P2: oh heck! my oven

About the game

Your time machine is broken, keeping you stuck in a temporal loop! You left the oven on back at home, so you have to escape this loop as soon as possible!

Exploring is the key to solving the unknown mysteries of your time machine. Travel to different worlds to discover new game mechanics, all while getting closer to the truth about why your time machine broke. The twist — every level seems to be the same even in different worlds.

Collect crystals to refuel your time machine! Find your way out of this loop, and keep your house from burning down!

“Oh heck! My oven” is a 2D platformer where each level has the same format, but a different setting and added mechanic. Players can jump & move around initially, but that can all change depending on the level. The objective is to reach the end of each level while collecting a crystal for your time machine, until you’ve collected everything and can return home.

Concept map

Initial decisions

Moodboards

Our moodboards

From the beginning, we wanted to create a 2D platformer that encompassed the same design throughout levels, with mods to change the experience. We identified common 2D platformers and the lack of cute aesthetics, and aspired to create a cute and visually-appealing level design.

One common trend that we all wanted was to have a high skill ceiling for players to aspire towards. However, a frustration with difficult jumping 2D platformers is constantly dying and having to restart the level. In order to help with this frustration, we wanted to play test different ways of making levels challenging yet achievable.

With the mods, we tried to create interesting mechanics that would be straight-forward for the players to quickly pick up. We tossed around ideas like speeding up the player velocity with every jump, flipping the gravity, adding enemy entities, and allowing for double jumps. Important for play tests would be the ability for users to quickly discern the challenge of the mod quickly, then enjoy the modification without too much frustration.

Initial brainstorming

Process

Iteration #1

Thanks to Mathieu, Lucy, and Gabby for playtesting during class!

For this iteration, we playtested a slice of 2 levels from our game.

  • Level 1: Normal mechanics
  • Level 2: Jump disabled (hint given: all out of hops)

We mainly wanted to test if the main concept of the game was clear & enjoyable. To set up our game, we uploaded our game to connect.unity.com in WebGL format, and shared the link to our playtesters. Then, we asked them to share their screen & talk aloud as they played.

Results

  • ✅ Liked the game & concept! Called 2nd level “Level 2” — recognized that it was a different level even though the platforms looked the same
  • ✅ Liked how the camera focused on the player — if you showed the entire level, could reveal too much
  • ⚠️ Wasn’t clear that you could hop on the blobs
  • ⚠️ Should learn in onboarding that holding space makes jump higher
  • 📝 Mods suggested: Change # of monsters, type of monster, make blobs invisible

Iteration #2

Thanks to Sami, Alyssa, Tiffany, Jenny, Darrith, and Michelle for playtesting!

Since we received a positive response from our first iteration, we decided to create 4 levels, each with their own mod on the original level 1.

  • Level 1: Normal
  • Level 2: Reverse reverse every 10 — controls reverse every 10 sec
  • Level 3: All out of hops — jump is disabled, and player can walk through the wall to get to the crystal
  • Level 4: Fish are friends, not food — blobs in the level are harmless
  • Level 5: Topsy turvy — gravity is inverted

We also expanded the map, using Google Sheets to plan out the new design.

Results

This was an interesting playtest to first, make more conclusions about the difficulty of our game, and second, to clarify the intended audience of the game. With this playtest, the game was played through for all levels that we had created thus far, and we were able to note the strategies that were used to make intentional jumps to specific platforms, in order to beat the harder levels that we had created. After the iteration of these playtests, we decided to make additional easier levels for the beginning of the game, and left some of the harder levels for a player to get to further into their playthrough.

Darrith and Michelle also suggested many different level mods, including one where some of the platforms are invisible (playing on experience that the player has built), and we incorporated this level into our final build of the game.

  • ✅ Overall, a very positive response to the game concept & mods
  • ⚠️ Character felt “slippery”, going further than expected — wanted more support near walls to prevent falling too far
  • ⚠️ Map was a little too difficult & large

“Controls were intuitive.”

“If it helps, I feel very invested in this level. Like I want to finish.”

Iteration #3

Thanks to Gabe & Emma for playtesting!

One of the biggest pieces of feedback we received was that the map in all the levels was too hard, especially when considering that the character took a while to reach a full stop. So, one of the questions that we wanted to answer in this playtest was whether or not the game difficulty was too high. In addition, we wanted to test if the changes made this time around would help reduce the level of difficulty for beginners.

To address this, we increased the coefficient of friction between the character & the ground. We also decided to reduce the map’s overall size, effectively splitting the map down the center, and kept only about 40 of the 74 tiles that existed in the previous Google Sheets level design. We also added in more platform tiles to prevent long falls from the top to the bottom of the level.

In the end, we’d rather have the difficulty come from figuring out the mod of each level, instead of the base map itself.

An example of the extensions made to reduce long falls

Results

  • ✅ Players really enjoyed the different mods and variety that it brought to the game
  • ✅ Falls were shorter!
  • ✅ Movement was intuitive and effective
  • ⚠️ Certain mods didn’t have helpful hints — disabled jump mod didn’t state explicitly the ability to run through walls
  • ⚠️ No clear indicator for where to go/what controls are available without explanation from us

Iteration #4

Thanks to Karen & Anly for playtesting!

From the last few playtests, it was clear that we needed an onboarding section. To address this, we added several cues in the beginning levels.

  • Writing on the very first level that explicitly state the controls to move
  • “Warm-up” levels that teach the player to collect the crystal, hold space for a longer jump, and move around the platforms
Fleshing out the onboarding levels

In addition, we tripled the number of levels and expanded the backstory to provide more context on the oven, time machine, and crystals. To make it clear that the character was traveling through both space and time, we grouped levels into worlds, each with their own scenery and themed mods.

Levels from Space World, whose mods all involve messing with gravity

Results

  • ✅ Concept of “repeating the same level but in different ways” was clear
  • ✅ Enjoyed how the mods were related to each other in each world
  • ✅ In Time world, appreciated the added timer counting down to the mod
  • ✅ Even after multiple falls, playtesters were determined to keep on going
  • ⚠️ Lots of bugs found, but easily fixable!

Final game

Video of gameplay

You can play this game for yourself here!

Thanks again to all our playtesters for helping us refine the game & squash bugs!

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Jessica Chen

Jessica Chen

4 Followers

design + code // a constantly improving work in progress // stanford ‘21