into the mechanic I had originally envisioned, but fit into the theme of the area, that I really wanted to add in. So this also became a bit of a “wild-card” area where the most consistent thing is the lack of consistency!
There are several moments I’m especially fond of, that I’d prefer to keep to myself for now, at least until I’ve gotten to a point where I think the visuals do them a bit more justice. Let’s just say that I had a lot of fun with this part of the game!
That concludes the synopsis of each major area. Now that I’ve got a rough implementation of the game world, my next task is to go back through all of them and work on their visuals to give them each a unique look (as well as just make things look prettier). After that, I’ll be a hop skip and a jump away from a releasable (if still incomplete) version of the game!