Platformer Game Design Evaluation

We were tasked, for our games design assignment, to create a game level for a side-scroller platform game based upon research into Classic/Retro games. Initially, research was conducted into various platform games, gathering images and reviewing/analysing their mechanics, visuals, gameplay elements and various other factors. Alongside this, research was done regarding myths and classical stories, another area we had to base our game concept upon, with the classical story I chose being the blanket term of The Hero’s Journey (more info in previous blog post).

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Once I had the majority of my research completed, I began ideating and attempting to figure out the direction that I wanted to take my game, looking at references to help gain inspiration. I settled upon a sci-fi based platformer, backed by alternate evolution theories that touch upon topics such as synthetic life forms and inter-connected utopian societies that have fallen into ruin due to a biological plague (more info in previous blog post).

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A large portion of the experimentation and ideation occurred within my sketchbook, attempting to figure out both the mechanics and visual style of the game. Changes occurred, with different styles and approaches being tried out. The use of colour and multi-media allowed me to experiment more freely, opening new pathways and opportunities for creativity. The creation of the main character was a priority for a while, as it helped to dictate the visual style for the rest of the entire game, of which leans towards a vector-based, ‘flat shape’ design aesthetic. Once the character had been ideated, drawn in turnaround, and created in Illustrator, I moved onto conceptualising the backgrounds, platforms, and other elements within the game environment, as well as fleshing out the character’s animation possibilities and game mechanics.

Animation-wise, I created four different cycles; idle, walking/running, jumping, and attacking. These animations were ideated in my sketchbook and then brought into Illustrator and Photoshop for creation and animating, with Photoshop allowing me to import my Illustrator files with layers intact; of which is extremely helpful when working with animation in Photoshop, as the modular nature of the character’s body and layer structure allowed me to manipulate its body using not only the free transform tool, but the Mesh tool as well.

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For the walk cycle, and the other animations, I researched animation techniques and references, allowing me to match my character’s structure and movement to that of a human’s. The actual animating was done via manipulating it’s ‘limbs’ and placing them in different position on different frames, of which creates the illusion of movement when played back. More complicated animations, such as the jump animation, required a larger number of frames, as well as the use of the Mesh tool. This allowed me to deform parts of the character, especially the limbs, to create a bend in the knees.

The background was one of the more complicated aspects of this assignment, with the concept of this level being based in a city currently being overtaken by a biological plague, vines curling around structures with moss covering the ground, mushrooms sprouting from smaller limbs of vines in order to create verticality and dynamic paths of movement. Visually and technically, the background was created through a vector-based flat shape design workflow, creating modular elements that were able to be slotted together and repeated, with some variation, to create a cohesive visual style.

Creating the ground required the use of the Pathfinder tool/menu, allowing me to cut away the edges to create a modular effect. The actual ground ‘sprite’ was created through a series of layered shapes, varying the colours and values, adding shadows in choice places, in order to create a more three-dimensional look while not distracting the player from the rest of the game.

For the vines, adding ‘cuts’ into the shape allowed me to create disguised ‘form-lines’, once again creating the illusion of three-dimensionality, with the shadows and added detail reinforcing this look. Multiple vine variations were made, enabling me to create a variety of vine structures in various directions, creating visual interest within the level. The same applies to the platforms, with them being based upon mushroom references that I gathered, their three-dimensional aspects created through careful manipulation of different coloured/value shapes to create a visual illusion.

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There are several platform types; Tendril (protrudes from vines), Red Mushroom (semi-bouncy platform), Purple Mushroom (bouncy platform), and Flat Mushroom (regular platform attributes, similar to the Tendril protrusions).

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Once the character, platforms, ground, and main vines had been created, I moved onto the rest of the background; extra vines for the middle/fore-ground, as well as buildings in the background. Based upon ideation in my sketchbook I created, using similar methods as earlier, these elements and placed them within the game environment/level, of which was sketched out beforehand. The pen tool and layer system proved extremely helpful, allowing me to create the buildings out of organic shapes using only two values. For the tendrils/smaller vines, I created a brush constructed from a square consisting of two colours (the medium and shadow colours assigned to the main vines). This enabled me to create paths that I then assigned to that brush, of which I proceeded to manipulate using the Width editor tool, creating slender vines intertwining amongst each other and their buildings. The player will associate the shape language and colours associated with the larger vines with these smaller ones, recognising that the buildings hidden in the background via mist possess similar designs. This creates depth and scale within the scene, as the player realises that those buildings must be rather far away, and, therefore large in comparison to the player.

The sunbeams, of which allows the player to recharge their energy levels, were created with the gradient and pen tools.

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This illusion of depth is further reinforced by the atmospheric perspective placed between the different ‘layers’ within the scene, appearing as a bluish mist.  Creating this effect consisted of strategically placed layers in-between other layers/groups that were assigned to the various spatial areas within the scene/level. Lowering the opacity on the buildings in the background allowed an even greater effect, as well as a more refined control upon the perceived density of the mist and distance of the buildings.

Level_1.2.jpg

Upon completion of the level and character animations, the HUD and sprite sheets were created and compiled. For the HUD, two main bars are visible, with the blue one being assigned to health and the yellow one designated for energy, of which is consumed when using abilities and ranged attacks. The colour scheme for both the HUD and sprite sheets were pulled from the character and game environment, reinforcing a cohesive visual style.

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HUD

Screenshot 1

(not the final amount of frames present here, just several ‘keyframes’)

Character Sprite Sheet 1.jpg

 

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Background_Prop_Sprite_Sheet_1.jpg

Finishing off, the character animations were placed within the game level environment, with the HUD present in the top left, reacting accordingly when the character discharges their weapon.

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Overall, I believe I was able to create a visually interested game concept, using research into both platform games and real-life references in order to create an interesting series of design solutions. More work could have been done regarding the overall game deign, fleshing out the level and adding planned obstacles, mechanics, enemies, bosses, NPCs, and other elements.

GIFS:

Walk_Cycle_Animation_EXTRA.gif

 

Jump_Animation.gifcurrent_Idle_Animation.gif

 

Attack_Animation_1.gif

 

 

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