Game Design Portfolio

Secret of Colors

Role: Team Lead and Lead Designer
Platform: PC
Development Time: 3 Months
Team Size: 5 people
Tools Used:

Overview

Secret of Colors takes classic puzzle platformer elements and blends them with an atmospheric 3D environment and a broad range of mechanics to create compelling gameplay.

In each level, your goal is to climb to the highest point. To do this, you must avoid the gaze of the all-seeing eye, a terrible contraption that blends the magical and mechanical. The eye hates that you have entered this space, and it searches the level constantly for you. The only way you can avoid its gaze is by blending into the environment. Absorb colored light into mysterious crystals, and use the ability they grant you to blend into the level itself, matching your color to to the color of the glass block on which you are standing.

The eye is aided in its task by numerous enemies, each of which has a unique method for hindering your journey, and all of which interact with the eye in unique ways. Avoid or use the enemies to climb through this delicate, vibrant world.


Design Goals

  • Create a visually stunning and atmospheric puzzle game
  • Encourage players to explore and experiment
  • Create challenge through the relationships between enemies
  • Design levels to teach players as they progress

Download And Play Secret of Colors Beta

This is a Windows-only executable, played with keyboard and mouse.


Beta Trailer

 



Additional Details

Secret of Colors is a stealth game without cover, and a platformer that is as much about finding the correct time and place to stop moving as it is about timing and precision.  My goal in design was to ensure that everything within the game ties back to the behavior of the antagonist: the all-seeing eye.  Therefore, all of the decisions I made tied the player’s actions into the complex web of relationships that surround the eye, the level, the enemies, and the player themselves.


Designing the All-Seeing Eye

 

Secret of Colors originally started with the prompt “hiding in colors”.  Therefore, I wanted to ensure that everything within the game would tie back to the threat of being detected.  For that reason, I designed the eye to be the primary threat in the game.  Other than falling off the level itself, it is the only way that the player can die.

One-Hit Kill

Because I designed the eye to be the largest threat within the game, there’s no room for the player to slip up.  As soon as the player is detected by the eye it’s game over, and the player is brought back to the last checkpoint.  This ensures that the player always feels the constant pressure and threat of the eye.  However, I made sure that all of the levels in the game had a short enough time for the player to get back to their former position from the last checkpoint that death never becomes overly punishing.

Visualizing the Eye

Because the eye is such a large threat to the player, it is essential that the player is always fully aware of where the eye is, and how close they are to being spotted.  Therefore, I created the eye to have a large effect that fills the air around the eye’s cone of vision, so that the player knows when the eye is starting to get close. However, once the eye is closer, the player can tip down the camera to see ta sharp, grey line drawn on the tiles.  This design clearly delineates what space is in the eye’s sight, and what isn’t, which ensures that the player will always know when they will and will not be detected, so long as they are paying attention.

 


The Player and the Eye

I wanted Secret of Colors’ core gameplay loop to revolve around the player collecting colored light, and then using that light to change colors and avoid the eye’s detection.  In order to avoid the eye, the player’s color must match the color of the block they are currently standing on.

Stealth

At the start of development, the player character behaved the same way when both colored and neutral.  This highly devalued the neutral color, because there was no benefit to the risk of being detected.  In the current version of the game, changing colors enters the player into a stealth mode, which slows the player down and prevents them from jumping, which they are capable of doing while neutrally colored.  Therefore, the player must balance the risk of being detected, which can’t happen while colored, with the reward of moving faster, which is only possible when the player is neutral.  Because both options are balanced, players will get to choose the option and playstyle that feels the most comfortable to them.

Two Game Cameras

There are two types of cameras in the game, and each promotes a different sort of player activity. One is a more distant camera, which is centered on the middle of the level. This allows the player to spin around the level, gaining a wide view and understanding of what is going on anywhere in the level. The other is a closer camera, which is centered on the player character. This allows the player to zoom in close, so they can perform more accurate jumps.


Enemies and the Eye

Enemies are the allies of the eye, and seek to aid it in detecting or dislodging the player.  However, in order to ensure that the enemies do not become more threatening than the eye, we did not design any of the enemies to be immediately deadly to the player.  In fact, players can often recover from accidentally interacting with an enemy.

Enemy Design

Clouds – Clouds are the first enemy the player encounters, and they have the ability to absorb a color from the player, making it easier for the player to become detected by the eye.  They are blind enemies that follow a constant path, and have a closed-eye motif.  An eye can only absorb a single color, and if the eye does not match the tile color it is standing on, it will be killed when the eye passes over it.
PushersLike the clouds, pushers are blind enemies that follow a given path.  If they run into the player, they will knock the player away.  This poses the risk of knocking the player off the level.  However, careful use of the knockback effect allows the player to use a pusher to push them somewhere that they normally wouldn’t be able to reach with a standard jump.
BatsBats are the first enemy with a detection ability that the player encounters.  They follow a predetermined path, looking towards the ground.  If the player enters their cone of vision, the bat will swoop down, scoop up the player, and carry them somewhere else.  Like the eye, the player can escape the bat’s attention by blending into the level.
ArgusThe Argus is a multi-eyed enemy that watches in a ring around itself.  The argus likes a particular color, and if it detects anything within its sphere of influence that is not that color, it will keep that thing from moving.  This creates a conflict, because the color the argus wants the player to be often isn’t the color the player needs to be to avoid the eye’s detection.

Developers

Marlena Hanne
Producer, Lead Designer

Tim Eccleston
Level Designer, Puzzle Designer

Steven Margolin
Systems Designer, Enemy Designer

Amanda Ledwidge
Artist

Jacob Ruth
Programmer


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