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Journal Part 3
January 20, 2017
Now I started to develop the level itself, thinking about it's design, experimenting with the particle systems in Unreal 4 and implementing some new mechanics.
I wanted the dash to always be faster than the players max speed so it actually felt like an ability, the player doesn't accelerate much because I wanted the stone head to feel heavy. The dash can be used to change direction quickly, a solution to the slow turning created by the large amount of momentum. I thought about how games I look up to introduced their mechanics to a player through level design. The first game that came to mind was Super Meat Boy (Team Meat 2008), I remember Edmund Mcmillen talking about his method in Indie Game the Movie (2012).
The mechanics don't have to be explained using text or a cutscene, but through imagery and the gameplay. In the first few levels you simply have to wall jump, in the third level you have to run and jump to get across a gap, if you don't run you won't make it across.
This method of introducing new mechanics to the player one step at a time is an effective way to teach, I mirrored this method by having a lava pit the player has to jump over, the 2nd pit the player has to dash and then jump to make it.
I added some new sprites such as button prompts that exist in the game world, I think these are more interesting than pop ups just because I like to see how the developer has visually represented the mechanic, just the press of a button and it's mechanic can be represented and themed to fit with the rest of the game, again looking back to Spelunky
The dash button prompt also allowed me to make the colours more consistent, for example red would seem less alien because of it's use in the drawing of the B button on an xbox one controller.
I refined the original sprite in the video a bit, made the prompt smaller to fit with the jump prompt and cleaned up the drawing.
I enjoyed experimenting with the particle systems in Unreal a lot, seeing a simple small image turn into a bellowing cloud of smoke for example was satisfying. I wanted dust to be kicked up when the player jumped or dashed, this gave the jump and landing more impact, helping reinforce that the stone head is heavy, as well as suggesting that this temple is ancient and dusty. I also thought about how I would implement a moving platform, I wanted it to be more interesting than a simple surface the player jumps onto that moves. I produced smoke in the particle system while experimenting with it, I thought the smoke could come out of something and rise the player up.
The smoke wheezes out of an old wooden head that was used for decoration, but when the player sees this head it has fallen over, and much like the rest of the temple nature has latched on to it. The coloured flowers on the stone head are the same shade as the smoke itself, suggesting a link, nature has taken over this head and given it life. It might make the player wonder why and how the stone head they are playing as has been given life.