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Temples of Tomorrow |
Puzzle Exploration| 2021


Genre: 3D Puzzle Solving Exploration with Time Travel Theme


Project Type: Team Project

Development Time: 4 Weeks

Team Members: Rana Jahani, Afraz Zackria, Wu Lyu, Shuting Zhou, Jiancheng Wu


My Role: Game Designer, Level Designer, Technical Game Designer

My Responsibilities

  • Analyzed a variety of games, derived game design patterns, and documented a game design pattern library to utilize it in our project

  • Designed and crafted compelling in-game experiences by conceptualizing and implementing engaging encounters, game beats, and environmental puzzles

  • Utilized a comprehensive approach, starting from sketching level layout using architectural diagrams on paper to creating initial blockouts, constructing intricate structures, applying textures, and implementing lighting techniques

  • Strategically placed game objects within scenes, ensuring a seamless and immersive narrative flow that effectively conveyed environmental storytelling

  • Contributed to scripting player camera and controls and environmental puzzles functionality


This project is a sample of my student team project in the Spatial and Temporal Design course, which is about solving game design problems by designing a level using game architectural techniques. 


Exploration and character ability progression are the foundations of our design. We designed spatially challenging encounters which require the player to use their abilities such as pushing objects and using a grappling hook for puzzle solving and hostile NPC encounter. Spatial hints such as environmental puzzles, NPC chase sequence, and environmental narrative are provided before the player acquires new abilities needed to progress through the section. After the player acquires the abilities they backtrack to the points at which they could progress.

We designed each room separately in our team, but connected them cohesively to the main theme of the game. The sequence of each room creates variation and rhythm so that the player would constantly encounter new challenging obstacles. When the player notices that they need upgrades for their character's ability, they explore the environment to acquire that ability. And then, they have a chance to practice the new ability in a safe environment (spatial puzzles) and then in challenging encounters (hostile NPCs) which endanger the character's health.


Temple (5).JPG

Prototyping Strategies

    Design Problems    

  • How to telegraph to players that they need a special ability in a way that informing them is not too obvious and make them feel that they figured it out on their own

  • How to vary that over the course of the game so that the player constantly feels like they’re being clever in figuring out they need special ability, upgrade etc. rather than they just encounter similar symbols, colors?


  • Teach the player the new ability using enemies/NPCs behavior

  • Let the player practice new ability using backtracking technique

  • Let the player practice their abilities by solving environmental puzzles

  • Incorporate different objects and aesthetics, and let the player interacts with them to figure out what they need in the gameworld

  • Integrate environmental storytelling

    Design Patterns    

Game Beats

The game has time travel theme in which the player travels to ancient times. They need to find an object that makes the king eternal before the enemies can find it. On their way to save the king, they acquire new abilities that help them on their journey. In the first level:

  1. Player starts their exploration in a safe environment and practice their abilities by solving simple environmental puzzles to clear their path.

  2. Then they encounter two hostile NPCs. After smashing one of them by throwing a large rock, the second enemy escapes to a place, but the player cannot chase it because they don’t have the ability (grappling hook).

  3. The character finds a secret path to a dungeon, they need to clear their path again and solve harder environmental puzzles, finally they reach the upgrade chamber.

  4. On the way back, they go through a loop and have a chance to practice their new upgrade, and then they reach the point where they can chase the enemy they had encountered.

Time Travel FlowChart.JPG

The proximity diagram of the game beats in the level

Inspiration and References

My inspiration for this project drew from the enchanting beauty of Persian gardens and the intricate architecture of Cambodian temples, Hindu forts, and Spanish/Islamic palaces. These influences guided my creative process and left a lasting impact on my approach to level design

I also explored the architectural patterns in A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.

The patterns helped me in designing the level were: Holy Ground, Sacred Sites, Entrance Transition, Ceiling Height Variety, Zen View, Tree Places, and Garden Seat.


Level Design

I designed the first part of the level where the player finds themselves in a secret temple and start their exploration in a safe environment. 

In terms of environmental storytelling, the time travel gate, and the medieval texture indicate the theme of the game.

Time Travel Gate.JPG

The temple garden is designed to evoke the sense of curiosity in the player and encourage them to explore the area. For this purpose, I designed an arcade inspired by the architecture of Alhambra palace in Spain and Persian Gardens. The formal compositions in the architectural design creates symmetry and lead the player to navigate the temple garden and finally reach the garden's gate.


Additionally, the player starts practicing their abilities by solving an environmental puzzle to clear their path outside the temple garden.

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