This was the fourth game made during my time at The Game Assembly in Malmö, sweden. It's a combatless 2D platformer where the gameplay consists of avoiding enemies and hazards, utilising a moveset consisting of jumping, gliding and dashing. Atmospherically the game takes inspiration from "Little Nightmares," striving for a type of dark and unnerving atmosphere. With the player being a very small character, the types of areas the player navigates are bookcases, tables, chairs, stacks of books etc.
The player goes through three levels of increasing difficulty, ending with a chase-sequence of sorts, where the player must platform high up in the air, avoiding getting grabbed by the hand of their captor.
Development time: 7 weeks part time
Engine: TGA2D (Tiled as editor)
I did layout and some propping for Level 1, as well as layout and propping for Level 2.
An evil toymaker captures the souls of the already deceased in order to give life to his twisted creations. In a jar on a shelf she sits. Locked away and awaiting her fate, almost ready to give up, she spots a glimmer of hope. High above the ground, a light in the dark! An open window!
Using the last of her strenght, she tackles the inside of her glass prison. It wobbles aggressivly until it finally falls of the shelf, smashing against the ground. She's free! Now she must get out of here, before she's caught again.
Programming: Charle Berner - Mohamed Jawad - Lukas Lenandet - Maximiliam Malander - Casper Stein
Graphic Design: Anton Bergaren Wallerstedt - Malene Olsson - Tim Persson - Alvin Johnsson
Graphic Design/Antimation: Veronika Mossum - Julia Eklund Granstedt
Level Design: Robin Jansson - Marcus Tegerhult
"Platforming as a small character in a large world"
There's a lot of potential when creating platformingchallenges in the type of setting we where going for. Workshops in cartoons are often messy, with tools, shelves and workbenches everywhere. We decided that the most natural progression, both in terms of narrative and increasing challenge, was to have the playercharacter climbing upwards; starting of more at groundlevel where the player can interact with enemies and environmental hazards in a safer context, before progressing upwards, where you get more natural "bottomless pits" when the player leaps from rafter to rafter in order to reach their ultimate goal: a window leading to their freedom.
Originally we broke the game into four levels:
-Beneath the Floorboards
-In The Wall
-The Great Escape
In the end, the two final levels where combined into "The Great Escape" in order to emphasise the climb upwards, and due to the fact that we couldn't figure out enough unique scenarios in the more tight space of an interior of a wall.
We broke these levels down and listed all the environmental hazards we could imagine within these settings, like steampipes, nails and toys that would chase you. After that the graphical artists we worked with created some conceptart for us to use as guidelines when designing the layouts for each level. These helped a lot to get into the correct mindspace for both the graphical artists and us level designers.
Using these as references we quickly created some quick paperdesigns where we defined the types of challenges we wanted in our levels and the general flow and compiled these in Level Design Documents contatining helpful reference images, quick descriptions of the idea of each level and conceptart. We created quick sketches on paper so we could easily look at and analyse eachothers layout, before getting to work and blocking the levels in the engine.
"Designing for a platformer"
Since this game is a combatless experience, we had to make sure that the game had things to offer the player that would keep them entertained. The player should never be stuck just walking forward. Since we're making a platformer where the players moveset is tailored to running and jumping, we tried to ensure that navigating the world itself was stimulating even outside of specifc challenges, by adding small obstacles the player had to simply jump over, or short and easy climbs that were simply there to help sell the player on the idea that they are a small character in a huge world not made for them.
Enemies were still present, but had a basic behaviour where they simply moved between two patrolpoints. We decided to take advtantage of this to enhance the horrorfeel in the game. If the player intercepted their path, they would make a sound and charge the player. Because of this, interaction with the enemy where more like a game of "the floor is lava," where players would have to patiently look for opportunities where they could dash to the next safe zone, creating a sort of pseudo-stealth scenario.
"Blocking out the levels"
We used a free open source editor called "Tiled" when creating the levels, which we would export into a format that the TGA2D engine could read. For this game we could only work with square colliders and our levels had to be designed with these restrictions in mind. In Tiled, you can create "layers" like you can in "photoshop." We integrated this feature into our workflow by defining what each layer's purpose was, then exporting everything drawn on that layer into the game after those rules. For example, in order to handle the worldcollisions we simply had a "collision layer" where every marked tile would result in a collider ingame, but no visual graphics in the release version. In the early stages of development when the game was lacking features like "deathzones" or "grabpoints," so to mark out where these were in the level, we used simple colorcoded tiles. This helped us visualise the gameplay as we where blocking and we could use these as referencepoints while tweaking the gameplaymetrics, once the basic gameplay started coming in.
Once the levels felt nice to navigate and all the gameplay elements where in place, only then did we start decorating the levels. The graphicsdesigners we worked with created a large selection of images based on the areas the levels where set in, which we then turned into tilesets. These tiles would be painted on one of three different "Detail Layers" that would display whatever was painted on them visually ingame, but wouldn't have any collisions by themsemselves. Using these tilesets which consisted of both "generic textures" and more specific props like clocks, books and chairs, we slowly built up environments and tweaked the geometry of the level to better fit with the graphical elements, and create a more cohesive world.
Hazards like enemies and spikes were simply added by adding an "Object" with the correct filepath to whatever element we wanted there.
Even in the early stages of blocking, we tried to visualise potential props that we wanted, since the atmosphere and environments was a very large focus of the game.
Example of level 2 nearing completion. Different camera boundarys, hazards and checkpoints are defined, and detail has been added. Background is only visible ingame.
The game had a lot of technical issues when we handed it in, but overall I'm very happy with our work. This project required us to design levels with a specific look in mind, allowing us to design challenges that both felt fun to play and would translate well to the setting we went for. Considering the short development time we had to design and realise these levels, I'm very happy with the result.
One thing I would've done better was direction. The second level, especially around the "clock" you can see in the screenshot above, caused some confusion due to a poorly defined path. Sometimes the art was done to look as good as possible and it lead to the appearance of multiple paths the player can take.