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Enter the Dream Palace!

So, I've started production on a new dungeon: Thy Dream Palace. It's the third leg of the Training Trance Program, (first being the Junkyard of Despair, and second The Temple of Artemis). It will be available in the next demo release.

The interior is based on the dream cave from the beginning of the game.

I came up with the concept when I was researching and exhausting puzzle ideas. I was studying Golden Sun II, and watching youtube playthroughs, I became enamored by it's great design, and realized it had borrowed some elements from Zelda (Ie crumbling platforms, block and switch puzzles, etc.) One of the main things that stuck out to me, was the climbing on walls mechanic. It's so simple, even in terms of RM, but adds a vertical element to level design that is often missing in these types of games. Being also a fan of Uncharted, and cliffs I couldn't help but implement something similar. Here's an example of it in action, from Golden Sun:

Another thing that I found impressive, was the interplay between interior puzzles, and exterior climbing mechanics, how they interact with each other and open new paths. And while I was unsure about how to approach a 3rd dream dungeon, the ideas quickly began to culminate.

It's been a while since I compiled chips from multiple sources, but I think I still got it, here's what I came up with for the design for the exterior of the cave/palace:

Although it is a remix of different chips, mainly CT dirt, and MnB cliffs, I had to mix it with some custom material from the previous area of Babylon to warrant a more unique look, but the result is a totally different atmospheric experience from the aforementioned area. I already used these same cliffs as the base for Saitek in the beginning of the game, but I wanted to take them to the next level, to push them to their fullest potential. Before, the cliffs were thrown layered in corners, made way for smaller, industrial-esque buildings. Which is fine, for what Saitek is, and the design it calls for, where nature is getting stifled, and technology is taking over. Here, it's true cliffs incarnate, with nature and dream intertwining, and nothing holding it back.

The design of dungeons really relies on it's location first, and the mechanics second. The rest is synthesizing that with battles and puzzles to create a unique environment to traverse. But there should always be rewards for the exploring player, and negative reinforcement for unwanted behavior, be it battles or puzzle restarts. (I plan to write a full on article about the art of dungeon design in the future, which would elaborate on these points.)

This will be a true test of wits for me as a designer, and by studying other games and testing my own puzzles from previous dungeons, I think this will stand as a testament to my accumulated knowledge. The only question is how trippy do I make it? Do I keep up the nightmarish dreamscape cemented with the junkyard, or perhaps tone it down a bit, to a more focused, personal journey?

I hope you guys enjoy playing this as much as I enjoy creating it. I hope to have the demo out by the end of the summer, ie, August, so look out.


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Wall climbing doesn't just add a vertical element to level design. It adds a sense of freedom of movement.

Even something as simple as hopping across a gap in FFX makes the gamer feel unrestricted by the standard RPG limitations. In my opinion, different movement elements encourages curiosity when exploring. It enhances the game experience.
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