Designing a Timey-Wimey Zelda Dungeon
1. The Premise
For Cataract Surgery, my goal was to design a compact dungeon where the player would use a single mechanic for combat and light puzzle-solving, a la The Legend of Zelda. I limited myself to 16 rooms for the dungeon, but also included a boss fight to give the game closure.
2. The Mechanic
This jam was for a webcomic involving time travel, so I wanted a mechanic that evoked the feeling of using a time loop to help your past and future selves. I decided on a movement ability where the player could teleport between two positions, as if jumping backwards and forwards through time.
2.1 Use in Combat
All of the enemies track the player somehow, either by moving or aiming projectiles towards them. The teleporting allows players to "bait" enemies into locations where they can advantageously teleport behind them.
2.2 Use in Puzzles
Setting "teleportion points" allows players to reach points that the barriers make inaccessible. Puzzles therefore center around the player strategically leaving teleportation points to flip switches to progress.
3. The Dungeon
The dungeon was designed to ease the player into combat and puzzle-solving by introducing the concepts in stages. Rooms with keys in the them are denoted with a "K."
3.1 The First Hallway
The first few rooms (2, K3, 6 and 7) introduce the concept of needing a new ability to the player After leaving the starting area, the first room the player encounters has two barriers blocking the south exit. While the player can hit the switches, they can't progress, establishing that they'll need to explore and return to the area later.
3.2 The Branching Three
The player needs to collect four keys to complete the game. While the first key is always received at the start, the other three have paths with specific experiences in mind. The "hub" for these paths are rooms 9 and 10.
3.2.1 The Puzzle Path
The path spans rooms K1 and 5, with the blue spade key locked behind the most puzzle-heavy room in the dungeon. This path tests the player's understanding of how warping should be to used to jump between two separated locations.
3.2.2 The Combat Path
The green clover key is at the end of the longest path, which is made up of rooms 11, 12, 14, 15 and K16. These rooms use different enemy arrangements to test the players ability to set advantageous warp points while moving. In room 12, the enemy can't be damaged from the front and follows the player, so the player must warp themselves behind a moving object, and in room 14, the enemy constantly shoots at the player's position, so they must repeatedly warp to draw fire away from their selves.
3.2.3 The Backtrack Path
The yellow diamond key is in room K13, locked behind a door that needs the blue spade key. This requires the player to remember the blue spade lock's location, contributing to the dungeon's sense of scale.
3.3 The Ending
The last room contains the boss fight and requires all four keys to access. For fun, here are all the sections displayed.