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This area is dedicated to better understanding the design of Starseed Pilgrim by considering the "what ifs?" As players, we often make choices in games that shape the basic nature of the challenges we take on. By choosing one character over another, or one power-up versus another, we make decisions that determine the rules that shape the play we engage in. In this way players naturally make designer like decisions, actions that ultimately help them see a game from different angles and play better. So naturally, discussing the what ifs of Starseed Pilgrim will help us understand what it is and what it can become.

 

Below are the ideas generated in a online discussion between Droqen; the creator of Starseed Pilgrim, Ryan Roth, the composer and sound designer, and the Critical-Gaming team that developed the Starseed Observatory. Each major suggestion features a name, description, pro/con list, and a #hashtag.

 

Thinking like a game designer is more than just coming up with new or cool ideas. Some of our ideas are created to fix existing problems with Starseed Pilgrim's design -- some  of which are commonly accepted problems and others of which are a matter of personal preference. Either way, thinking beyond Starseed Pilgrim is a way to bridge game criticism and design. To bring our guiding philosophy "game.play.critique" full circle, some of the ideas suggested and discussed here have been implemented into a free expansion of Starseed Pilgrim by Droqen called Starseed Dreamwalk. Put these ideas to the test, and continue the cycle of game.play.critique.

 

 

 

Seed Recycling

 

A way to store and use seeds for later. PLANT seeds into the environment so that they don't germinate. After some time, DIG the seed up to put directly into your seed queue as the next usable seed.

 

Pros:

- More control over (random) seed order

- Risk/reward of seed recycling is tied to existing spatial dynamics.

- Elegant feature that can exist without interfering with standard strategies.

 

Cons:

- May require feedback to indicate minimum un-germination time has been met.

 

#mechanic #random

Mechanics

Bubbling in Corrupted Air

 

The ability to BUBBLE in the fleeting world and triple key challenges only when passing through gray air that has been corrupted by the void. Costs a seed to activate.

 

 

Pros:

- A limited and balanced movement option only available near the void or corrupting blocks.

- Encourages new DIG strategies.

- Stresses knowledge skills (planning ahead) and timing skills (maneuvering around the void).

- Provides an opportunity to use advanced BUBBLE techniques in scenarios of greater risk/reward compared to BUBBLING in the flip world.

 

Cons:

- Provides an escape/movement option from game ending situations.

 

#mechanic #skill

Starseed Pilgrim Beyond

Seed Queue Ring

 

A way to gain some control over the order players use seeds in their seed queue. The queue fills up with a "ring" of 1-5 seeds depending on the Pilgrim. The entire ring must be used up before another ring is filled. There are two options from here:

 

1) The ring rotates automatically so players can, with timing, select a specific seed to use from the ring-queue.

2) The ring rotates as the player walks left or right.

 

Pros:

- More control over (random) seed order.

- Random variation is still maintained.

 

Cons:

- Adds a lot of timing and control complexity to a simple and effective part of the game.

- Takes up more room to display seed ring properly.

- May be difficult to follow movement of seeds visually.

 

#mechanic #random #skill

Potential Seed Energy and Pruning

 

A way to gain control over the direction of green, purple, and tan seeds. By DIGGING into these blocks as the seeds are growing, players can divert some of the growth potential energy into another area of the seeds growth.

 

 

Pros:

- More control over (random) seed growth.

- Stresses reflex and timing skills.

 

Cons:

- none.

 

#mechanic #random #skill

Design Space

Cluster Seed

 

A seed/block of multiplication. Cluster seed germinates into a single block. PLANTING a seed into that block will duplicate the embedded seed on the left and right side.

 

Pros:

- An effective way to amplify the power of seeds.

 

Cons:

- Too easy to multiply the power of tan,  purple, and pink seeds to gain a significant advantage.

 

#mechanic #design space

Crawler Seed

 

A seed of circumference. Seed grows along the outside of any block formation.

 

Pros:

- An effective way to add a layer of blocks to any shape

 

Cons:

- Not useful for stalling the void or aiding in movement.

- Essentially a tan seed that can grow underneath formations.

 

#mechanic #design space

Downward Pink Seed

 

A pink seed that only grows downward. Like ice seeds, downward pink seeds override the block they are planted in.

 

Pros:

- A new seed that reliably grows downward expanding downward movement strategies.

 

Cons:

- Cannot ride pink seeds downward. More likely to create one-way trips.

