Some people have asked me to extend myself a bit further into the concept and ideas behind the design of Ptower. So, this is what I'm doing in dev diary 3.
Keep reading for the full video and transcription.
Now, let's think about the limits that we, as humans, tend to create from nowhere. They exist because we take things for granted, we lack creativity or confidence, or another tricks the mind plays on us.
So, how can I possibly make a game about something so deep in the psychology of the player?
Well, my approach is to create a game that feels closer to being a real experience, not in terms of extremely realistic visuals or mechanics, but by mimicking the low level decisions that we usually make unconsciously.
Making a game to be closer to reality also means dealing with how much freedom should it have. Freedom is a tricky thing to balance in games because the most freedom the player has the most difficult it is to provide interesting goals.
Freedom inside the game world is defined by a lot of things, from production factors, to mechanics and level design. And the designer has ultimate control about what is allowed to do or not within the game. If you have ever found invisible walls in a game you know what I'm talking about. Invisible walls is the game equivalent of the “because I said so!” of parents.
What usually happens is that the player is able to recognize the traces and patterns left behind by the designer when shaping the experience. But decides to accept them.
You have probably seen it yourself a dozen times. The boxes conveniently placed to jump over or to take cover. And how about that vent that you can reach so easily. Why was it there in the first place? Why is it not possible to enter other vents?
But if us, designers, don't create the worlds like this, if the levels were created as real, functional buildings, then the players would find difficult to play and stay inside the path the designer have crafted for them.
So, what I'm doing is creating a second magic circle inside the game. Including a new designer and a new player.
And now the picture is quite different. The new world is the tower. The designer is Lilith, who built the tower. And the player is himself, who decided not just to run my game, but also to compete to reach the top of Lilith's tower.
In a similar way, because the player is consciously making decisions within the second magic circle, I have the possibility to work on the subconscious level of the first magic circle. The outer game.
Does this mean I am going to play tricks on the player? Absolutely not. I don't want the game to be a duel of meta-thoughts. The purpose of the second magic circle is not to obscure my intentions, but to provide different layers of playability. And because I can always have the ultimate, unbeatable, last word on what the player can do, I will never have the player trust.
To take myself out of the game I'm making Lilith always tell the truth. She will never lie, not even by omission. And she will address the issue, probably breaking the fourth wall, by telling the player directly that there is no secret agenda.
Maybe some players will still be paranoid about that. But then, that would be their problem. Which is totally ok for me. In the end, you will be playing Lilith's game, not mine.
And because Lilith motivations are entertainment, her game is like a stereotyped version of ancient traps as seen in movies an adventures stories or Tv shows like The crystal maze, el rescate del talismán or Knightmare.
This is how I get to my three major game features:
- A more than six hundred metres high tower designed as an enclosed world with plausible spaces and functional meaning.
- Player movement mechanics based on average human capabilities. Focusing on high definition control, reliability and emergence.
- Lilith, friend and foe. Is the antagonist and only NPC in the game. With a strong and psychotic personality. She never lies and loves a good show. She built the tower... and she can kill you. Don't upset her.
So that's Ptower!
The prototype I´m refering to in the video is the MiniTower prototype, which is already available.