I Am Gooey
Genre: Puzzle, Adventure
Project Role: Design Lead, Producer
Engine: Custom C++
What is it?
"I Am Gooey" is an angled top-down puzzle/adventure game, where the player plays as "Gooey", a lava slime.
Gooey's goal is to ascend the tower where the game is set to become the Sun before time runs out.
"I Am Gooey" was unanimously selected as a showcase project for DigiPen Institute of Technology's Student Booth at PAX West to represent DigiPen by a panel of my instructors, mentors, and peers. I was also invited directly by the event organizers of DreamHack to be 1 of 16 games from around the world to participate in the student showcase for DreamHack Atlanta 2019.
This project is available as a free download on:
DigiPen Game Gallery: https://arcade.digipen.edu/games/i-am-gooey
For this project, I fulfilled the roles of design lead and producer.
As the design lead, I designed and developed the levels, puzzles, and systems tied into the use of puzzles. Those systems included the passive and active hint systems and additional mechanics such as locked doors.
As the producer, I organized and coordinated timelines to ensure everything was completed by the time it was needed, if not sooner. I also scheduled and led all meetings we had, both as a team and with professors.
The overall level layout of the game was designed to instill the feeling of being in an abandoned magical tower.
Each level was designed to fit within a nine room grid. To show the players the maximum size of the levels, the first level was designed in such a way that the player enters all nine rooms. The first level also served to rapidly teach the player movement, the first puzzle rule, and the systems.
This way, once the player reaches the second level, they know enough to allow the second rule of the puzzles to be introduced. This level only uses puzzles that focus on the second rule to solidify the concept of how the puzzles work.
Given what the player has learned up to this point, they have a fairly solid idea of the goal of the puzzles and the two primary rules of the puzzles. They will also have an understanding of the hints and their systems, allowing them to complete puzzles of increasing difficulty.
The puzzles used for this game are based on the Japanese Masyu puzzles, where the player must touch all of the circles without crossing their path again while still following the rules of the circles.
However, for "I Am Gooey", I decided that an easier puzzle that signifies its own rules without utilizing words would be a better experience. The reason for this is because the original Masyu puzzle can be difficult to understand even with text explaining how to complete the puzzles correctly.
The filled in circles in the simplified version used for this game tell the player to turn left or right from their current bearing. The empty circles force the player to move forward through them. Outside of that, it doesn't matter whether or not the player turns, and in many cases, the player will be required to turn outside of those cases.
To build the puzzles that went into the levels, I started by developing approximately 2,000 puzzles with various layouts, hazards, walls, and collectables. From those puzzles, I whittled down the selection to seven or eight puzzles for each of the three levels that were effective in the level’s context. I based that decision off of how far the puzzle is into the overall gameplay and what concepts have already been introduced to the player.
The original plan for "I Am Gooey" was to have two separate hint systems: a passive hint system, and an active hint system. In addition, the active hint system would double as a sort of "key" system, where the player must have a set number of hints to unlock specific doors.
The passive hint system would activate after a set amount of time in a puzzle. The active hint system would be a hint system that the player can activate at any given time in a puzzle. Both hint systems would give the player an idea of how to proceed through the puzzle. The difference between the two hint systems is that the active hint system would give a clearer idea of how to complete the puzzles, whereas the passive hint system would be much more subtle.
The "key" system would also function based on the hints that the player had collected so far. Each locked door would have a "hint requirement," requiring that the player has a certain number of hints to open the door.
Each locked door's number of hints needed would be determined based off of the current number of possible hints, how many puzzles are before that door, and how difficult the puzzles up to that point would be for the average player (as determined by testing).
However, due to various problems during production, this scope was cut down to remove both hint systems, and instead, I developed a new passive hint system as well as changing the circles to bowls. This new system activates whenever the player steps onto one of the bowls and highlights the directions the player should go depending on which color bowl the player stepped on and their bearing.
In addition, I adapted the hint coins to be a collectable, with their effect being apparent at the end of the game when the player becomes the sun. The more hints the player collects, the grander the visual effects become, and the player hears a more interesting musical accompaniment.
What went right?
The end result was the production of a game that the entire team is proud of. The level design and the graphics components are both highly regarded by everyone at DigiPen, professors and students both. We were also able to create a localization system for five languages: English, German, Korean, Japanese, and Russian.
What went wrong?
While we are very proud of the final result, it isn't quite what we had intended originally due to other commitments as well as various problems we had while developing our engine. We also did not get a chance to playtest the game as much as we would have liked.