Login' Camp - Skylar & Plux

 Click the image, or go to the  link attached here  to learn more about the game!

Click the image, or go to the link attached here to learn more about the game!

Login' Camp - Skylar & Plux

In Login’ Camp; a challenge level made during a level design course using original assets from the 3D Platformer 'Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island, the player must race past obstacles and destroy CRT's evil bot minions, who are chopping down the lush forests on the islands, slowly working their way to the Great Tree! The level is designed to give a sense of accomplishment and has been made with a “feel-good” vibe in mind, and the “reward” at the end of the level strengthens this vibe by ending it on a cozy and safe note after overcoming the previous challenges.

The level is also about making choices, from the very start of the level on which path to take, and while navigating through the level. It is designed so that you can make it through the level no matter if you are a beginner or an intermediate player, giving the player the feeling of competence while playing.

 

All paths lead to...

There are three main paths, ranging in difficulty from easy to hard, and the paths end up crossing over each other at certain points, so the player can switch if they feel like it. They also all converge at the end for a final stressful part before clearing the level, and their shared beginning offers a feeling of exploration and adventure when choosing which path to start on.

They are all built to let the player feel engaged while playing, whether it be to conquer the challenges or enjoy the scenery and the story it tells. The challenges themselves are mainly variations of the different platforming challenges in the base game that require precise jumping and use of the different power-ups, as well as some assets being repurposed for other kind of platforming challenges.

 

Platform:

Engine: 

Production time :

Team:

 

PC, Xbox One, PS4

Unreal Engine 4

3 weeks

Solo


 
Side note: All the following screenshots are taken in-engine, meaning the enemies will not show as they aren't spawned and have no preview model. Their encounters will however be explained in the document in detail and referenced in photos with the mark: //EP
(enemy placement)

Starting Area

Figure 1: Starting area showing the three paths as well as the Great Tree

The start area is made to let the player have a clear overview of the choices ahead of them, indicating the intended difficulty of the path ahead with some ready-made signs sporting a skull and crossbones motif. The players are also treated with a view of their final goal, the Great Tree of these islands, which CRT and his minions are working on bringing down as well as the rest of the forest, and this tree will be visible from all paths at certain points for the player to get a constant reminder of the objective as well as seeing it come closer and get a feeling of progression even on shorter levels like this.

 


Easy path

Figure 1: The entrance to the easy path, quite peaceful and calm beginnings

The easy path’s pacing is a consistent shift between slow-paced exploring or platforming, and more stressful fights or more precise platforming leading up to the final battle. This makes this path more easy-going on the less experienced players, while taking the opportunity to tell the story of the level through the environment. This path’s contrast utilizes changing from open areas to closed areas, and bright areas to dark areas, as you have more time to take in the look of the level on this path.

Walkthrough and insight

Taking a right from the start area, the player is greeted with some very basic platforming re-introducing jumping as well as double jumps with no danger of losing health or falling off the world.

Side note: This level was planned as part of an unreleased DLC for Skylar and Plux: Adventure on Clover Island, which means it is designed to be played after having beaten the main game. No matter, I still believe it is best to re-introduce the mechanics at different paces for the easy and medium paths, as they should remain beginner friendly.

Figure 2: The view of the first arena of the easy path as well as a reminder of the Great Tree as an objective. //EP

A calm intermission of a few seconds of walking past a cozy looking environment builds up to a more dangerous encounter around the corner. Before crossing a bridge that leads to the mentioned encounter, the player is given a reminder of the Great Tree looming in the distance. This section is labeled as an arena, meaning that in order to continue, you need to defeat all enemies, and then the door ahead will open.

The encounter itself is enclosed within an open space with lots of possibilities of evading enemies as well as containing a great number of crates for acquiring health during or after the battle has ended so that players who aren’t as comfortable with the fighting mechanics can have a chance at survival. The enemies faced are the usual small and common swarm-bots which have a very limited and slow short range attack, as well as a canon bot on the platform to the left upon entering the arena. This way I added some variety to the enemies encountered without throwing them all at the player at once, and it also an option of strategy, as the player can use their magnet ability to grab the canon bot and take out the smaller bots instead of only relying on their fists. In addition to this, it gives them the choice of which order to take on the enemies.

After the arena is cleared, the player is re-introduced to the grapple beam mechanic from the main game, and this time the stakes are also raised a bit as the grapple beam is above water, but the distance is short enough that timing the jump, grapple and release should pose little threat nonetheless.

Figure 3: The dark contrast to most of the level, leading into deeper CRT-territory. //EP

Next, the player is met with a few enemies in a darker and tighter environment, taking combat one level higher. The player can still avoid these enemies if they so wish and consider it more as a movement challenge, putting their evasion and momentum flow control skills to more of a test. Then it goes into another amped up platforming challenge, where the player is presented with platforms that move out and into the water surface, making them time their jump and quickly get off the platform before it sinks. This challenge is still presented in a straight line, so that there is no additional input required or confusion added by needing to turn the camera while staying on top of the moving platform.