 

#design space

Hover Block

 

A seed that germinates into a single block that creates a limited hover space directly above it. Walk or jump into this space to hover in mid air. Players can JUMP out of the hover state.

 

Pros:

- A new way to maneuver vertically.

 

Cons:

- More complex than the normal blue jump block for the same functional result.

 

#design space

Orange Conveyor Belt

 

PLANTING a seed into a growing orange seed will carry the embedded seed to the end of the orange growth before it starts to germinate.

 

Pros:

- A new way to grow seeds and start chain reactions without physically walking to the area.

- Arrow pattern on orange blocks imply this idea.

 

Cons:

- A special property for orange seeds.

- Gameplay doesn't feature much potential for chain reactions

 

#design space

Swap Block Seed

 

A seed that grows into a single block. Seeds PLANTED into this block never germinate. Instead if another seed is PLANTED into a swap block that already has an embedded seed, the embedded seed and player seed will swap places.

 

Pros:

- More control over the (random) seed order.

- A simple swap system that utilizes embedded seed feedback.

 

Cons:

- A seed that cannot germinate other seeds becomes a block to normal gameplay strategies.

 

#design space

Blue Jump Block +

 

A tweak to the blue jump block. Like ice, these blocks never get fully corrupted by the void. After being partially corrupted, the blocks are good for one more boosted JUMP before they fully corrupt.

 

Pros:

- Another seed to expand the variety of backtracking maneuverability, like the ice seed.

- Able to convey function clearly with existing feedback.

 

Cons:

- none.

 

#design space

Adjusted Seed Order Rates

 

Adjusting the rates that the seeds appear in the seed queue. For example, changing the percentages based on the strategy analysis by Johnathan in Pilgrims Progress.

 

Pros:

- Fewer droughts involving the least useful seeds

- More groups of similar seeds.

 

Cons:

- Getting too many easy to use, "good" pieces.

- Potentially less strategic play working with less useful seeds.

- Potentially less variety

 

#design space

Black Seed

 

A seed or single block that will only germinate/grow when touched by the void or corrupted by the void. Black seed blocks can override corrupted air and void blocks.

 

Pros:

- Another seed (along with red) that is activated by the void allowing for more remotely activated strategies.

 

Cons:

- none.

 

#design space

Floating Seed Pickups

 

Starseeds floating in the air like Mario coins. Touch to collect. Collected starseed pickups move to the bottom of the seed queue so that they are used with the next PLANT.

 

Pros:

- More control over the type and order of starseeds used.

- Like Mario coins, influence the player to move through the environment in different ways.

 

Cons:

- An element that visually clashes with the stark white background of the fleeting world.

 

#design space

Level Design

Sculptures

 

Shape templates defined by an outline floating in mid air. Grow blocks to fill the shape. Ensure that the shape is completely filled in and cut out from any neighboring block.

 

Can expand idea with areas within the sculpture outline, requiring the player to fill in these spaces with the appropriate seed color.

 

On the overworld, players can gradually fill in a large shape to reveal a hidden island featuring a new pilgrim or message.

 

In the fleeting world, completing sculptures can be used to unlock keys, doors, push back the void, or earn additional starseeds.

 

Pros:

- An new way to use seeds requiring a whole new set of strategies.

- A variable challenge that conveys its requirements instantly.

- Concentrates gameplay into a small area with a clear goal.

- Seeds less useful for movement (blue, ice, pink) are more useful for sculpting.

 

Cons:

- Complicates original gameplay with optional challenges that don't directly contribute to achieving the fleeting world goals.

 

#level design

Mr. Driller Style Puzzle Level

 

A level built out of a variety of starseeds, dirt, and stone blocks. The void is set to start corrupting the level from the top and sides. Players are challenged to escape the void and DIG downward into the level to harvest more seeds from pink blocks. Some blocks will have embedded ungerminated starseeds inside, challenging players to dig around these blocks in specific ways to allow the embedded seeds to grow.

 

Pros:

- A challenge that focuses on DIGGING, corrupting block rates, and not getting crushed.

 

Cons:

- A very different kind of challenge. Perhaps best suited for a triple key challenge room.

 

#level design

Folded Level Design via Fleeting Doors and Keys

 

In the fleeting world, Instead of connecting platforms to star blocks with the aim of collecting keys after entering the flip world, folded level design challenges players to double back over the areas they've already maneuvered through for the added challenge. By putting keys and doors in the fleeting world, players can be challenged to move out into the fleeting world and then back in the direction they came from. By placing the only single key or triple key door at the starting dirt block area, players are forced to find a way to return to the start.

