9 person team (3 designers)
Blueprint / C++
Seventh Circle is a first-person puzzle game set in a surreal and noir-inspired apartment in 1950's Stockholm.
WHAT I DID
Sketched and blocked out 6 levels.
Created a loop-based puzzle system.
Backlog revision and communicating game vision.
Organized and conducted playtest sessions.
Something is off about the the game world, player should have a sense of unease and want to find out more as the story unravels.
Thinking with loops
The concept of looping through a memory over and over was at the heart of the game.
GAME LOOP & RULES
Leaving a room loops the player back to the start.
Gathering all notes in order breaks the loop and allows the player to proceed to the next room.
The world dissolves behind the player as they move forward.
When the player loops, the world reappears.
Blue objects can be pushed by the player.
Their position won't change upon looping.
Red objects are static. But their position rotates between set positions when the player loops.
Level 7: "The Library"
HOW TO SOLVE IT
In order to collect this note.
Players need to cross this gap.
GOALS FOR THIS LEVEL
I wanted to make a more difficult puzzle that made players feel clever for having solved it.
Our system felt best when players had to plan loops in advance. I.e. setting something up on loop 1 for a payoff on loop 2 or 3
HOW I WENT ABOUT ACHIEVING THOSE GOALS
Focus on Blue Objects [pushable, unaffected by looping]
The mechanic players seemed to understand best was blue objects.
I had also shown players in the onboarding section that blue objects can be used to bridge gaps, so that mechanic and specific affordance felt like a good place to add complexity.
Guidance and Clarity
It was important that the affordances of this space were really apparent so I made sure these corridors where pronounced.
It's down theses corridors that players will push the blue objects.
Having the staircase in the middle of room both obfuscated the blue objects which should be the focus of the room, and made players always run up the stairs first.
I pushed the stairs to the side, and use a paper trail to still lead the eye there after players have spotted the blue objects.
Players can now clearly see the first 2 blue objects, and a hole in the railing frames the third. Players can also clearly see the door.
The puzzle itself
I started with coming up with an interesting puzzle.
First I figured that stacking blue objects was interesting, since it naturally meant players would have to plan loops in advance.
This then evolved into using a blue object as a bridge to push another blue object across.
Moving several blue objects on the same loop worked well, as it made the puzzles feel more clever and concise. The rest of the puzzle naturally evolved from there.
I want the player to feel clever for having solved something difficult, so the design of the space itself should do just that, help the player solve the puzzle.
The room is a simple rectangle:
A simple layout keeps the focus on the puzzle.
Keeps the room as short as possible, looping through unnecessary space over and over gets dull quick
I wanted the entire game to run straight along a single axis, as I felt this enhanced our core themes and mechanics.
Having the stairs and catwalks snake across the level allowed me to frame the puzzle itself better.
Introduce the different concepts without any UI/UX help
Focus on minimalism to isolate and emphasize the lessons
Be as time- and space-efficient as possible
Room 2 - Blue Objects
Room 1 - Base Mechanics
The early versions of theses levels were more complex, and served more as proof of concept for the mechanics rather than tutorials.
Layouts where shortened greatly, and I made the puzzles to be about discovering how the mechanic worked.
Room 3 - Red Objects
SIMPLICITY & GUIDANCE
I focused a lot on making levels more digestible. Players should walk into a room and almost instantly know what the problem was.
I wanted these spaces to highlight and isolate the mechanics they were trying to teach, so the layouts are kept as minimal as possible. The different mechanics each get their own room.
Through playtesting we quickly learned that players struggled with red objects [Rotates between set positions when the player loops]
The biggest issue was that the red object mechanic happened off-screen.
However the exit to every room shows where it will take the player, i.e. the beginning of the room.
So I used this effect here to show the player the red object changing position in real-time.
I just wanted to show this off
I'm really happy with of this room came out. It's something I put together on one of the last days of the project with no unique assets.
There isn't much level design going on here, it's just a cool looking space as a reward for players reaching the end of the games.