I’ve got a basic prototype up and running in Unity to demonstrate and implement the basic puzzle mechanics. It’s zipped below, controls are arrows for facing and W and S for forward and backward movement respectively.
Things learned from the prototype:
- rear facing causes problems, either:
- trivializes puzzles
- necessitates puzzles being complex
- and/or requires special camera movement*
- need to consider and design around activation of a distraction while standing in it
- forced out? (seems easy to abuse and break puzzles with)
- more likely just freeze character
*This may be necessary anyway, and is something I’ve been considering. It may make more sense to have the camera move at intervals to keep entire puzzles or sections in frame at once. This will require additional experimentation. And designing and testing more puzzles will be moved up in priority in case a more advanced camera system is needed.
Expansion of Mechanics:
I’ve been picturing the later game where a companion is with the player playing with that character following on nearby paths when not on the same path as the player. They will play a role in helping the player by specific obstacles, opening a door from a catwalk, etc. But initially I did not have a clear link between this visual, and the core game, or anything of mechanical interest to the player.
I am now thinking that in contrast to distractions blocking the player, they will enable the companion’s traversal of an area. For example one might form a bridge between two rooftops, or block and allow the companion to move past a hostile character. I think this creates a lot of potential to keep the later game puzzles interesting with a new interaction that feels like a simple and natural exploration of the existing design space.
Additionally this builds on the intended connection and relationship I want to build between the two characters, both narratively and mechanically. It creates a relationship in the game mechanics where each is enabling the other and complimenting their own limitations within the game world. I think this is a nice abstraction of the nature of relationships where each person’s capabilities make the other stronger, and help overcome their respective shortcomings.
I will need to experiment with this, likely long term and not in the scope of this summer, but I think this could feed to a very late game mechanic too. As the two spend time together, and the connection grows in the narrative, the companion herself will become a consistent source of distraction to the player character. But to represent infatuation, this distraction could override other distractions. I don’t know exactly how this would be implemented yet, it could be represented in a number of mechanical ways:
- Narrow the cone of vision for detecting distractions when the companion is within it (likely requires adjusting the LOS mechanics)
- make facing analog, rather than along cardinal directions, not sure I like this at face value as it complicates the controls and potential puzzle solutions
- lock the LOS cone onto the companion’s direction, but keep character facing to cardinal directions
- simply block other distractions from appearing when the companion is visible
- treat it as a normal distraction that is just designed within the puzzles to serve an enabling purpose
- will require a lot of testing for unintended effects
- use as a new type of distraction, perhaps one that behaves to the player as distractions do to the companion (bridging, enabling, etc.)
Other mechanical musings:
This was from much earlier thinking, but I had not yet recorded it. I will likely have a variety of distraction types for the player to contend with. The most basic type will be static, but others will likely move with the player, the source of the distraction, or the subject of the distraction (ex: character is focusing on a tire on a car, the thought bubble of the distraction moves with the rolling tire). Each of these distinct behaviours must be clearly marked by different thought bubble styles, so that players can tell at a glance how each will behave once those behaviours are learned. For example the static one will likely be boxier and/or have braces towards the edges to connote something solid and/or locked down.
And as a final note I will need to formulate a structure in the next week to determine how objects will be arranged to have the proper visual effect. Specifically the layering such as distractions being in front of the dialogue option buttons and most of the environment, but behind the companion character so that she can traverse them..
Figuring out the potential rendering options to get the depth I want is also a priority that I’ve done preliminary concepting on. The current thinking is to either use multiple cameras in Unity, each at different angles, and used to render different depths, or to create a depth map from the main camera and do the effects in post-processing.