Friday, February 6, 2015

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2

This is going to be a long one! Also overdue! This post is about Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2. This was my first title as a designer after transitioning to the design department at my current job. Lots of learning happened on this project for me, so I figured I would just go through each of my levels on this project and talk about what I liked, what I didn't like, and what I learned from each.

I'll also give a few details about the project as a whole, what our timeline was like, and how other limitations and decisions molded what became the final, shipped product.

I was on Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 1 as well, but as a level artist. It's much easier to sum up my duties on that project, so I will hit that as well.

To keep things from encroaching on TLDR territory, I'll make a separate post on my work from each world, starting at level 1 and ending at the final boss fight of the game, which was my first boss design I was allowed to tackle from concept to completion!

Big thanks to Tealgamemasteron YouTube for letting me use his lets-play videos to show off my levels!

  • Pacman 1 Art Duties
    • On Pac 1, I was still an environment artist in title. I cranked on levels with the other environment artists, but I handled a few key responsibilities as well.
      • Create the look/feel of the Netherworld
        • This one was pretty fun! Translating some concepts from the show into a re-use-able tileset that we could quickly build levels from. It was a lot of prototyping, and an overall fun process. When I finally created a bunch of props and did my first prop pass, I remember everyone remarking on the transformation of how it went from bland to awesome in the blink of an eye. I'm proud of that area!
      • Prototype Level
        • I was one of the first people on the project, and as such I was in charge of prototyping the first level with one other designer. 
      • 4-1 Design Hijacking
        • This is when my desire to switch into the design department got rather serious. I finding myself wanting to be able to contribute more to our process and vision, so decided to put in extra hours and design a level myself. The result was Killer Frost, my first level as an unofficial designer! This led to my eventual shift in title and role at work.

  • 1-3 'Gotta Bounce'
    • Gotta Bounce was the second level I worked on during production of Pacman. It was the first time  the player would see rubber pac in-game. Since it was still so early in production, we still had a lot of self-searching to do in regards to layouts, flow, and cameras. If I could redo it, I would have fewer camera transitions, and would have pushed more for just laying out the level in such a way as to not require transitions.

      Additionally, combat wasn't really implemented until we were almost done with Paclantis, and there was a separate designer assigned to placing and designing the encounters, as such a few of the combat spaces here felt off to me on retrospect.

      Some of the things that I liked about this level were the idea of 'mini' mazes, as kind of a tip of the hat to Pacman's roots. I also feel that I did a decent job of showing the player how to use his new rubber abilities. The very first bounce-wall has pellots on the walls in a pattern that suggests wall-bouncing, and I tried to guide the player where I could. I'm also fond of a few secret areas in this level.

      Sadly, the bouncy-dumpsters and the moving bricks didn't get used again, but at least they were fairly quick and easy to implement. Still, I would have preferred some more re-use. 

  • 1-4 'Dribble & Freeze'
    • This was the first level I worked on, during the early prototyping stages of the project. Because it was during the earlier stages of development, it had more time than other levels. It was during this level's moment that our FX Artist, Ryan Hoss, and I decided to ninja prototype out the Arcade Zone tileset for use in multiple levels, tutorials, and challenges. The secret Arcade Zone in this level was accessed by smashing boxes, and was the first zone created with that new tileset, hence it's simplicity.

      This was the first level that used 2 powers at once, Ice and Rubber. It was a challenge to ensure that the player could always progress, even if he fell or somehow got somewhere with the wrong berry. I ended up solving a lot of those issues by making multiple ways to get up to certain areas.

      This level also had more of a branching path feel then some of the later levels I designed. I liked this, but time constraints made it less and less likely to have the time to polish more complicated levels. This level was divided into 2 routes. The player could press on straight across the spinning cylindrical platforms for a quick level finish, or they could hop to the left and fight a few ghosts, and follow a sleeping ghost chain to a fruit pick up. I think it flowed fairly well by the end. 

  • 1-7 'Flip-Flop'
    • Flip Flip was a fun one! Simple, but fun. This was one of the later World-1 levels to get worked on, so we knew a bit more about the direction we wanted to go by this point. We were instructed to push our levels to shorter, more mechanic-driven traversal with pockets of combat between them.

      In the spirit of that, I decided to make the entire latter half of the level based on the flip-platforms. It used to be pretty brutal, with many more roller spikes, and some enemies to boot. Kid testing proved that was a bit too tough, though.. so it was vastly simplified in the end.

      I toyed with the idea of optional mini-bosses here as well, and I personally think while it worked out okay, it was rather unprecedented, and I don't think there were many other skippable mini-bosses implemented after this one. (I can think of one in Space that was also mine, but that's it..)

      This level was sort of the flip platform 'test' since the player had seen them a few times up to this point. In terms of what I learned from this level, it was that the more you can make the player interact with your mechanics, the better the level will feel. No one just likes walking, so having a level where half of the time was spent on flip platforms was a pretty good change of pace in World 1.

  • 1-B 'Paczilla!'
    • I was mostly in charge of the pre-boss sequence here. I had to make it look like a disaster area where Grindertron was wreaking havoc. I went about it by adding some panicking citizens, and placing some smoldering fire effects. Additionally, I requested a special skybox for this level to give the boss a more dramatic feel while fighting him.

      Additionally, I felt like it was a good opportunity to reward story-driven players, and so I placed Sir C, the President, and some of Pac's friends that he could talk to before engaging the boss. They offered a few words of encouragement, and talking to all of them awarded the player an extra life. I figured that Cyli and Spiral were talking to Pac about Grindertron at various points leading up to this encounter, so it should make some sense that they would be there to help!

      As for the boss design itself, I played more of a QA and support role, offering feedback and ideas as it was implemented. It was mostly design-by-committee for bosses at that point, but it enabled me to get familiar with the nuances of implementing and working on a boss, which would help me later on when i designed the final boss-fight for the game.

WELL!! That's it for now, you made it to the end of the post, congrats! Next time I have some energy I will post up my learnings from my World 2 and World 3 levels, so stay tuned!