Design Decisions: Quartet’s Selective Blindness

One of the core principles of game design is that it’s a looping cycle of building, testing and iterating. It derives into the catchy platitude “fail faster”, to get working builds tested quick and weed out what doesn’t work as fast as possible into development.

In that sense, Quartet has provided me with a good deal of education regarding one design decision that was left hanging for most of its short existence(up to now as a prototype): how(and whether) the player characters appear in each other viewports.

The concept of the game was at its very beginning a “single player co-op” puzzle game where four characters interact with a common environment without actually interacting with each other. That evolved into a story of four spectral beings that inhabitate different planes of the same existence, colaborating with the help of a fifth element that help them interact indirectly. This fifth element is, in the backstory, The Fifth who has to be rescued, and in the actual gameplay, the player itself.

The Fifth

The sure thing, design wise, was that each player saw a different world than the others, but the question was whether they saw each other in any way. In the beginning, I toyed with the idea of having them appear as “minimalist” versions of themselves…

Gameplay Screenshot

…but while that solved the problem of feedback(i.e., showing the player that a mechanism/trigger tile is being occupied or not), that went almost against the design itself. It remained that way until I accidentally discovered the solution to my problem: particle effects as feedback.

So when a spirit is on a button, or the goal mark, it glows, and other spirits can see that. And that’s how the player knows, in each spirit’s particular vision, if the environment is reacting to something they can’t see.

And that was only possible because I kept churning prototypes and iterating on improvements. So, there’s the lesson we already knew: build, test, iterate. That’s the way of the game design.