A survival horror where players must explore a hostile dark moon to find the missing pieces to their ship and escape with their lives.
Role: Game Design, Level Design, Gameplay Balancing
Timeline: 1 Week
Simple, easy to pick up mechanics
Feel & Mood
Make players feel tension and vulnerable but not hopeless
Give the players the ability to perfect their gameplay
Reward players that explore in a meaningful way
Undefeatable enemies, but give the player tools to overcome them
Consistent systematic rules and patterns for players to learn
Hidden keys that open safe shortcuts & an upgrade
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.
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.
Time outside of safe areas deplete oxygen. While running, oxygen depletes quicker. The player dies when out of oxygen.
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.
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.
Explore and Collect
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.
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.
I built the map using Unity's Tilemap Editor
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.
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.
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.
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