A Tofu Tail – Balancing Challenge, Flow, and Narrative

alchemedium —  May 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

We’ve got some new concept art pieces, and a look at our level design process here this time around!

There is still a good bit of work that needs to be done on the boss levels (and especially the stages end game), but we want to show you a bit about our process for designing and balancing the levels in A Tofu Tail. Puzzle level design here requires a little more planning in the structure and order of the levels.

Art!

We have been hard at work on producing new art – Sean with the cutscenes and character portraits, and Brolley on cleaning up the in-game GUI, pause menus, and other random placeholders.

There is definitely a lot to show! This time, we have concept art for the supporting cast of A Tofu Tail:

Mr. Tengu

These tenaciously territorial forest goblins are a force to be reckoned with! Mr. Tofu needs to watch where he is ploppin’!

a tofu tail tengu concept art

Mr. Oni

The brutish ogres of the Disco Realm – “The Oni’s Club” – are gonna bounce Mr. Tofu around the dance floor!

a tofu tail oni concept art

Mr. Kappa

Friends! One of Mr. Tofu’s few friends that he meets during his journey, the Kappa monsters, are usually quite mischievous; however, they are paralyzed and dehydrated in the Volcano Realm! Mr. Tofu helps them out!

a tofu tail kappa concept art

Level Building

Design and Flow

We had designed many of the previously built levels to move the player forward through the narrative at a steady place. We needed to plan on how to introduce the new mechanics, teach the players how they worked, and then subsequently challenge them on what they have learned.

In addition to the core purpose of each mechanic, there were extra aspects of those mechanics that needed to be shown and we wanted to show these to the players in a way that makes them feel as if they are discovering it on their own. This plays in even more so with the synergies that emerge when multiple mechanics interact in the same stage.

In order to plan and arrange these properly from the start, we created a Google Sheet of the planned approach of what would be introduced when, and the key puzzle aspects that would be covered.

a tofu tail level planning

ALL THE LEVELS! (But actually, not really)

To this point we have just under 100 levels, having planned around 120. We had originally wanted to include many, many levels to keep people playing.

As we playtest the game with players at shows and meet ups, we are noticing that the first stretch of the game (in the first world) tends to drag on longer than we would like. At this point, there is only the core color changing mechanic and no additional ones have been introduced yet.

We needed to find a way to hold peoples attention until something new comes along, and are strongly considering cutting back on the number of stages in the first world (and maybe even some in subsequent worlds). We would like to have as many people as possible make it through the story of A Tofu Tail, while also not getting bored with the content at their current progress in the game. Removing unnecessary levels from the story mode is the way to accomplish this.

If we have enough content, we can always have a ‘Challenge Mode’ that houses the more difficult puzzles, as well as any the just did not fit right in the ‘Story Mode’.

Next Steps

Other than completing the design of these remaining levels, our next big push is to finalize the story and tie up some small loose ends in the narrative. Getting the rest of the dialogue into the game will be a huge milestone, and is probably one of our biggest remaining tasks.

Wish us luck, and until next time – keep on ploppin’!

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alchemedium

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Indie game developers from Pittsburgh, PA. We are dedicated to bringing you unique audio, visual, and gameplay experiences. Currently developing the story-driven puzzle game "A Tofu Tail" .

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