Halloween has come and gone again, so as have been our habit the last few years we will revisit the graveyard of buried ideas. Without saying too much, this will (hopefully) be the last time we do this so instead of focusing on just one mechanic, read on to learn about a few different designs we threw out along the way!
When we first started with the Backworlds prototype, we had parameters for every conceivable value relating to physics built into each level – if it controlled movement in any way, you could change the frontworld/backworld behavior of it. With this in mind, having levels where we completely removed gravity came naturally and we built a few examples of puzzles where you would build up momentum in frontworld that would get preserved in backworlds to get around obstacles. While this mechanic made good use of the ability to paint anywhere freely, it was difficult to come up with puzzles that were hard to figure out but easy to solve as the ones we had mostly revolved around judging velocities and distances.
Another idea that came early was one to remove friction completely in the backworld – this was mostly an idea driven by aesthetics, coming at a point where we had not settled on a graphical style or decided how the front- and backworld would relate thematically. In short, it was easy to imagine an area that was frozen over in backworld, and since all of our physics values were exposed it was trivial to implement. We were quick to abandon this idea as it proved to be a very small difference mechanically and we could only really figure out one puzzle with it without resorting to specific objects. We do not shy away from using world-specific objects with Backworlds, but we try to be careful about adding too much since – as mentioned in the “circuit” retrospective – it has an inherent risk of becoming an awkward interface for solving a puzzle that is ill-suited for the game.
The final idea I’m going to mention today is one of the ones we came up with after giving up on “scroll” – the basic idea of this one was that moving objects horizontally in backworld would grow or shrink them. Initially this felt like a cool idea as it wasn’t an immediately obvious mechanic, as such it encourages players to think in new ways and provides fertile ground for “a-ha” – moments. We played around with it for a bit and felt that while there were some interesting puzzles there, the painting felt incidental – it was hard to create puzzles where the painting made it interesting rather than tedious to affect the scale of objects. We also found that puzzles became very restricted unless we inserted areas were you could not paint, and whenever a mechanic has this many problems with the Backworlds main mechanic we have not stayed with it for long.
There are many more smaller ideas we tried out and threw out along the way, changing other aspects of movement or revolving around objects that behave differently in front- and backworld, but most fall in one of these categories – they weren’t good ideas to begin with, the gameplay they offered was a tricky platforming challenge rather than a tricky puzzle one or they were ill-suited for being used with the Backworlds painting mechanic or even in a platform game overall.
We are still working hard on finishing up the game, finalizing the art in all areas and making sure the game is stable and performant on a variety of platforms. With that in mind and expo season over, it might be a while until we have any more big announcements but we will keep posting about our progress along the way!