Rebelt

My project known as WallRunner is a race around a psychedelic space maze where players shoot down targets and reach the goal as fast as possible. Like the name implies, players can run along walls and there is double jumping; the system is based on the style used in Titanfall

Panoramic shot of the whole map.

Engine: Fallout 4 Creation Kit

Genre: Puzzler

Development time: 9 Months

Summary: Players travel to an abandoned factory to reconnect assembly lines by solving a series of puzzles.

Responsibilities

  • Game design

  • Level Layout

  • Scripting

  • Decorating

Download

Requires DLC "Contraptions Workshop

Early version. One of the biggest changes in conveyance was lighting up the factory as puzzles got solved, which added a much needed  depth to the ligthing.

Game Summary:

Rebelt is the artifact for my Master's Thesis, set to be defended in early June, titled "Effective Puzzle design and difficulty ramping". It is a mod that adds a new location (Abandoned Vault-Tec Factory) and a new quest, where the player is tasked by a Vault-Tec supervisor to re-start a factory that's had a massive malfunction. To do this, players must go through each assembly line in the factory and re-establish functionality.

The key here is that players must ensure that the blue spheres arrive at the blue boxes and the red canisters at the red boxes. Some puzzles are relatively simple to hook up, but others require players to analyze the line layout to be able to accurately tell where the objects are going to end up. 

Ramping Difficulty:

My thesis focused on two major areas. The first is how puzzles ramp difficulty as player's skill increases. This takes into consideration teaching player mechanics as well as how mechanics are used in different and interesting ways as puzzles progress. 

When introducing new mechanics or elements, designers must limit functionality to simple, atomic actions that players can take, so that they can focus on understanding the rules to each mechanic. For example, the first puzzle only requires you to turn on a switch, which teaches players the very basic mechanic of turning on the assembly line, as well as allowing them to see that the two kinds of objects go into two different boxes.

As players get more familiar with the mechanics, designers start combining different mechanics to create challenges building upon the rules that players already have an understanding of. A great example of this in practice is Braid, which mixes the basic mechanic of time rewinding in all sorts of ways. In my thesis, I introduce switchers that alternate flow of objects, switching direction each time an object passes through. Then, I introduce a button that forces the direction to switch, so that players now have control over where the switcher sends objects first.

Good Puzzle Design:

The other major component to my thesis was having an underlying understanding of what made good puzzles. There's a ton written on the subject, so I focused on what I could best use for my Fallout artifact.

They key challenges for the artifact were visibility and skill ramping. Visibility was tricky to nail down because players should be able to get a clear view of the puzzle and understand what things are going where, but because the puzzles were viewed from a 3rd person avatar's perspective as opposed to an overhead camera, there was a lot of iteration on the direction that puzzles faced players and the platforms in which players viewed the action. Skill ramping was also tricky to nail down because there were multiple skills introduced that players have to master in order to progress, so the order in which puzzles teach these skills was critical for player's to understand what was going on.

Post-Mortem

What Went Right?

  • Highly polished puzzles.

  • Scripting made almost entirely from scratch..

What Went Wrong?

  • Difficulty ramping could still improve. Some skills aren't reinforced enough and some are focused on a little too much..

What Was Learned?

Th​

  • The order in which puzzles introduce skills is massively important; it's better to focus on a single skill over the course of a couple of puzzles before moving on to a new skill as opposed to layering them together.

  • Without any form of light punishment, players will almost always brute force puzzles.