Blackshore is both a puzzle game and a metroid-vania, 2 genres that have more in common than most realize. For this game I looked to Portal and Super Metroid for the best examples of these two genres. What both of these games excell at is instructing the player how to play the game without outright telling them and making it rewarding in a big way. The way how this is done for each game is very different from each other, but Blackshore brings them together.
Blackshore does not have a tutorial, instead, much like Portal, the game is one whole big tutorial--always introducing new mechanics and new ways to use old ones as the game goes on. It also never tells you where to go with things like way points or cut scenes or other things that misdirect what is important to the player. Instead using unique or inaccessable locations to help the player map out the world and create places and things that are important to them for the most basic of reasons like curiosity of what could behind a door you can't open.
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The Level Design play-by-play
1) The player spawns to the left side of this room, having no where else to go in the empty room, they'll walk right. This is a familiar and natural feeling thing to do for people who have played games before, something we'll exploit for great effect quite soon.
2) After the dialog and entering the elevator the player doesn't have much to do but wait as the elevator slowly climbs higher and higher. This is building up anticipation as this is drawn out for a while.
3) Right before the elevator reaches the top, it jolts to a halt and the lights flicker. The player has been going up for a while now but they don't know how high they really are since the elevator was already suspended over a pit when they first got on it. There is now a fear of this uncertain height since they are trapped within the confines of the elevator. After a few seconds of just hanging there, the elevator then violently drops.
4) When the elevator falls past this point, the player has a reference point for how fast they're falling and how far up they were. This is important because once they reach the bottom of the shaft, they'll see see just how much longer the shaft went on after this point compared to the height of the peak they had reached before. This makes the distance fallen
feel much much bigger than it really is, making this event feel that much more of a powerful moment to the player.
5) The fall of the elevator creates a goal for the player without explicitly telling them, they were rising toward something and have just been denied finding out whats at the top. The long and violent drop also creates a trapped atmosphere for this new environment that the player has been literally thrown into. Most likely the player will want to naturally leave this area and return back up to where they were before since that area felt safer.
6) After the elevator has fallen, the player will most likely walk to the right since all they have done up to this point is walk right, but they do have the option of walking left.
7) Most players will cross this gap and try to open the door on the right, quickly finding out that it refuses to budge. This door is also visually unique from any other door encountered so far and will most likely remembered by the player as something important. Since there is a lower platform visible in the gap, the player knows there is more to the room and will travel down.
8) Once reaching the bottom, the player is met with yet
another blockade, this time a door that they know they
can walk through is blocked by a box. After trying every
thing they can think of the player will give up and ascend the room once again. In the player's mind, this whole room is just a giant dead end which they will remember after spending so much time exploring the room.
9) Ascending the room again is important for 2 reasons.
1-The player is getting to know their limits, how high
they can jump and recognize which jumps they can reach.
2-It reinforces the fact that the player can no longer move to the right and that they must now move left to progress. Since they have only gone right to get anywhere throughout the entire game so far and that there is only one door on the right wall, that this door becomes the equivalent of a boss door in a Zelda game. This is what they're going to be working towards, and the hype for what lies on the other side of that door will only grow as the game goes on.
10) Once at the top the player will leave to the left
back to the elevator room
11) As the player goes left, their main goal, to leave by going up, is visually reinforced as they pass by it. The ramp leading up to the fallen elevator also subconsciously puts the elevator on a pedastle and the symmetrical and centered layout of the room also helps reinforce this goal by making it feel more important and the center of the player's environment.
12) As the player reaches the left side of the room, they jump up a platform and then fall. At this point they aren't very familiar with the limits of their jump, so they won't recognize until its too late that once they've fallen down here, they can't jump out. This is to help teach the player about their limits and make them focus on the next two rooms since they're now in a dead end. The player knows they aren't trapped forever though, since there is no other visible way to reach this room than through this passage.
13) In this new dead end, the player is also met by the
box, but this time it is out of the way, not blocking anything. This is the first time that the box is
presented in this way and conveys that the box could have many uses. The player knows that the box is related to progressing, but they don't know how yet.
The player then walks to the left to the next room.
14) Upon entering this room the player is lead down by the platforms and vertical orientation of the room. This is to tell them that its safe for them to fall down onto platforms oriented in this way, which is important for what they're about to do next.
15) The player, not really fearing jumping down pits at this point, jumps into the gap without hesitation, and lands dead center on top of the generator switch. The player is a bit more familiar with their limits at this point and will most likely get the feeling that they are now trapped once again, jumping to try to climb out will confirm this. However, since the switch is the highest and closest thing to the platforms, the player will naturally use it to try to climb out. This connects the switch with what the player wants to do, and the way how the generator is presented reinforeces the notion that this thing is important. The familar box is seen again off to the side, its about as wide as the switch, which begs to be pushed down and since the player's weight isn't enough to make that happen, the idea of using the box to push it down may occur to the player.
They now have an idea of how to get out, but they just can't. This helps build up the hype for the ability they're about to get once they exit to the left door.