Building a fast and light puzzle game

I explain the game mechanics of The Godkiller and how they give the game a different kind of feeling than a typical puzzle game.

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As I described earlier in the “My Trailer Needs Work” article, I’ve not done a great job of showing gamers what playing The Godkiller is like. They mostly yawned through my double-A cinematics and promises of a story-rich experience.

But I am convinced the game mechanics are solid, fun, and, dare I say it… unique. Let me go over the basic verbs available to you as a player.

Walking

You can walk around in the four orthogonal directions. Each step moves you entirely into a square. It’s very quantized – you and other things are entirely inside of just one square / cuboid, and any animation along the way is incidental fluff. This is nothing new to puzzle gamers who’ve played games like Baba is You or DROD. (I want to write another article later on why grids are so great. They aren’t just retro.)

Okay, walking… I know, big deal. :)

Stairs

You can climb up and down stairs by walking. And you will not believe the sheer amount of staircases in this game.

Falling

You can fall as far as you want as long as you remain in the bounds of the level. Early on, I wanted to be a purist and say you could never die from falling ever. But that would have meant I’d need to rail off any drops that would allow the player to go outside the level. Or make an impossible geometry solution like William Chyr did for Manifold Garden. (Add 3 years to my release date for that feature!) Still, it’s pretty satisfying to drop down a kilometer in gamespace on the super-vertical levels in the game, and just keep going like it ain’t nothing.

Flinging

Here’s where it gets fun. Hold down on the shift key, and guide rays shoot out from your character to show where you can fling. Then press the arrow key in the direction you want to go, and you are instantly there. And I do mean instantly. No matter how far the distance, you will be there on the next frame drawn to the screen, with only settling animations and tracers shown. For videos, this gives people the carsickness effect – “too jumpy, show the animation better!”. For the game, it feels perfect, because you, the player, have decided where you want to go, and it’s joyful to have your decision enacted quickly. I don’t care if it makes my gameplay videos harder to follow, because it’s much more important for the game to feel good.

Blocks and Letter Gates

The blocks are a whole topic of their own (see “Top 5 Reasons Why My Blocks Are Not Soko-Ban Blocks” article). But let me explain how the blocks work with letter gates. I wanted something different than the normal ways of opening and closing doors in games. If you’re a puzzle gamer, you’ve worked through plenty of puzzles focused on getting objects to pressure plates or collecting keys. In The Godkiller, I just say that the doors (letter gates) have words on them, and if any blocks anywhere in the level spell the same word, then that door is closed, solid, opaque, and impassible. This general principle has a nice advantage that the player always can know what is keeping a door closed. You just read the word “out” on a closed door, and understand that there are some blocks somewhere spelling “out” that are creating that obstacle for you.

You might have noticed looking at the GIF above that the blocks don’t behave like your standard pushable block. They fly across the room with a push, and you can destroy them at any time to reset puzzles without restarting a game.

Letter Bridges

If I turn one of those letter gate “doors” on its side, it becomes a letter bridge – something you can walk across when it’s closed. And that unlocks a whole class of interesting spelling puzzles, where you arrange blocks to spell specific words to allow passage over bridges. Bridges follow the same principle as gates – if any blocks spell the word on them, they close. But it tends to be useful to make them closed/solid to reach places in a level.

You’ll have to discard your Soko-ban instincts when you arrange these blocks. Because you can’t push them one square at a time, the shape of the walls and floors around them becomes more important.

All the Other Stuff

I just covered the basics here. There’s a ton more different game elements like ice, spikes, rotating axles, and creatures that hassle you. But maybe this gives you an idea of what the game is like and why you might want to play it.

The Godkiller is a 3D puzzle-solving adventure game under development. It will release January 1st, 2022 on Steam for Windows and Mac. Wishlist today!