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An overview of the game world structure for Observatorium.

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Most of my posts so far have focused on the puzzle aspects of Observatorium but there's much more to the game than that. This post outlines the game world structure and plans for progression.

World Layout

Observatorium tells the story of a young boy on an important mission as he travels across the sea. We aim to tell the core story in a linear fashion but the game world itself will be non-linear. We want the player to get the feeling of exploration and a sense of discovery and we want to reward players that explore every inch of the landscape so have chosen to branch the world in various ways:

The Hub

Each 'chapter' in the game is connected to a hub area where the player can see the moons reflection on the water.

Numerous paths branch off from this central area and if the player follows them they will find shortcuts to various game 'worlds' where they will uncover related puzzle/visual/story elements. Players will return to the hub at several points in the game and we plan to add a single puzzle that connects the separate regions here.

Mandatory and Optional Puzzles and Pickups

Certain puzzles in the game are mandatory and must be completed to unlock primary paths and key story points. Other puzzles are optional and are placed on alternative paths the player must seek out.

Similarly, the game contains a mix of mandatory and optional pickups. Mandatory ones - like the telescope - are required to unlock certain puzzle functionality. Optional ones like paper notes (boats, planes etc) reveal secret story or gameplay information.

Players must search the game world carefully to uncover all secrets.

Star Zones

As mentioned in the last post star zones frame the puzzles but also help to drive the progression. The player must find one of these zones to reveal a puzzle.

Compass

Once the player has sketched the correct constellation, their compass points them to the next puzzle.

Traversing the World

Rowing is the most frequent form of movement in Observatorium but we've added a few mechanics to break up the monotony of rowing for the entire game:

Currents

At various points in the game world the player will discover currents (uses the curve tech outlined here) which pull them along a path at a greater speed. Exact visual representation is to be determined but the video below demonstrates their behaviour:


Level Transitions

Closely connected levels are connected via 1 or 2-way transitions. When the player hits a trigger, the game fades to/from black as the new level is loaded.

Whirlpools

Levels which are far apart are connected by 1 or 2-way whirlpools. Whirlpools let the player jump between different parts of the ocean. We also added the need to 'unlock' special whirlpools by solving certain puzzles:

Originally you would enter these automatically but we plan to add a small preview of the underlying world so now the player must press the E (use) key to enter.

Conclusion and What's Next

That's it for our look at the game world structure for Observatorium.

If you have any comments or suggestions please post below and I will try to respond.

For our final post of 2014 we'll be sharing something special :)

Thanks for reading!

Clive Lawrence
The Man Who Flew Away

Comments
StephenGibson
StephenGibson

Very cool. I like the non linear style and emphasis on exploration. I'm curious though, do you plan on changing up the theme of the scenery as your progress? Or is it all blue oceans and rivers?

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TheManWhoFlewAway AuthorSubscriber
TheManWhoFlewAway

Yup - we do plan to vary this throughout the game. What you see in the screenshots is the art style from our first public demo. Not our final look but it will be inspired by this.

The final game will be comprised of various chapters/sections: each a variant of our base style. The moonlight is quite important though so that will probably feature in most of our environments.

We also plan on having some enclosed (cave) sections and different times of day so lots to play around with :)

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StephenGibson
StephenGibson

Awesome :) I figured you were going to, just hadn't seen anything yet. Looking forward to it!

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hugo1005
hugo1005

Sound ccol and cleverly done, mechanics sound really good

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TheManWhoFlewAway AuthorSubscriber
TheManWhoFlewAway

Thank you :)

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NicolasLee
NicolasLee

Hey Clive,
For the currents, once you jump on are you "stuck" on rails (so to speak) until the end point of the current, or can the player choose to jump out of the current at any given time? Everything is looking wonderful, by the way! Great progress.

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TheManWhoFlewAway AuthorSubscriber
TheManWhoFlewAway

Yeah - the currents are on a rail at the moment.

I've been playing around with puzzles where you can create and destroy your own currents and they are feeling quite fun. In those cases you would be able to jump out at any time but not for the pre-placed ones.

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