Lost in puzzles
One of the things that we wanted to show you is how we design puzzles for Paradise Lost. This is an intricate process that requires hours of thinking and trial & error testing, in order to obtain gameplay experiences that flex the players mind. To make a problem resolution that is both entertaining and challenging it’s necessary to take into account a number of factors that, correctly aligned, manage to convey an immersive experience within the game universe. The use of the plant skills, the interaction with the environment and the addition of narrative clues are elements that we kept in mind to design these enigmas. Before developing each puzzle, we created an initial diagram with the “key” concepts, situations and mechanics categorized by the type of abilities required to solve them and the way that the player interacts with the environment.
(You can view the scheme on detail by clicking on the image -sorry, it was written in Spanish :/ )
Design every puzzle individually is not feasible because it would require to code each challenge from scratch, increasing its possibility to crash and requiring more time for test and debugging. Using the previous framework as a design guide help us delimit the number of gameplay elements, simplifying its deconstruction and avoiding a more complex development.
Does this mean that all the puzzles are the same? Of course not; the exploration and use of your surrounding area makes every challenge unique. Besides this, some of this conundrum scan test different mental skills at the same time, mixing different categories like pattern recognition or sequence solving on a single brainteaser.
To give more complexity without risking the core mechanics we also added variations on each design, expanding and evolving the game experience. For example, imagine a scene with a transport arm that displace boxes where you need to open a path, creating a stairway to advance. The following ideas show how to “improve” the performance of a basic problem with a pair of modifications:
- one button moves the hoist 2 columns (always to the left till the last column, then return the same number of positions)
- a second button moves the hoist 3 columns (same performance)
- the third button of the panel change the polarity of the claw. There are two kind of boxes to interact with, each with a different pole.
- The arm grabs a box after the movement. If is not of its polarity the hoist doesn’t pick it. You can’t stack more than 3 boxes vertically.
This way we can make one complex challenge composed from 3 easy principles, suitable to multiple challenges.
Once we decided the type of game mechanic to use, we translate this concept to a Lego play set. Manipulating the physic cubes that represent the puzzle components give us a deeper and more “visual” understanding of the enigma resolution. It also makes the deconstruction process easily.
And voila! Here’s the puzzle translated to the game engine (it seems that W has some troubles with the control panel).
Good news! the main AI modules are almost done and fully functional; from this point we only need to incorporate new animations to the Mecanim state machine system.
To have a deeper understanding of how it works, take a look at the Security Forces behavior diagram:
Each animation is linked to a state or transition (the rectangular boxes) which, in turn, interacts with other states. This interlaced groups are gathered in submachines (those hexagonal frames) to maintain an organized/understandable workflow. The next picture shows the patterns attached under the Attack state machine.
From this point Carlos started to develop specific scripts that assign those behaviors to in-game characters within a “easy to use” control panel. This allows us to design the enemy routines in real time without going through the state machine.
Sharing our work with other developers
Last update we posted about the new pixel art rotation technique developed to obtain a smooth/pixelated aiming for the characters. Unity didn’t include any standard tools to represent this effect, so we decided to publish this gadget on the Unity Asset Store, allowing other game designers to use this kind of rotation in their pixel art games and, also, help finance Paradise Lost.
So if you are designing a project with pixel aesthetics too and want to preserve that edgy/pixelated look on motion elements, you can check our asset right here.
Running out of time…
Finally, we leave you with another immersive composition by Pablo J. Garmón for the game. Since we’ve been talking about puzzle challenges, here you can enjoy a piece representing a dramatic situation that W must solve in a race against the clock.
(This is a preliminar theme. Some arrangements will be made to the final version):
Green hugs to all of you!,