Update 3: Further Idea Development, Level Whiteboxing, Final Map, Pick Up and Throwing Mechanic

Further Idea Development:
I have decided to take my idea back to my initial plan and strip it back into a classic and refined platformer like I wanted it to be at the start. The game now takes place in a canyon, which was an idea I was considering before I started development, I feel the canyon is perfect for a game of this type because it allows me to make a natural feeling level that has lots of obvious paths and intentionally designed areas while still retaining that realistic feel. It also allows me to expand my ideas and opens up opportunities for everything I wanted to do, puzzles, platforming and exploring are all totally available to me with this environment in mind.

I drew up a map on Photoshop with details on each area and what they will contain, Its interesting to see how my past map designs have melded with new ideas to form this final design (As seen below). The start area that allows the player to practice has carried over from my very first map, plus the winding path down to the main area has come from there too. I also still have a bit of green from my second design but cut down dramatically. I also used my idea of having multiple split areas (Ruins, Forest, Desert) and transferred that into a believable environment with flow and understandable terrain.

Pick Up and Throwing Mechanic:
I decided that I wanted to add the ability to pick up and throw objects to unblock your path, reach higher ledges and weigh down platforms. I think this very simple addition adds a lot to the game and opens up a huge range of possibilities for more complicated puzzles and environmental challenges.
The ultimate version of this will only be able to be used when you are using the ability to make you larger. I feel it makes sense that the character is stronger when he is in this state. I also want to make the character slower when he is larger too but that is a development I haven’t looked into as of yet.
As you can see in the gif below the mechanic isn’t polished perfectly as the physics objects you grab rotate with the player in a strange way, however i feel this will be a simple fix as I already know this is caused by the third person camera.

Level Whiteboxing:
Once I had my idea nailed down and stripped back I started developing my level in UE4. I decided to develop each area one after the other in a basic form before I started adding detail, assets and set dressing, meaning that I can flesh out each area really nicely at my own pace instead of just working on the whole environment completely randomly.
To make the whole canyon I used simple cubes and cylinders and used Subtractive cubes to carve out the terrain.

When it comes to furnishing the level and adding the real assets and details I will mostly be using free or paid for asset packs that are totally open for me to use. I will source every asset pack I use in my final design document.
I have had fun using the assets to set dress the starting area as it is very small and bare and is a perfect test for how the game could eventually look.

See screenshots of the whole map (As it is right now), the start, the ruins, and a set dressing test area below:

Other:
Along with all of this development this week I have been developing puzzles and platforming areas in the level. Below are a few gifs showing a range of puzzles and how the mechanics I have now can be utilised to solve them.

Update 2: Mechanic Tweaks, Test Level Updates and New Ideas

New Ideas:
First of all I have been wrestling with new ideas and concepts for my game and level design. At first I was planning on keeping the game as a simple platformer with puzzle elements, I wanted to have the game take place in a simple environment like Banjo-Kazooie. However I think turning the game into a full blown puzzle game would allow me to explore different areas and give me the best possible outcome for this project.
I have been looking at games like The Witness and Shadow of the Colossus for inspiration and feel that a large but enclosed map with puzzles scattered throughout for the player to discover and explore would suit my game perfectly. I also feel like this is more my type of game, a game that I would enjoy playing.

Below are two simple maps that I made in Photoshop to represent my ideas and the level I wanted to make. The top one was made when I wanted the game to simply be a platformer. This environment was meant to be inside a cave, with the player having a small area outside to experiment with mechanics before they delve in. The second is a more a Shadow of the Colossus inspired environment, meant to be explored and realistic instead of linear and intrinsically designed. I also want to add a secondary forested area to make the environment more varied and unique, this was inspired by the multiple biomes of The Witness, a puzzle game I really enjoyed and inspired me a lot. These ideas may end up being too much for me to handle in a solo project so they are definitely open to changes.

Shrink and Grow Development:
I have made the size changing much smoother and nicer feeling by adding an incremental size change instead of just popping to different scales as it was before. it is also now mapped to the triggers of a controller which feels much more tactile and satisfying than the keys on a keyboard.

I had a lot of help with this part as I couldn’t find any help online, It also required a lot of custom nodes that I cant fully explain because I don’t know exactly how they work.
First we attached the Trigger nodes into custom change size nodes, this node added a lerp to the shrinking and growing making it an incremental size change as seen in the gif below. After this I attached new nodes that connected the trigger actions and shrinking and growing with the downward force changing nodes, making the mechanics work together exactly how i was wanting.

I also made floating platforms for platforming sections. I wanted the platforms to wobble and fall when they player walked on them and I think the outcome is really nice looking and feeling while also working perfectly.


Test Level Updates:

Other than these key developments I have been messing around in my test area to see what is possible with the simple mechanics I already have at my disposal.
You can see a few examples of what I have been experimenting with below:

Update 1: Weight Mechanic, Test Level Development

Gravity Mechanic:
Today I created my “Gravity” mechanic, it was much easier than expected and works really nicely already. I will be getting help from other students a lot when it comes to Blueprinting for the majority of the project as it is not the area that I specialise in, nor an area I am very experienced with. I am instead focusing my efforts primarily on overall design, level design, audio and the visuals and feel of the game, all of these are areas I enjoy and have a good amount of experience with.

I decided altering the weight of the player would be easier than altering the gravity affecting them, and would ultimately achieve the results that I wanted anyway. I also wanted to have the character shrink and grow depending on his weight to show visually that the characters state is altered. All of this was much easier than I imagined and with a bit of help from fellow students I got it working pretty quickly.

First I set up that 1, 2 and 3 would control the players scale, 1 being the smallest and 3 being the largest. Then I hooked them up to a node that sets the actors scale, this is really easy to go back and alter later if I need to. Finally I used a custom node that effected the downwards force of the character while holding the keys. This is a very simple way of effectively simulate the changing “weight” of the character.
The blueprint is shown below:

 

Test Level:
After I had my basic mechanics working I started making a small test level (Above). I will  keep adding to this with new ideas utilising my mechanics so that I can learn what is possible and develop ideas that I can add to a level when the time comes. So far I have a series of seesaws that are used in different ways such as reaching higher areas and launching blocks. The seesaw was made using a physics constraint and a cube locked on one axis.
this area is already proving useful for developing new ideas and testing.


Other:
I built everything from the UE4 third person preset to give me a solid backbone for all the developments I am going to make. I also slightly changed the character controller by increasing the control you have in the air, as I found the preset to be quite unwieldy.

 

The Start

Hi and welcome to my Blog about the production of my Final Year Project, TROUBLE IN ZEMANDIA.

The game will be a retro style platformer with simple to learn and utilize mechanics, the challenge coming from traversing the stunning environment and solving puzzles using your gravity altering abilities.
The game takes place on a beautiful planet desert, based on rock formations found in Americas Deserts and the vast sprawling dunes of the Sahara, combined I feel this could be an incredibly striking land to explore.

You can see my first design document Here