During the early stage of the first semester, we’d still yet to develop a mechanics system that we felt worked. This was concerning as we wanted to put together mechanical prototypes as quickly as possible to begin testing. Our basic line system needed a lot of work to turn into something that felt enjoyable and playable. This promptly came my number one concern and it couldn’t be put of any longer, I assigned myself and Dean to take over design of the mechanical system, I chose Dean as he’s be the one developing the systems and I thought this may speed up the development process and myself because this would mean I’d have a good understanding of the mechanics and the scale of them, this scope would help me plan out other elements of the game and as I designed the core narrative with Ella I could integrate mechanics more easily this way.
Starting of, I asked Bernie to assemble all his research on the subject so we could look over it and possibly pick out something new. We had the choice to build one large system that world work for several interactions or several smaller ones that abided by a set of rules, we opted for several smaller sets that adhere to a set of rules. We set about establishing these rules and what they would mean. I had the idea that to form a connection there had to be two parts to each interaction, the learning or following and then the reverse, the talking or the leading. I liked the system to Tag, you chase someone and tag them, after achieving that they chase you, this demonstrates the two sided interaction from both the player and the character they interface with.
With this rule set we wanted to design several unique variations for each iteration that would play differently and catered around each musical family but with the same concept. The line mechanic became the system for the wind/flute people.
After the systems had taken form I felt that the major issue with the systems was it’s difficulty, the harder the mechanic, the more like a precision based mechanic it would feel like. The system had to flow in a way that felt satisfying so players were less concerned about how well they were performing but more interested in the overall experience. We introduced a no-fail no death policy into the game, we wanted to make a game that suits players that are unfamiliar with video game systems. We wanted to make it so that Interactions can’t be failed, they just loop until the player manages to succeed at the mechanic. This has the risk of leaving players in a limbo like state without a specific fail condition but we hope the mechanical systems will be simple enough for players to pick it up and succeed before any serious confusion.
For the piano system we looked at how we’d try and incorporate the motion of playing the piano into the mechanic, how the precise and exact movements would play a part in the mechanic. I looked at the idea of how slinkys move down stairs, methodically and tapping each stair as they go, we worked with the idea that you bounce over keys and have to land on them almost like a platformer. We experimented with how players bounce through keys and we worked with the idea of verticality, at players advance through correct keys, they ascend the tower, as they fail, possibly they descend, however eventually we decided to drop this idea and keep it simple, players simply stay on a single line and have to bounce on the same line as the NPC, the NPC will be set to work on a pattern, we moved through several design iterations and eventually settled on the idea that the player would bounce on top of a line and the NPC would bounce on the other side of the line, upon syncing correctly. The line disappears and the lines begin to interweave, demonstrating that they have reached an understanding, over time the other characters lines also appear and move with you and the piano NPC character moving upwards towards the peak of the tower, this triggers the final scene.
We felt that bouncing along keys would be quite satisfying having you touch the keys in time with the music to create arcs in each respective colour, we played around with the visual element for some time working with different constraints and styles. We experimented on paper ideas for movement and how the interaction level might look
The triangle system was designed almost entirely by Dean, he described the system to me and although I struggled to understand it I got the rough concept, his idea was to make use of a triangular grid that players must navigate on the beat of the music to catch the NPC, probably the most similar to actual tag. The player had to follow the pattern for several beats to complete the interaction.
Although the mechanics share rules and systems, they each have a fundamentally different movement that is required from the player keeping each mechanic feeling new and different while also maintaining a level of affordance through the rule system. The wind mechanic makes the user move the stick upward and downward to match the line, the Brass makes use of rotational motions, players must rotate the stick to catch the balls. The Triangle system makes use of diagonal motions and replicating the angles of triangles, at the final system, the piano mechanic, the user returns to a familiar system, but instead of up and down, the system requires the player to match on the left and right directions. These work together to keep the game interesting and act as interesting mini puzzle systems from an input perspective.
We wanted an easy and recognisable way to pick out the player character in the interactions and a way tell which one the NPC was, I had the idea of colour consistency, the player always represents a bright blue while the NPC characters colour is relative to their clothe colours, this allows players to draw a connection between the characters and the interactions and what the lines represent without needing to have it explained to the player.
I think our mechanics rely heavily on tactile feedback being fed to the player to tell them they’re doing things correctly, we need to make it clear through flashes and colour changes that the player is on the right track and this will act as a guide to help them go forward, without this, players might get lost and as we don’t use tutorials in the game, this could be fatal to the desired experience.
The wave mechanic was our starting basis for prototyping and testing, we designed a basic version at the end of semester 1 and this was originally going to be the mechanical system for every location however I was unhappy with this as I generally didn’t feel it was interesting enough and I felt that we either needed more systems or to vastly improve this one, when I brought these concerns to the team, they agreed we should work on the mechanics, we redesigned the wave mechanic after Dean and I outlined new rules and principles for the mechanics to work on
The wave mechanic was our basis for all of the system and became a benchmark for how we wanted players to interact with the game, I was concerned that it felt too much like a precision based mechanic rather than an experiential system based on our user testing, I believe with the introduction of this second part of the system it will take the focus from getting it right or wrong to enjoying the patterns and lines. We added the second part of the mechanic and made the lines interact when correctly syncing the lines together so that they interweave, this improved the system massively and several iterations later, we had a working and enjoyable system.
During the testing of the mechanic I observed players found it difficult to stay on the line and often once they strayed from the line it was difficult to save themselves. I had the idea for some sort of hidden aim assist that aids players staying on the line to keep the difficulty down and the players believe it’s all them
Wind interaction concept
For brass we wanted to capture the boldness of the instrument, something round and bulky which would feel interesting, we worked with the idea of bouncing and bounciness and how we could bounce around balls and have them interact in an engaging manner, We eventually worked with the idea of throwing balls and catching them using a circular motion, rotating the analogue stick allows you to catch at a given angle and the player had to attempt to catch randomly spawning balls dropped by an AI NPC on the beat of the music, upon completion, you are the thrower and the NPC had to catch the balls.