16. More Art Style Testing (COLORS!)

In the last post, I mentioned a bit about getting back to looking at doing color in the game, because believe it or not, I’m not making an entirely black and white game. I very much want to do an art style which is mostly monochrome but has splashes of bright colors that pop against the rest of the image.

Here’s my first test of that:

spritingtest4_2

It’s again not a proper mock-up, but is more of a doodle, but I am very happy with where things are going and will try to perhaps do a proper mock-up/concept in the next week.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I should talk about spoilery things on this blog or not. In general I feel like it’s okay because I haven’t really planned on making the blog public, but as time goes on, I keep thinking maybe I should make this public anyway. I just worry about talking so openly about big reveals in the game that I would like to keep under wraps. Or especially as may be the case here, big reveals that haven’t fully formed yet and so talking about the “ideas” is somewhat irrelevant.

I think for now I’ll just talk about what I’m thinking anyway and worry about it down the road, and perhaps it will make this blog stay more of a pure thing anyway by doing that, because I’ll have reason to not publish anything for spoilers.

(SO, SPOILERS, also some spoilers for The Witness here)

So, what I keep thinking about and what’s stumped me for like 6 months is the interface issue, as well as my desire to have some sort of equivalent of The Witness’s layer 2. This is mainly because I feel like my game takes obvious inspiration in terms of the panel puzzles from that game, but I don’t have any equivalent of the environmental puzzles, nor did I ever even really conceive of a thing. Since, in the case of The Witness’s design, the environmental type hidden object thing came before the rest of the idea, I am kinda at a disadvantage and maybe working backwards.

It’s certainly possible that I should throw in the towel here and just not have any thing of the sort in my own game, but I feel like that would probably be a disappointment to anyone who came to my game based on its similarity to the Witness and were hoping for a similar type of experience.

However, this is a real tall order, because I can’t simply do the same thing that The Witness did. For example, one could imagine a first-person version of Taiji where nothing in the world is square, with organic architecture with lots of flowing curves, and hidden squares in the environment which the player needs to line up their perspective to see. It would perhaps be a cool thing in a way, but it would nonetheless be entirely derivative, and for me, not that satisfying to design.

Essentially it would be the same game, only with a different symbology. The circle would be traded out for the square:

circlesquare
The circle is the one on the right.

So, I would rather take a cue from The Witness on a higher level than that, and instead think about how I can have a similar level of secret. How I can have a game that builds towards a startling revelation but does not have the same revelation, so that it would be just as satisfying to a player who had already played The Witness and might go in with a certain mindset and expecting a certain thing.

This more or less means that I have to work backwards, but I am hopeful that I will come up with something that is at least interesting and different, even if it doesn’t end up being profound.

So, the real spoilery thing, if I actually succeed is what exactly my thinking is on that secret.

I’ve thought a lot about what it should be, and my current best guess, as well as the only idea that I’ve taken far enough to visually prototype is this idea of selective color.

Over a year ago, when I first started the project in its conceptual phase with Martin Cohen, I was thinking about a Zelda-type game with a color theme, but I was not exactly sure how that would manifest. I kind of had an idea that you might be able to add or remove objects which were a certain color. Now, I am coming back to that idea, but I am planning on taking a somewhat different approach to executing on it, which is mostly in having the primarily black and white world, so that color objects will stand out.

My hope is that if I give the player explicit ability to interact with colored puzzle panels, they will perhaps not put together the link that they can also interact with objects of the same color in order to solve puzzles. We will have to see how that turns out in practice, but essentially the idea is just that color will be used as a marker for something in the environment that can be interacted with and perhaps this can be done in a subtle and revelatory way.

The other thing is thinking about generosity in terms of game design, because I have a primary worry about this “layer 2” nonsense since forever ago. Namely that it will feel too restrictive and therefore won’t be very satisfying. It will feel more like, oh I just need to find the red things and then click on them. So, that’s the main thing that I haven’t really figured out yet, but part of me has wondered if I shouldn’t just opt for a game design where the entire world is toggle-able on and off. I’m just not even sure how a game holds up when you can do that type of thing. I certainly don’t want to go halfway and then put limits on what you can and can’t toggle in a way that feels arbitrary. So instead, I must simply come up with rules about what is interactable that feels good but also feels surprising.

sokoban
An example of an explicitly tile-based game, perhaps you could toggle tiles on and off?

I suppose that’s all a bit rambly, but my main thinking is that the color limitation will make it not feel arbitrary what is interact-able or not. The only concern then becomes whether or not it makes it feel too restrictive or unsurprising. I may need to think about it for a while longer before coming to the proper conclusions about how exactly to implement the idea.

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