My roles: Game Design, Sound Design & Level Design
Development time: 5 weeks
Team size: 8
Genre: Competative Platformer, local multiplayer
Tools: Tengine, Json, Audacity
Dino Jump is a Competative Platformer for PC and made in Tengine. Up to four players will compete against one another to see who can reach the top of the inside of a volcano and who will fall into the ever-rising lava.
Players have the ability to charge their jumps to ascend even higher and that also releases shockwaves that pushes back other nearby Dinos.
In Dino Jump, the player can run and jump, but if they charge their jump by (extending the time they hold down the jump button), the player will jump even higher. In addition, the force from the Charge Jump causes the player to release a shockwave that pushes away anyone who is too close.
While I was deeply involved with making the Charge Jump mechanic feel crisp, I was also working together the other designer to make sure that the overall experience of the game reflected the vision that we had.
For that reason, I contributed to playtesting and tweaking the numbers that represented all of the protagonist's various features, the camera speed and field of view as well as the volume of sound effects. In other words, I was partially responsible for the game feel.
The height difference between jump and Charge Jump.
The difference in shockwave force depending on the target's position
The Charge Jump is designed to be a high risk-high reward type of mechanic. One one hand, it allows the player to push away other players as well as get to platforms that would otherwise be out of reach.
On the other hand, it takes more time to successfully perform the Charge Jump and during that time period, the player is vulnerable; both to the ascending lava in addition to other players who might also be using Charge Jump in the vicinity.
Finally, the Charge Jump also has a purpose when not trying to reach platforms that are very high up. More specifically, a player who is above other players could potentially use Charge Jump near a ledge on purpose just as other players make their way up to that very platform.
It was discovered through playtesting that players enjoyed using this strategy often and the mechanic evolved into a meta state. Specific spots on the levels were favored by players, since those spots were particularily popular to use the Charge Jump on for that specific reason rather than to primarily ascend.
During the development of Dino Jump, I was the lead level designer and was responsible for the level design philophosy. The creation of the levels were highly inspired by a GDC talk by Celeste's lead developer Matt Thorson.
He said that each level in Celeste had it's own story beat, which is something I did my own interpretation of in Dino Jump. This aided me in bringing a firmer purpose to the layouts and what I actually wanted to tell with my level design.
Depicted below are the layouts of the levels that I created. Red lines show the easily accessible paths. Blue lines highlight the shortcuts and all shortcuts require a Charge Jump for the player to access them.
Since Breakout is the tutorial obstacle course where all matches start from, it has an abundance of platforms that are also close to one another, so the players are not gravely punished if they miss landing on a platform/are pushed away by another player.
There is a tall wall on both sides of the starting platform that prevent the players from leaving the layout (and dying) before the platforms have begun moving. The players are safe from harm in this place and are free to experiment with the mechanics.
Above the players' start position is a wide platform (yellow platform in the image). This platform can only be reached with a Charge Jump. When all players have reached this platform (by using the game's mechanics), the obstacle courses will begin scrolling down. Since players must use the Charge Jump before the platforms start moving, there is little risk that no one no one knows the mechanics before that happens.
The Serpent is designed to have a curved shape and has a clear path (see red path in the image) that is simple in complexity.
The progression upwards is slow, since the platforms are spread out the most on the horizontal axis. However, the level does include some shortcuts that require a Charge Jump in order to be reached. In constrast to the red path, the blue shortcuts allows the player to move vertically quicker.
The core of Breathe's level design is simple: "go up". Players can rapidly reach the end of Breathe by using well-timed Charge Jumps without running too much. However, the width of the space that players can stand on is small.
As a result, if players are sharing the same space and rely on the Charge Jump mechanic consistantly during this obstacle course, it invites for several opportunities where players can be pushed off.
In other words, the challenge of completing Breathe lies in when to use the Charge Jump, more so than any other obstacle course that I was responsible for.
Hills consists of one large platform and a group of small platforms -a road- leading to the next large platform. This is repeated until the end of the obstacle course.
The challenge is that each new platform and road is more smaller than the previous one. In addition, there are also high risk/high reward shortcuts for the players who dare to take a risk to reach the end of Hills quicker than the rest.
The final part does not even include a typical platform; only a road. All in all, the type of challenge stays the same, but with increased difficulty.
The purpose of The Mountain as a whole is to serve as a simpler challenge in terms of platforming than the other obstacle course; it does not require many Jumps or Charged Jumps and the risk of falling into the lava is small.
Instead, the design is focused on providing a space where the players simply race one another without any exterior threat to their progression. There are no extrusions that are needed to jump over; there are only wide and/or flat platforms to overcome.
My belief was that all of the other obstacle courses would feel like they blurred into one intense obstacle course unless there was something to balance them out in terms of difficulty.
When doing concepts for Amp, I wanted an obstacle course that forced players away from one another and then back into another and then away again. I was thinking of how waves move at the shore and how I as a child would run away when they came crashing, but chase after the waves when they retracted.
This game of push-and-pull from my childhood helped shape the final design for Amp. The obstacle course initially offers several platforms that are scattered about, but the players are then pulled towards the center and must ascend a narrow tunnel while battling for the small footholds.
Those who emerge from the tunnel are then able to push away from one another and race towards the edge of the wide platform that they stand upon. This moment is one of few where the players are likely to think more about the lava than the position of their opponents.
The reason why is because the players must first travel horizontally to the edge of the platform they stand on for an extended period of time before spending additional valuable seconds charging their jump in order to reach the rectangular platform above.
Amp then ends with players one final time traversing platforms towards the center where one single platform awaits.