Figure 4: The last bit of platforming as the player gains some vertical ground before the final fight

 

The last bit of combat before the finale is ahead of the player, and is the most demanding yet, while still keeping it relatively simple. Some swarm-bots as well as a turret-bot occupies the area, now all together so that the player has to approach them with more consideration, while earlier tactics of magnetizing and using the more powerful bot still applies, it is just harder to pinpoint the use of the ability while being attacked by a larger number of enemies at the same time.

The last section altogether before the finale goes back to echoing the calmer platforming sections as early in the level, letting the design of this path come full-circle before the convergence of all paths. This last part lets the player climb in altitude from the bottom layer of the level to the very top, creating a burst of sudden progression building up to the final battle arena.

 

Full gallery - Easy path


 

Medium path

The medium path shares the principles of contrasting between different visual representations of the different areas as well as it shifts between exploration, taking in the environment and some shorter sequences of fighting enemies. The medium path does, however, up the ante a bit in letting the player handle more precise platforming and enemies appearing as interceptors to the players flow while the easy path had enemies more constricted to easily more controllable environments from the player’s side.

Walkthrough and insight

Figure 1: The start to the medium difficulty path has a slightly steeper difficulty curve, but still lets the player familiarize themselves with the level

This path starts similarly to the easy path, letting the player do some jumps without being in danger, but then add a drop a little earlier on to signify the difference in difficulty between the two. The player is then presented with a locked door that has a thick and bright yellow electrical lead coming out of it. This mechanic from the main game suggests that the door can be opened by pressing a button at the end of this yellow lead. But in case this is either forgotten by the time the play this level in-between having finished the main game, or in case they simply didn’t play that far, I also decided to have the hiding place of the button end beneath some crates, which players have a tendency of breaking no matter what, and then they would reveal the button by accident if they couldn’t find it otherwise. And just as an extra precaution, I added a very small number of enemies, so that even if they aren’t familiar with the mechanic as well as not being a player prone to break crates, there is still a big chance that the crates will break either by the swarm bots or by the player trying to destroy them.

Figure 2: A hidden fork in the road. Follow the light to stay on the main path, or miss your jump and end up on an easier path. //EP

After this there is another more difficult platforming with some enemies acting as interceptors to break the player’s flow, but the fight itself can be skipped if the player has enough control of their momentum and manages to evade them as well as keep moving forward. This section ends with another more precise platforming challenge where the player needs to bounce on mushrooms in order to climb in altitude and get closer to the ever-present Great Tree.

At this point the player can either continue to follow the more obvious path that’s being lit up by the lanterns and that bouncy mushrooms point the players towards, or they could switch paths over to the easy route by jumping into the bushes with a small opening between them. This is presented so that while it looks like a path they can take, it is slightly more hidden than the main path. It is also placed in such a way that if the player fails to keep the correct trajectory on their mushroom jumps, they can land on this path which then takes it to another part which they are more likely to succeed on, but costing them a little more time.

Figure 3: A short breather before a tricky platforming section to let the player collect themselves

If they continue on the main path, they have a small amount of relief while walking across a bridge with a nice view before a more difficult platforming section with multiple moving platforms. This part has the player cross a gap towards a large and slow-moving platform, then turn around and time their next jump accordingly to not fall of their current platform and land on, then quickly jump off another platform that moves in and out of water like the one mentioned in the easy path. This section is one of the trickiest platforming challenges in the level, but can be made all easier with the use of the slow time ability when approaching the latter platform. And as the first moving platform is so big, that part is not as dangerous as it might seem. But the point of this platform is to create a false feeling of urgency that isn’t as dire when you look at it in hindsight, but feels stressful in the moment.

Figure 4: The most tricky part of the path, keeping calm is essential unless you want to bring in some extra help from the slow time ability

The last part of this path before the convergence is another platforming challenge on moving platforms, but in a straight line and much easier after the previous challenge. It serves to wind down before a short stretch of walking with a calm, peaceful environment as well as some creates to restore lost life, and then a final long jump with the jetpack to enter the final arena.

This last long jump also serves as a method of switching paths to easy in case they miss the jump. It is made as a cheeky patronizing move to put them on the easy path when they were so close to beating it on medium. But the water is still right there when they enter the easy path from above, and they can easily end their game and try again, or they can just finish the level from where they fell.

 Figure 5: The last long jump. Fail, and you'll be degraded to an easy path player, will you stand for such condescension?

Figure 5: The last long jump. Fail, and you'll be degraded to an easy path player, will you stand for such condescension?

