Thursday, April 7, 2011

AD: Development of Puzzles I

WARNING: This blog post contains a fair few spoilers about the Final level and its rooms. If you don't want to spoil them I suggest you don't read this blog post.

Greetings (finally another blog post from me), as you probably notice there is a massive vest trials: Approaching Dawn logo at the top of the blog now so I won't need to keep posting the logo at the top of each blog post.

This 'post' I'm actually going to split up into two separate posts, both touching on two of the four rooms of the Final level of AD. This one talks about rooms (which in Game Maker) I named rFinalLevelC and rFinalLevelB (I didn't make them in order A-D, I actually made them C, B, D, A which is weird I know). It will talk about the puzzles (the answers on how to do them) and why I made them like they were. I may also touch on the Thought Quality level puzzles on a third part of a post, but we'll see how it goes with just the Final level first.

Probably one of the most difficult things of current level design in AD is that just about the entire Final level is puzzle-based. Now sure I don't have to come up with physical difficulties such as perfect jumps etcetera, but I have to create mental challenges, requiring the player to actually think of what to do. The first room developed of the Final level I nicknamed 'evil colour wheel lasers of doom' shows some of the much more difficult puzzles you have to undertake.
This puzzle is.. different as it requires the player to make use of what I call 'quick-thinking' and mapping. The mapping part is relatively easy - draw a small mock-up of the room on a piece of paper and plot the locations of each specific laser and its colour (there are 12 - red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green etc.), and also to quickly mock-up a colour wheel with all 12 colours (with red at the top - the way of the colours i.e. red -> yellow -> blue clockwise is indicated by a colour wheel found in the bottom corner of the room). The 'quick-thinking' part is to figure out what to do and how to do it. Yes I realize that this room IS a lot more difficult than any other possibly in the entire game, but I want a room like this to outline what this game is all about - difficulty in the form of physical challenges and mental challenges.

What actually needs to be done is for you to check the colour of the laser, perform the action ("Move Laser Colour # spaces anti-clockwise/clockwise"). For example if we have a blue laser and it says "Move Laser Colour 2 spaces clockwise" we would then think "Blue -> Blue-Purple -> Purple" and then find the Purple Laser and trigger it, shutting down a laser. Another thing to think about is what exactly the 'odd switch' does - it resets the timer to a time depending on which laser you're currently on (changing the colour of the laser in the process). The odd switch is required to initiate the next laser after shutting the previous one down.

This can make the room rather tedious and will require the player to attempt it more than once - but this is where I wanted to incorporate elements from previous levels into the Final level rooms. The room requires a great deal of thought and curiosity (Thought Quality level), being able to navigate quickly around the room (Speed Quality level) and the ability to keep at it even if you fail three or eight times (Persistence Quality level). Personally this is what I love about the room is that it gets my blood pumping quickly and is fun (for me - I have a 'love' for those three qualities, which is why I implemented them into the game). People have also said the differentiation between some colours is bad, but I have a solution for that - keep pulling the odd switch until you get the colour you can recognize and one where you know exactly where the switch is. Because none of the three lasers can be the same colour as each other, you will always have to pull three separate switches from around the room. Using this tactic can make the room a lot easier, and it is one that I myself use sometimes.

The reason why the puzzle is like it is now was me simply trying to incorporate all three Quality levels into a single Final level room, adding elements from all of them to the room. The idea itself developed from a simple 'room with three switches' where you pick one, if it's right then you can move on, if not restart (Persistence aspect). Then I added on the Thought aspect, where the right switch requires you to think about a relationship between something and something else (also something that could be generated differently each time the player enters the room) - which is where the coloured lasers, switches and colour wheel came into play. The final aspect to be added was Speed, where I simply added a timer, a switch that can reset that but also changes the colour of the laser, and for each laser you shut down the switch restores less and less time.

This room was really fun to make... not. Essentially it's a giant maze home to three switches. Not a very original 'puzzle' I admit, but I always wanted my game to have a maze it in, generally with it being towards the end (which it is). The creation for this room took a real long time due to the sheer amount of tiles required needed to be placed 1 by 1 (I placed around 13,000 tiles in total for this room).
Oh and did I mention, to add a bit more difficulty, I lowered the light so you can only see a portion of the world around you (similar to one of the Overworld rooms). Hopefully this combined with the size of the maze would mean maneuvering throughout the maze will become a bit of a challenge.

The purpose of the maze is for you to find three switches (all green, on, which makes them harder to find due to the tileset used having the same green colour) so you can unlock the floor near where you teleported in. This means not only do you have to get lost in the maze finding the switches, but you have to find your way back!

This is where I wanted to test out different methods of completing a maze, for the most part the left-wall rule works (where you follow the left wall throughout the whole maze leading you through practically everything also leading you back to the start). But the locations of one(or more) switches cannot be found using this rule so you may have to do a bit of 'blind' exploring!

In all this room was probably the easiest to come up with an idea as I wanted a maze in the game somewhere, and the Final level seemed the perfect place to put it. Even I myself get lost in the maze sometimes, which is completely and totally fun as...

That just about wraps up everything covered in the first part of the post series. I will post the next outlining rooms rFinalLevelD and rFinalLevelA in the next few days, so stay tuned for more!


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