Transcend: Mechanics and Level Design – Tent-Maker DevBlog (8/17/16)


I’m a programmer by trade. I’ve always felt more comfortable writing code than clicking and dragging game assets. So its a bitter sweet moment for me when the programming part of development is over, which it now is. So now that all the mechanics for the game are baked in I wanted to take a minute and explain what they are:

  1. Life and death: When the character dies, he continues to exist as a ghost. As a ghost he passes through solid objects while colliding with objects in the spirit realm. When he is alive he passes through spirit objects while colliding with objects in the physical realm. The brick floors and walls are the foundation of the levels that the player will collide with regardless of whether he is alive or dead.
  2. Cannons: One of the ways the character can be killed is by getting shot by the canon. The player will be able to change the angle of the canon giving him control over exactly when and where the canon ball will be at certain times. The canon also fires “spirit” bullets that will bring you back to life when you are dead.
  3. Angels and Demons: When you die in the game angels seek you out to bring you back to life. When you are alive, demons seek you out to kill you.
  4. Torches: There will be torches attached to the walls in the game that give of a glow of light. If the light touches a platform it will turn the platform into its opposite. So if the platform is “living” it will become “dead.” If it is “dead” it will become “living.”
  5. Movable platforms: Some of the brick platforms in the levels can be moved by flipping a switch or by standing on a pressure plate.
  6. Time Travel: Possibly the most intuitive mechanic in the game. In some levels the player will be able to wind back the clock to the point in time where he began the level. When he does this he will see his past self in the level doing all the things he did before. Some of the puzzles will require you to cooperate with your past self.
  7. Combinations: I will leave it to the reader to imagine the incredible meta-mechanics I have at my disposal when these mechanics are combined. Every time I design a new level I discover a new way to make use of these mechanics.

Right now I am focusing mostly of level design when I can resist the urge to go back and mess with the code. I’ve set a goal for myself of 30 puzzle levels and 30 non-puzzle levels. By puzzle levels I mean one of two things. Either (1) a level where the solution is not completely obvious to the player the moment he sees it, or (2) a level where the player only has one linear path to follow where solutions to the puzzle become obvious. I use these non-puzzle levels as a way to train the player in how to use the mechanics and also to advance the story-line. Yes there will be a story-line. It won’t be a massive story since the focus of this game is not the story but rather the puzzles, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to express myself in this way.

I’ve also made the decision not to have a traditional boss fight. I am drawing my inspiration for this game from Braid by Jonathan Blow, and Another Perspective, by Shaun Spalding. I just recently realized that neither of these games have a traditional boss fight. Rather the ultimate level in each game is simply one that uses all the same mechanics as before but adds one more element for emotional effect, i.e. the princess.

The demo is almost done, so you if anyone is interested in playing it, stay tuned and follow me on Twitter.


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