aerial photo of green trees

PARTY'S OVER

GAME DESIGN - LEVEL/PUZZLE DESIGN - NARRATIVE DESIGN - PROGRAMMING - SOUND DESIGN

Gameplay showcase video:

GitHub:

(Complete playthrough including the solutions to all 40 levels)

Party's Over is a 2D puzzle-platformer game in which the goal is to progress to the next level after having turned off all the lights. However, the lights can be controlled by multiple different switches that can themselves control several devices within the level, making the player's progress harder. The game's difficulty is mostly focused on solving puzzles, and in part on platforming.

What I did in this project:

  • Designed the game concept and all puzzle mechanics.

  • Designed the levels and puzzles.

  • Designed the narrative context of the game and included environmental storytelling.

  • Programmed the game.

  • Recorded, processed and integrated sounds in the game.

LEVEL/PUZZLE DESIGN SAMPLE

Context

In the previous levels, the player has learned the following 4 mechanics:

  1. Timer switch: works like a regular switch, but with a time limit indicated by a clock which starts when the switch is activated. When the time limit is reached, the timer switch is deactivated.

  2. The enemy of type "passed out" follows the player from the moment they come too close to him, and stops when the player becomes inaccessible. Moreover, unlike the other enemy type, he can fall off platforms while following the player.

  3. The player can jump on enemies and bounce back to the height from which they started falling. For example, if they jump from the second floor, they will bounce back to the height of the second floor, but if they jump from the third, their jump will reach the third floor's height.

  4. The player doesn't jump high enough to jump on or over enemies when they are standing on same-height ground. They must therefore find another way when an enemy blocks a path, and jump from a higher floor if they want to bounce on an enemy.

This document presents the level design process behind level 25 of Party's Over.

Level 25 Layout Blueprint

Legend

Objective

When the player enters the level, only light A is on, and linked by a cable to the switch near it. The apparent goal is therefore to reach this switch (which is not accessible by a ladder and blocked by a type A gate), in order to turn off light A.

Process

At first, only the lower-floor switch is available, and it gives access to the timer switch, but also turns on light B. The gap between the second-floor semi-solid platforms is small enough for the player to jump from one to the other, but the one between the third-floor platforms is too large. The player's first reflex will then likely be to go down ladder 4 to avoid the enemy, activate the lower-floor switch, climb back up ladder 2, jump on the right-side platform, and climb up ladder 3 to reach the timer switch. If the enemy has not moved since the beginning, he will start following the player once they come up ladder 2, then will stop on the edge of the gap, unable to follow the player on the other side.

This path is showed in blue in the following blueprint. The mechanisms are represented in their state at the beginning of the path.

When the timer switch is activated, gate 1 opens. At that moment, ladder 2 has already been lowered, so the player doesn't have any choice but going back down and reactivating the lower-floor switch, climb back up ladder 3, jump on the left-side platform and then climb ladder 2. If the enemy has followed the player on the gap's edge when they first climbed ladder 2, he will block the player, who then cannot access the raised ladder to reach gate 1. The player then has no other choice than retrying the level, this time starting by attracting the enemy to the left, then going down ladder 4, then following the same steps. In any case, this path requires too much time to complete, and gate 1 will close before the player can reach it.

Path 1, Part 1.

Path 1, Part 2.

The player must then use the mechanics they have learned up until now in the previous levels and combine them to be able to progress. The key to the problem is understanding that right after activated the timer switch, the player has to jump and bounce on the enemy in order to cross gate 1 before it closes. To accomplish this, the enemy must be placed in the right spot, that is on the lower floor, right in the gap between the higher-floor platforms.

Solution

The player must therefore start by going down ladder 4, going to ladder 3 and climbing it, then jumping back on the left-side platform to attract the enemy's attention. Then, they must attract the enemy to the lower floor and climb ladder 3 again. The enemy will follow the player and stop at the foot of the ladder.

Solution, Part 1.

The player then has to go back down the gap and go back to the enemy from its left. They have to activate the lower-floor switch, which makes ladder 2 accessible from the lower floor, then attract the enemy to the left and climb ladder 2. Once again, the enemy will stop at the foot of the ladder when the player climbs it and becomes unreachable.

Solution, Part 2.

The player then has to go to the timer switch using ladder 3, activate it, then jump on the enemy, now in the right place, and bounce all the way to the highest left-side platform to cross the open gate 1. Then, they can activate the higher-floor switch, which turns off light A, and raises ladder 4, allowing to go back down to the second floor. They must then jump once more in the gap, reactivating the lower-floor switch to turn off light B and regain access to ladder 3, then climb up it to reach the exit door and end the level.

Solution, Part 3.

Solution, Part 4.

Design Decisions

This section presents the major design decisions that were made, as much for the game as a whole as for this specific level.

Game Design:

  • The camera is static and frames the whole level, so that the player can see all puzzle elements at any moment in their progression.

  • The lights are linked by cables to the switches that control them. This visual indicator allows player to know at any time which switches they must activate/deactivate in order to turn off all the lights and beat the level.

  • Similarly, when the player is in range of a switch, the mechanisms if affects are surrounded by a colored light contour, in order to have a quick global idea of the switch's effects without having to activate/deactivate it.

  • The mechanisms that alternate between 2 positions (ex. : mobile ladder, type B gate (none in this level)) are accompanied by a track indicating visually the movement of the mechanism when activated.

Level Design:

  • My intention for this level was to combine the timer switch and bouncing on an enemy mechanics. Creating a puzzle whose solution lied in traveling in a limited time a certain distance, made shorter when bouncing on an enemy previously placed in the right spot, seemed an interesting way to achieve this.

  • A type A gate that opens up through a timer switch seemed an appropriate obstacle in this context. I needed to place the mobile ladders and switches in a way to make the path too long if the enemy bounce was not used. I also had to think of a way to exit the light A zone when gate 1 would be closed. Therefore, I linked ladder 4 to the same switch that controls light A, so that a way back is opened when the light is turned off.

  • During prototyping, I realized the enemy took a lot of place when placed in his final position on the lower floor, and that it was extremely hard, sometimes impossible, to jump to his right to go reactivate the switch right before beating the level (Solution, Part 4). I tried changing the mechanisms affected by the different switches to offer a different way to the exit door, but it added useless complexity and changed the level's focus, which, in my opinion, had to lie mainly on finding the way to enter gate 1 on time. I finally opted for moving the lower-floor switch to the middle floor so that the player doesn't have to go back down to the lower floor after having turned off light A, but rather can simply jump to the right-side platform and reactivate the moved switch to turn off light B and open the exit door. This change did not affect the rest of the level's resolution, since the player could always activate the switch after having climbed ladder 3. Here is a blueprint of the improved version of this level:

  • When, towards the end of the game production, I added decorative elements in the level, such as red plastic cups in link with the game's story, I took the opportunity to use some as subtle hints that could guide a perceptive player towards the solution. At the edge of the timer switch platform, I placed a spilled cup facing the gate's direction, another upright at the spot where the enemy must be placed, and a last one near gate 1. These isolated red cups indicate the important points of the solution's path. It's a very subtle detail that will probably not greatly change the player's resolution process, but could serve as a subtle hint if a player gets stuck. Here is an in-game screenshot of the final version of level 25 :

aerial photo of green trees