 

Full gallery - medium path


Hard path

Figure 1: No mercy awaits those who dare tread on the most difficult path. Bounce, swing and quickly platform your way up the cliff

The hard path is more fast paced from the very beginning, starting off with platforming that requires precise movement and control of Skylar’s momentum, and adds more difficult and larger amounts of enemies as interceptors to the platforming throughout the path. It therefore maintains that fast pace until the last section before converging with the others, where there is a “calm before the storm”. As this path is made to be navigated at a higher pace, the contrast from the environments are used more sparingly, and the contrast comes from the sudden change of pace from the last part.

Walkthrough and insight

Figure 2: A rare moment of peace on the hard path, showing the player that they're already gaining some ground on the path to the Great Tree

As this path is made for veterans of the main game as well as the genre, it doesn’t offer the same introduction treatment as the other two paths. It starts off with three different platforming challenges, all over a body of water. This path assumes the competence of the player to be at a level where they can beat this part without the use of abilities, but also makes the assumption that they should know the different powers and that in this particular case, the slow time ability is invaluable. After this, the player is welcomed by a more calm and peaceful plateau where they can look down at the rest of the level from above, letting the player get a sense of immediate accomplishment by letting them see the amount of altitude they’ve gained in such a short amount of time with their burst of momentum from the start. This path is also the one from which the Great Tree is visible for the most amount of playtime, and this cliff plateau is the first instance where you can see this.

Figure 3: Where resource management becomes important, and recklessness is punished by spinning discs. //EP

It then continues on with more platforming on sudden-moving platforms over a large gap and continues into a wave of enemies that the players need to be mindful of if they chose to fight them head-on, as they are many and of multiple types. If they choose to fight them, they need to pinpoint the turret-bot, use the magnet on it and use it to defeat the other enemies. Or alternatively f.ex use the ground pound coming off of the platforming section to eliminate as many as possible in one swoop to then clean up the remaining rabble. If they choose to go for pure speed, then they can either maneuver through by jetpacking and timing their next jump to get off the cliff as early and swing across to the next section, or utilize the slow time ability again to make it easier to evade the enemies while making their way through to the grapple point.

Side note: a great thing about Skylar & Plux as well as other games in its genre, is that the speedrunning community constantly finds new ways to use the movement mechanics in more efficient ways, so there are possibly way more ways of passing through these areas quickly than the ones I mention here.

Figure 4: The final calm before the storm

The last part before the aforementioned calm before the storm makes it so that the player needs to use the slow time ability in order to proceed because of the spinning disc platforms, and challenges the player’s resource management in terms of their powers’ time limits, making it so that they have to wait for a bit and lose precious seconds if they were too reckless with the powers in the previous sections.

Then comes the last part where the player can take it slow for a few seconds, have a look at the Great Tree, now incredibly close even though only a short time has passed, and prepare themselves for the final arena.

 

Full Gallery - Hard Path

Finale and level completion

The final arena is the culmination of all three paths, meaning that it has to strike a balance between all the different difficulties that I have presented in the level on the different paths. And it does so by being the only combat encounter that has to be completed on the hard path, making their speed and momentum useless if they can’t combine it with combat as well. The medium path faces the same issue, but the players on this path has still has a slower build-up of combat encounters leading up to this point. And the players of the easy path, which normally would have the biggest spike in difficulty if it has to share a section with the hard path, will probably be challenged on the same level as the others, as the players have had more opportunities to fight their enemies throughout the level. And with one of the encounters even being mandatory, they are more accustomed to winning fights than evading and moving past them.

After the final arena, the door opens and reveals a final platforming challenge, a single jump over a gap that serves as a way of making sure the player leaps into the waterfall which originates from the top of the Mountain of the Great Tree, ending right underneath the tree and surrounded by cozy lights, confetti and a sense of accomplishment.

 Figure 1: The final arena where swarm bots, turret bots and rocket bots will be spawned, and be recquired to defeat in order to continue. //EP

Figure 1: The final arena where swarm bots, turret bots and rocket bots will be spawned, and be recquired to defeat in order to continue. //EP

Bonus feature: Environmental storytelling

Even though these time trial levels were not necessarily meant to contain a story, there is still a need to instill some sort of motivation for the player, which is where the previously mentioned plot of CRT creating a logging camp breaking down the forest and more specifically the Great Tree in order to build his evil empire. Even though I didn’t have the resources to explicitly state the story of the level in cutscene form or text summary in a level select, I went with the idea that the closer you get to an enemy encounter, the fewer fully grown trees there are. And when you’re within the actual enemy territory, there are only stumps, planks and other woodwork to imply that CRT has spread his troops all over the islands and they are working fast, so Skylar and Plux needs to get to the Great Tree before it is too late.

This may be a minor detail, but I love incorporating this kind of additional implied content, as it only takes a simple idea and a way to be consistent with it, without taking too much time and resources to implement it.