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SURVIVAL MOON

A survival horror where players must explore a hostile dark moon to find the missing pieces to their ship and escape with their lives.

Team: 5

Role: Game Design, Level Design, Gameplay Balancing

Timeline: 1 Week

project goals
  • Simple, easy to pick up mechanics

  • Challenging gameplay

  • Replayablility

 
Trailer
 
Design Challenges

Feel & Mood

Make players feel tension and vulnerable but not hopeless

Mastery

Give the players the ability to perfect their gameplay

Reward Risk

Reward players that explore in a meaningful way

My Solutions

Formidable Foes

Undefeatable enemies, but give the player tools to overcome them

Patterns

Consistent systematic rules and patterns for players to learn 

Shortcuts

Hidden keys that open safe shortcuts & an upgrade

 
Game Design

Inspiration

Myself and some friends decided that with a week off from school, we wanted to make a small game together.


By searching famicase.com we found a cartridge that gave the initial idea: collecting stuff on the moon.

From there, hostile aliens were introduced and the treasure turned into parts to fix a ship.

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Simple Mechanics, Challenging Situations

In order to fulfill the feeling of vulnerability I designed the player to be very weak. They can be killed instantly by the aliens and if they're not careful, players can die from lacking oxygen.

Flashlight Battery Power

Allows player to see in the darkness and a blast of light scares aliens away, but uses much of the battery. Without their flashlight, the player is lost and vulnerable.

Oxygen Level

Time outside of safe areas deplete oxygen. While running, oxygen depletes quicker. The player dies when out of oxygen.

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1. Ship Part​

There are multiple ship parts. Players are slowed while carrying them to create tension from risk.

2. Door Key

Door keys open shortcuts, rewarding players that explore and master the level.

3. Lantern

Lanterns can be carried to save flashlight battery and oxygen, though they are not safe from aliens.

4. Carry Upgrade

The carry upgrade allows players to hold up to two items, and is found behind a locked door.

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Explore and Collect

Deadly Horrors

I designed the aliens to be a dreadful hostile, especially upon first contact.

They have a large area in which they can hear and detect players.

Player's can overcome the threat by learning their patrol paths to avoid them, or by cutting their line of sight during a chase.

If the line of sight is broken, they check the last known location of the player and no longer use the large circle to detect, they instead use a vision cone. They return to their patrol if the player isn't found.

Aliens take very wide turns, making it easier for players to cut around corners and lose the hostile.

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I spent a considerable amount of time adjusting player and alien variables such as movement speeds, aggro time, depletion rates and much more. The result is a replayable game of cat and mouse that can be mastered.

 
level Design
Map Overview

I built the map using Unity's Tilemap Editor

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Level-Flow/ Beats

Players can obtain ship parts in any order. They are rewarded for exploration with keys to safe shortcuts and an upgrade to carry two objects at once.

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Predictable Enemies

Enemies each have a consistent path that the player can learn and plan accordingly to. All enemies have the same line of sight and aggro properties. I balanced them to break off their pursuit fairly easy since they are extremely powerful.

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Outcomes

Reception

The game was shown at multiple industry events around the General Toronto Area. A lot of people enjoyed it and went on to try to finish the game on their own time, messaging me when they completed it.

The Good

  • Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

    • Players never felt cheated by the game and wanted to jump back in to try again​

  • Don't Helicopter Parent

    • Players liked that they had to memorize the map​

Places to Improve

  • How do I play?

    • Aside from the first ship part, the controls and abilities aren't entirely clear. It works in some places, and falls flat in others​

  • Where Am I?​

    • The entire map shares the same few tiles, so there aren't many landmarks to work with to orientate​ players

Some Of What I learned

  • Gameplay mechanics compliment atmosphere, mood, and feel

  • Equal challenge is met with equal reward

  • A handful of mechanics mixed together can create a lot of gameplay

  • Players need to be taught the rules but not have their hands held

  • Even if there aren't many art assets, landmarks need to guide players