Backscratcher

Details:

Engine: Source
Game: Portal 2
Type: Single Player
Role: Level Designer
Intended Experience: 3 – 5 minutes gameplay
Development Time: 2 weeks

Design:

I loved the Frankencubes from Portal 2 and wanted to try and find a creative use for them in a different level. The core concept of Backscratcher is to help the Frankencubes past obstacles that would kill them, so they can help you past player obstacles. The level is thus split up between puzzles with red lasers that kill the player and blue fizzlers that kill the Frankencubes. The level is split into a linear first half, where the players must solve 3 small puzzles before dropping into a larger area with 3 puzzles that can be done in any order. The first puzzle teaches that the Frankencubes can walk on their own past obstacles, the second one shows how you can throw them past red lasers to hold switches for you, and the third shows that you can kill turrets with the cubes. In the second area these three puzzles are all expanded upon and players must explore how and when to either solve the puzzle themselves or use the Frankencube to get past.

This level was a ton of fun to make. In reality it feels more like 2 levels in one with how the flow is bisected. This was intentional to make the player feel like they had to accomplish small tasks as something of a tutorial for the bigger and more open-ended puzzle at the end. In playtesting the level players responded very well to the correlation between the first half of the level and the second. Balancing the difficulty curve was also a big success in playtesting.

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