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  • Writer's pictureBretton Hamilton

Color Tag - Design Like Water

Jacob McKee-Wright, a colleague of mine, recently pulled me aside with a request. He works at the Northern Sydney Institute (NSI) as a Game Art Instructor. NSI had just bought a large booth at PAX Melbourne this year. In addition to showcasing student work, they needed some additional projects to fill the space.​

Jacob wanted us to design and create a game within one month that was ready to be shown to prospective students.I've been up to my wrists in VR work the past several weeks, but I was happy to help a friend in a last minute moment of desperation! He had already come up with a feasible game concept with a programming friend of ours;

Color Tag is a fast-paced local multiplayer game of hide-and-seek tag where the characters need to hide in plain sight by camouflaging themselves among the environment. Two weeks in and we have a robust prototype!

I was brought onto the team to handle level design and help fine tune the game's mechanics to compliment the fast-paced nature of the game. For this blog, I'm going to focus on the level design of Color Tag. There were a few core mechanics that had to be defined to begin design. - A hider can force another hider out of hiding. (By using a stun bomb that strips their color). - A seeker may periodically force all hiders out of hiding by swapping the environment's colors. - To gain a new color, the hider must return to one of the power-ups scattered around the level.

In a game of hide and seek tag, the best hiders are the ones that can find a safe spot and bunker down. That doesn't sound very fast-paced at all! To encourage this, I designed maps to promote motion. To visualize this, I began by mocking up shapes and then imagined them filled with water.

Metaphor Time!

- A liquid without any external input will eventually evenly disperse itself throughout a container.

- Hiders without a seeker will evenly distribute themselves throughout a level.

- When an external input is added, water molecules scatter unevenly and slosh around a container.

- When a seeker enters play, hiders will run to avoid the seeker and other hiders.

This metaphor provided me some perspective on how to imagine the flow of the level. When the seeker moves to one side of the map, hiders are encouraged to flee to the other side. This concept allowed me to consider interesting level layouts that pushed hider on hider conflict and swung the momentum of the level based on the location of the seeker.

- Chokepoints create conflict. - Dead ends and corners create conflict. - Blocking a players line of sight reduces conflict.

Here is the initial draft for the forest level.

It is easier for players to move downhill than to use the chokepoints to get uphill. The level is narrow enough that the seeker merely needs to go from one side to the other to shake hiding players out of hiding.

In a world with matte textures and bright colors, this constant motion would have been very disorienting for players. To help players learn the layout of the forest, each tier of this level had an iconic landmark to help players orient themselves. With a little screencheating, cunning players can use these visual markers to track down others more efficiently!

Even with several mechanics missing, navigating the forest is already quite fun. Activity naturally swings back and forth between either side of the level and keeps everyone on their toes. The desert level is already in development, and I will be spending my last game jam in Australia making final tweaks to each level and overhauling our collision system. We've been using Mesh Colliders for the speed of iteration, but I'll be going through and blocking out the level collision with primitives.

Thanks for reading!


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