Developing the core gameplay design of Phaneron! | Game Development Blog

These last couple of weeks I have been going between designing and prototyping features for the game, getting used to the process of early iteration. (A requirement on a narrative-driven puzzle game such as this)


Mainly this has consisted of work on the main interaction mechanic for the entire game: The sliding tile interface. I have been spending time working on the basic framework so we can create more advanced puzzles later down the line.


Something I have been following fairly closely is the game design philosophy of Jonathan Blow, in which he tries to create games in such a way that they begin to design themselves as a natural progression of the rule systems and mechanics used. A good description of this methodology can be found in this video by Mark Brown: 


 With this game we wanted to be sure that the puzzles we create aren’t the typical sliding tile puzzles found in games, they must consist of something else interesting; using the player’s unique point of view on the world to figure out how to solve them. Adapting Jonathan Blow’s way of designing, I will focus on play-testing as much as possible, before iterating on the basic mechanic of sliding a tile across a space. Over time this concept will evolve as I begin to discover ways that this basic mechanic and be pushed, pulled and twisted so no facet of this idea can go unexplored.


Moving Tiles


The core game loop in Phaneron involves the player interacting with various tile puzzles scattered throughout the gigantic ominous dream tower. These puzzles can be found on the ground, on the walls and in any other orientation. However the player’s control of the tiles are always relative to the camera for ease of control. 


A tile can only move one step in a direction when a directional input is pressed and only if a board piece is present below it, this is the most basic rule for how the mechanic works. The player interacts with the tiles by using the character to aim their arm pointed at the tile and then using some form of magic to gain control of the puzzle, the player can then freely move tiles on that puzzle until it is deselected.


The puzzles can also be freely scaled to any size, allowing for different kinds of uses within the environment.


Basic Rules


Currently there are a few basic requirements that affect each tile puzzle, these rules will be enhanced and built upon as more ideas for the gameplay emerge:


  • There can be multiple tiles on a board at a time which can be moved independently.

  • To complete a puzzle the player must satisfy an output by moving a tile onto a matching board piece of colour.

  • There may be multiple outputs on a board, some may have different requirements to activate.

  • Outputs are shown to link with other objects or puzzles in the scene through tile trials.


Design work


As a result of the last few weeks I had a prototype of how the player can interact with objects in the world on a basic level. But for this early development process to work properly I need to jump between prototyping and design on a frequent basis. So after a period of implementing logic in engine I began work on exploring all the possibilities with this simple mechanic.





I wanted to see if I could push the concept of what can be done with the board and the tiles themselves, if the outputs required tiles with different colours then could a puzzle involve changing the colour of a tile or the output through some other means? If the board reacts to certain colours or patterns could there also be board pieces which only allow tiles of matching colour or pattern through them? Could the shape of board itself be manipulated?


Another area we are keen to explore is the way the player can interact with the world and the puzzles without moving them directly. So if the tiles have gravity, can the player knock the tile board over to be able to manipulate them differently? This area will require a lot more out of the box thinking, seeing how we can apply logic used inside the tile puzzles to other areas of the game like exploration.


The next key piece of logic that I will work on includes creating a tile that only matching colours can pass through, as this functionality opens up a lot of later possible expansion; including creating tiles that involve manipulating the board itself in different ways.


Next week


I will demonstrate more of the base mechanics along with some stuff about the test level construction, as well as some traversal mechanics. Probably.


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