So it begins again.
StarTrail released in Nov 2012; It is now May 2014. I haven’t been idle, though it may seem like it; even to me. Design wise, I mean. A while ago, I became fixated on a Rubik’s cube as a Muse for my next game. I wanted to create a game that allowed players to manipulate the game universe to create/clear a path; allow some degree of creativity or at least offer real choice of movement in the physical environment.
The platform would be mobile.
I planned, drew, sketched, thought. Walking Flor was when I had the opportunity to be out and about, and I chewed it over for months of walks and falling-asleep times. The game idea iterated, still in my mind, from 3D to 2D, and back to 3D.
The environment manipulation would have to be in two dimensions; I didn’t think that mobiles or their average users could handle the disorientation issues in three dimensions.
These childhood games came to mind.
One had to slide the interlocked tiles around to arrange numbers and solve the puzzle. Kinda like a 2D Rubik’s cube.
That lead to the conclusion that the game would have to be grid-based. Now I needed to decide what the size of the grid would be, and the orientation. This decision had far-reaching design consequences, so I had to think about it for a while. A mobile puzzle game is more convenient to play in portrait; you can play it using one hand and your thumb. Portrait it was, and the grid would be 6×8. A fair compromise between usability by fat fingers like mine, and space for good level design.
So the grid would be the top-town view of the game world, and a player character would have to navigate this game world. Now I set about designing the elements. There would be fixed blocks that the PC would be able to traverse on, and empty blocks that she would not (the protagonist would be female). The player would need to place ‘Place-able’ blocks in the empty spaces to make the grid traverse-able, so to speak.
A few of my initial sketches to try to flesh out the concept:
Now I needed to figure out the camera and controls; the game would have to be played in two different phases. It was a 2D puzzle that morphed into a 3D action game; there would be two game modes- the Puzzle mode and the action mode. The camera needed to be third person, because the field of view had to let the player survey the environment while running. Looking at the environment and taking decisions would be an important part of gameplay.
So the player would need to decide a path to follow during the puzzle mode, and then run that path in the action mode-but how would she/he remember when to turn right or left?? Potentially, during the later part of the game, the grid would have lots of fixed and place-able blocks. I initially planned to let the player place some indication of turning during the puzzle phase, and later dropped the idea as it would the make the puzzle phase too complex and clunky. In addition to logic and skill, the game would test the player’s memory as well.
This was another tricky choice. How big was the game world? How many steps would the PC need to take to traverse one block? I left this to be answered during prototyping. Here’s a mockup of the scale and the HUD