I've decided that whilst I work on my new project Seablite, a 2D adventure game inspired by the original Zelda on NES, I will use this blog to share my ideas, development progress, art and more. Obviously take all of this with a grain of salt or two as development is still in the early stages and everything is prone to change at least 30 times before I'm done.
Today I want to talk a bit about how the world of Seablite is being designed.
In Seablite, players control a nameless wanderer who finds themselves trapped in an ancient island complex. The island is full of mysteries and adversity, but the player is more or less free to do as they please. The driving themes of this game are 'Freedom', 'Mystery' and 'Adversity'. I'm hoping that by using these ideas I can create a game that encourages exploration by putting the player in situations that make them ask questions, with answers hidden behind interesting challenges, and with the freedom to approach everything from multiple angles. With all this in mind it should come as no surprise that I've been spending whatever daydreaming time I can on the layout of the island the player is stranded on. So let me explain what details I've considered so far.
So first things first, the world of Seablite can be roughly divided into 2 distinct parts: the overworld and the underworld. The underworld includes caves, tunnels and the 'dungeons' of the game, all of which I'll talk about some other time. The overworld is everything else. It's where the player will start their game and will most likely be where they spend most of their time. There will be enemies to fight, puzzles to solve, and generally speaking a whole world to explore.
OPEN WORLD, LOCKED-OFF AREAS AND PLAYER FREEDOM
Does this mean that Seablite is OPEN-WORLD!?
Sort of. A large chunk of the world will be open for the player to explore right from the bat. Going back to the idea of 'freedom' it's important for me that I don't try and force players down one specific path by cutting areas off until they get a specific power-up or something like in Metroidvania style games. I don't like that, but I DO like the idea of being able to access new areas. My solution? Like everything else, it's to steal ideas from Zelda.
In the original Zelda most of the world is traversable right from the start. Apart from this little section in the West (highlighted in pink). The neat thing is that whilst this part of the world is locked off from you there isn't just one way to reach it. You can enter it from the South, through the Lost Woods (green) if you know the solution to its puzzle (which a nice old woman will tell you for some rupees), OR you can enter further North if you have the ladder to cross the river (red). What this means is that you aren't FORCED to do either. You can go the whole game without needing to go through the Lost Woods, and whilst you will need the ladder for other areas it isn't essential to access the West of Hyrule. I love the idea of having multiple routes to locked off areas but even more than that I love the idea of having a mix of HARD locks (you must have the ladder to cross the river; you must have the key to open the lock) and SOFT locks (you can trial and error your way through the woods, find the solution from the old woman, or get it from a friend, or remember it from an earlier play-through!).
The idea for Seablite is to expand on this idea and use it to create a world that allows players to interact and explore it in a way that they dictate rather than what the game dictates to them.
So suppose we have 3 main areas of the island. We have a central area that is open from the start, with 'locked off' areas to the West and South-East. Each of these 2 areas has at least 1 'hard' lock (red) which would require a key, item or something, and at least 1 'soft' lock (purple) which could be the presence of a particularly tough enemy or a fiendish puzzle. I have also included something borrowed from the Souls series of games: shortcuts (green). These would be gates or obstacles that could only be opened or removed from one side, rewarding players with a shortcut. Seablite will NOT have a fast-travel system but will aim to make back-tracking less tedious through a few different methods.
BACKTRACKING AND CHANGING LANDSCAPES
First and foremost the aforementioned shortcuts will allow the player to journey from each of the 3 sections with relative ease once they are all opened up.
Second, much of the world will change as the player progresses through the game. As the player explores and interacts with the world the landscape will change, thus making the act of back-tracking a little more interesting (I hope!). Let me give you an example!
At the start of the game the island will be a dusty wasteland, with the canals, reservoirs and lakes all dried up. This is both a blessing and a curse: some areas will be open to the player (they can walk across the dried up banks of the canals) whilst others may be inaccessible (say a gate requires a water-wheel to be turned in order to be opened). Upon spending time in this landscape the player accomplishes something and in doing so revitalises the water system of the island. Now the water wheels will turn! The Lakes will refill! Good things! But also, those canals and riverbeds you could walk across are now treacherous waterways that you cannot cross. And as life returns to the area new enemy types will also appear. Slightly LESS good things...
I want the player to have a real impact on the world around them, and I'm hoping that will make the world feel less static. I want to believe that will make traversing through previously explored areas will be a bit more interesting as you now get to see what changes you have made.
(Don't worry either, if player's uncover secret spells they'll have access to everywhere even IF they've been cut off with water or something else.)
If you have any questions or anything don't hesitate to ask!