What do the Japanese ogre-creature – the oni – and a DJ have in common?
They both work at the disco club, of course!
In the last version of A Tofu Tail, Mr. Oni would follow behind Mr. Tofu, preventing the player from reversing/undoing their previous movements to a certain extent. With the time limit imposed upon the player, we wished to prevent the player from having too much freedom to correct mistakes.
Over the course of playtesting and seeing how all of our original design ideas came together, we were disappointed. The oni character felt forced – he really served no purpose and did not enhance the gameplay significantly. It was another example of our folly in trying to add to the narrative without consideration for how it affected the gameplay and player experience.
Scrapping this idea in the redesign, we needed to come up with some new design, goal-adhering, puzzle element. We already had Mr. Tengu – which added non-player controlled movement of Mr. Tofu – so what could we do to add a new ingredient that was different from this?
Why not a non-player controlled character that also navigates the crazy color mazes? Maybe he could block player movement to certain tiles? With the old procedural levels, this would have been near impossible to control; however, with the opportunity we had with the now designed levels, we could place and control how the puzzles would progress much more easily.
The first step was to define a clear set of rules by which Mr. Oni would move. This would allow for controlled situations and puzzle development without fear of unknown consequences, while also providing repeatable results. The player could additionally learn how Mr. Oni functions and subsequently work towards a solution of the puzzles without resorting to trial and error – effectively empowering them (with the correct level design, of course!).
After building some levels and having a few individuals play test, we saw some very innate complexity emerging. There was the prospect for a good bit of depth in this new mechanic that could definitely provide some very interesting puzzle creation opportunities. Awesome!
Now came the task of trying to find where in the game’s narrative and level structure that this new and improved Mr. Oni would fit. We decided to tie him thematically into the story and aesthetics in the disco realm…
…as a bouncer on dance floor! The large ogre-like Mr. Oni actually fit perfectly into this rule, even physically bouncing Mr. Tofu upon collisions.
Putting Mr. Oni in this realm replaced the previous level mod of random tofu color changes – which turned out to be overall confusing and uninteresting now that the primary goal was no longer based on time completion.
Soooo…. What place does a nightclub have in a Japanese folklore inspired puzzle game? Well, we gotta have some quirk as indie game developers, right? I guess you will have to play A Tofu Tail to find out the answer!
Until then, we will continue to look at the design changes to the game in our game design deep dive series. Next post we will take a look at the haunting spirit realm and its new “soul-splitting” puzzle mechanic.
Remember, keep on ploppin’!
the alchemedium team