 

Pros:

- An elegant way to create new challenges that build upon the actions and strategies players use to initially explore the fleeting world.

- Limiting space and options can result in more focused puzzle-like gameplay. Such challenges require clear goals. Knowing that the single or triple key door is back at the start allows players to use more skill and control through the existing mechanics.

- Less useful seeds (ice and red) become more useful to create incorruptible platforms and to override void blocks.

- Pruning and DIGGING become more useful as players can plan how they will travel back across areas they've created.

 

Cons:

- The act of backtracking works somewhat against the themes of searching and discovery.

 

#level design #discovery

 

x

Feedback

Pulsar Keys

 

A repeated audio sound effect generated by star blocks in the fleeting world to help players locate off screen star blocks.

 

Pros:

- Easier to find star blocks in the fleeting world.

 

Cons:

- Weakens the searching and surprise experience when moving the camera through the fleeting world.

 

Expand Some Hitboxes

 

A larger hitbox for the key and heart items so players can't pass through them without grabbing them.

 

Pros:

- Easier to grab items.

 

Cons:

- none.

 

Seed Surplus Animation

 

Specific animations to convey the rules of the seed surplus. For example, when moving into the fleeting world with 13 seeds, 10 seeds fall out of the player's seed queue. Then the 3-seed surplus falls onto and adds to the player's starting seed count for a total of 13. This animation conveys the 10 seed toll for dying or traveling between worlds.

 

Pros:

- Clarity on surplus rules.

 

Cons:

- none.

 

#feedback

Voice of the Plants

 

Seed growth sound effect tweaks that give extra information about nearby elements including elements that are off screen.

 

Pros:

- A way to scout for off screen randomized star blocks.

- A subtle tweak that most players will feel rather than consciously use.

- A reason to use seeds sub-optionally. A balance between gaining information and movement.

 

Cons:

- Can remove the element of surprise for players who learn the system.

 

#feedback

Zoom Transition Clarity

 

A tweak to the visual transitions or sound design to convey the idea that players are zooming in or traveling deeper from the overworld to the fleeting world and into the triple key challenges.

 

Pros:

- Help ease initial confusion players have about the relationship between the overworld, fleeting world, and triple key challenge rooms.

 

Cons:

- none.

 

#feedback

MultiPlayer

Simultaneous Co-op Multiplayer Ideas (2+ players. 1 screen)

Design ideas and questions for a mode that allows multiple players to control pilgrims.

 

- What if one player started on the dirt with 10 seeds and another player started somewhere else with 0 seeds?

 

- What happens when one player falls into the flip world?

 

- What if there was a main player and the rest of the players were supporting players? (like co-star mode in Super Mario Galaxy)

 

-What if there were co-op switches that force players to separate or work together?

- What happens when one player falls into the flip world?

 

- What if there was a main player and the rest of the players were supporting players? (like co-star mode in Super Mario Galaxy)

 

-What if there were co-op switches that force players to separate or work together?

Non-simultaneous Co-Op Design. (2+ players. 2+ screens)

 

If Starseed Pilgrim works best as a solo adventure, then this idea allows players to work together on a high level while still playing a solo game on the low level.

 

Inspired by Maboshi's Arcade for the Nintendo Wii, each player would play on their own split screen, exploring the overworld and trying to conquer the triple key challenges. The time to do so, however, is limited as the overworld is slowly corrupting.

 

Players can enter the same fleeting together if they can find each other on the overworld. Otherwise, they play separately. Their actions do, however, affect each other's gamesplay in strange ways.

Perhaps there would be a giant sculpture all the players are trying to complete before the overworld corrupts.

 

The Wii U is ideal for this setup. The idea is to always be searching; to feel close to your fellow players (being in the same room and sharing a screen) yet likely being far in the game world.

 

 

StreetPass Pilgrim

 

StreetPass is a feature for the Nintendo 3DS that lets users swap data automatically when their 3DSs come within close proximity of each other while in sleep mode. What if the following data was transferred via Nintendo 3DS StreetPass...

 

- A unique island/pilgrim/seed challenge per cartridge/file

 

- A unique  player creates a unique poem out of poem pieces to go with their unique island.

 

- A free, use-any-time seed power-up based on the system's Mii shirt color. Tap the icon on the touch screen to put that seed as the next usable seed in the seed queue.

 

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v 1.2, April 2014

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