What do you think is one of the coolest things about game development and design?
From our side, the creativity and problem solving that we get to express comprise a large chunk of our excitement – but there is one thing in particular that sneaks up on us every now and again. So let’s take a good look at what this sneaky thing is and how it stole its way into our development process!
Over the course of the rebuild of A Tofu Tail into Unity, many aspects of the game were redesigned and improved upon. One tool that was built to help with the creation of the now designed levels was a world builder. We will discuss the details of this level editor in a later post, but essentially this new tool allowed us to configure the tiles, tofu start, finish banner, color change orbs… anything that could be included in a level of the story mode.
Functionality of the level building tool was built surprisingly quickly – a nice bonus for our small indie development team. It has been saving us a bunch of time overall for very little initial investment. After the testing and debugging of the tool was finished, we were able to jump into crafting puzzles for Mr. Tofu to try and solve.
We had built a handful of stages over a few weeks, and it wasn’t too long following this that we ran into one of those happy little accidents that occasionally occur during development…We had inadvertently found a new way to present puzzles to the players of A Tofu Tail!
In one of the level building sessions, we had accidentally placed two tofu start locations on the map. When the level was started, we were actually controlling two instances of Mr. Tofu at once. And because of the GameObject – Component structure in Unity, core functionality of multiple player-controlled tofu worked right from the start with very little additional code!
Though this game element essentially fell into our laps, we did have a few design challenges with the interactions of multiple tofu with one another, as well as the win conditions for the puzzles. Our approach here was to make decisions on how tofu would interact and collide with the finish banner as well as one another in a way that didn’t interfere with our core design goals, while still adding opportunity for more interesting and challenging puzzles.
We also needed to determine where in the game this new element should reside. The Spirit Realm levels seemed like a natural fit for this: it posed a great place in the game to work thematically –with Mr. Tofu splitting his soul into several spirit avatars – and it was late enough in the gameplay to justify present this higher level of challenge to the player.
Now that the new mechanic had a home in the world of A Tofu Tail, how could we design a creatively themed trigger for the player to split the Mr. Tofu into multiple pieces? The easiest approach would have been some kind of button that produced another tofu man somewhere on the stage. This, however, did not feel solid enough in the narrative – what was the reason for this clone just appearing across the stage?
Sooo… what about a spirit door that would do this? This way, Mr. Tofu’s soul can be split from his physical body when he traversed through this doorway.
The doorway idea felt much better within the narrative that was being presented. In addition, it was definitely a more interesting player experience than was the legacy Spirit Realm gameplay mod – the fading tiles. The old mod was designed to fade a random set of tiles on the map periodically during play to hinder player progress, which was admittedly a very weak “enhancement” to play…
The new feature, we feel, adds more potency to the Kitsune’s bag of tricks; Mr. Tofu is certainly in for a surprise! Not only will the player need to think about how to solve the puzzles within the level itself, but they need to consider the tiles that are falling due to the traversal of several tofu cubes on the stage at once.
But unlike Mr. Tofu’s blunder in the example just above, this small ‘oops’ moment actually ended up bringing a bunch more tofu to A Tofu Tail… so get yourselves ready for more sentient tofu than you thought possible!
Next time in our Game Design Deep Dive series, we look at a completely new quirky character to Mr. Tofu’s world: the polite Mr. Kappa!