Swingbot is a 2.5D platformer where the unique mechanic is that, instead of jumping, the player uses only a grappling-hook to reach higher areas. In the game you play as the small robot Swingbot, who one day wakes up in an abandoned laboratory and to the sight of his dead robot friends. Because of these horrific circumstances Swingbot decides to escape, and so his adventure begins.
GENRE: 2.5D Platformer
ENGINE: Unreal Engine 4
PRODUCTION TIME: 2 weeks
TEAM SIZE: 6
In this project I had the role of project leader and level designer. As a project leader I made sure that we followed our vision of the game by constantly communicating with the entire group. I made sure the graphical artists did their job together with their lead artist as well as working together with my designers. As the groups only level designer I was responsible for planning and executing everything that had to do with the level. I also worked together with the lead artist on level art and lighting the level. On this page I will talk about some key parts of the level as well as my thoughts about them and why I did what.
In the very beginning of the level we of course had to teach the player how to play. In the background I choose to put a sign with glowing text explaining the controls. Right in front of the sign there is a flat area where the player can move around and get used to the controls. If the player moves forward a little bit they will encounter the instance where the grappling-hook is needed. Here I went for a classic approach, to force the player over a small gap but have a safety-net underneath. So if they fail they will not die. I’ve also used light to show the player where to hook. A bright lamp makes the player want to at least try and hook to it.
When the player has made it across the first gap they will encounter an obstacle in the way. Here the player has to move upwards while being hooked to the lamp to make it past the obstacle on the ground. As in the beginning of the level, player has a lot of space to move around so to get comfortable with the controls and in the background we can see the sign explaining the controls.
Now the level starts to open up a bit and becomes more vertical. So to help the player find the way through the level we did a very simple but effective thing, we use arrows. Throughout the level the player will encounter these small post-it notes with arrows on them, showing the way to go. While we are here we could talk about the area in which the player is now. So we have now stepped up the game, the player has to swing and leap but the safety net is gone. It’s no super challenge but the heat is on. There are even a couple of different strategies here. Ether the player can hook to the back of the chair and make it to the opposite one, or they can roll of the ledge of the chair and grab the other one underneath. But there is no right or wrong.
As we can see, I’ve decided to first teach the player all the different movements that exist: swinging and climbing. Then I do them again in the same order but with higher difficulty. For the climbing I didn’t find the risk of dying to be the interesting part, but the player skill of actually climbing. Another reason for not adding the risk of dying is simply because players found it to be harder to climb, if the climbing itself was enough of a challenge I didn’t see any reason to make it even harder. Since this is a pretty relaxed part I also took the chance to show the player the possibility to hook on to other things than just the lamps. As we can see on the wall to the left, there are two glowing nails the player can use to climb.
After some more swinging we have now arrived at our first enemy encounter. It’s a static turret enemy which will shoot at the player when in close range. The entire encounter takes place on a big whiteboard,where the player has a lot of room to move around and things too hook on too. The turret is placed in the middle of the whiteboard, allowing the player to ether go under it or over it. The enemy is also placed so that it has a hard time killing the player, if the player is in constant movement.
Now we find ourselves inside the ventilation-system. So far the player has had a lot of space to swing in, but for this part I wanted to create a place where that is not possible or at least not the best way to move. But to not take away the swing totally I chose to add the midsection where the player has to do a swing past a turret and a dangerous fan-blades.
Fear of heights:
The player emerges from the ventilation-system close to the ceiling and now has to traverse on top of the ceiling lamps. So far falling down hasn’t been much of a threat since the player has always been close to the ground. But here I wanted to give the player fear of the height, you can not see the ground from up here and falling down will most certainly lead to Swingbots death. Keep on swinging and the player will reach a more visible threat, the ceiling fans. This part is pretty unique, it’s similar to the ventilation-system with the tight space to move in but here the “floor” will kill the player.
The other way:
The player emerges from the ventilation-system close to the ceiling and now has to traverse on top of the ceiling lamps, or to they? There is actually a secret path. If the player has the guts they can drop down and ignore the ceiling part. This part does require some skill from the player. While falling in high speed they have to hook onto a lamp near the floor and use it to swing forward. This is a pretty big shortcut. The reason for adding this path was because the room felt very empty otherwise and to give the player room to explore if they, like I said before, have the guts.
1: The tutorial is very easy and has no real tension to it, but the game is new and the player is discovering the world of Swingbot for the first time, while they are also learning how to play the game.
2: The first challenge is to do the swing but this time with the danger of dying. This is the first time in the game where there is some sort of threat so the intensity moves up a bit. But there is still no real challenge.
3: The first advanced climb. There is no threat of dying so the tension is lowered but at the same time the player has to do some skillful maneuvers to reach the platform above.
4: The player encounters the laser. This one is more visually intense than what it is gameplay-wise, but it’s still a new obstacle the player has to traverse.
5: Here we have the first enemy encounter. The player finds themselves on a big white board where an enemy turret is placed. This is the first danger the player encounters which can hurt the player from afar. So the tension is pretty high.
6: The player enters the ventilation-system, this is the levels breathing room. The obstacles are pretty easy and there isn’t a lot of swinging. But it doesn’t go all the way to the bottom of the intensity chart since there are dangers and one turret.
7: The player gets out of the ventilation-system and is now pretty high up in the ceiling. The player now has to swing on the ceiling while not knowing about the dangers underneath. The tension is high because of the height the player finds themselves in and the unknown dangers underneath.
8: The player has to get past the “Crushers”, a slow obstacle which does not require a lot of skill. The tension is slowly going down.
9: We reach the end of the level. The player has to do some final swings while avoiding one turret enemy. The player sees the bright light coming out of the window, they do one last big swing and they are free.