Magic Moving Mansion Mania

Magic Moving Mansion Mania is an award-winning action-puzzle-platformer that couples fast-paced gameplay with mentally stimulating puzzles. In the game, a little girl, Anastasia, is lost in a magical mansion where the rooms move in mysterious ways. Users need to help guide her to safety, but don’t let her fall into nothingness. Users play by tapping on two different tiles to switch their locations while Anastasia will continue moving forward. Some more complex levels also include multiple layers in the mansion that can be navigated when Anastasia is walking through a door.

// CONCEPT

// GAMEPLAY

// CASE STUDIES

// PROCESS

// DELIVERABLE

// TAKEAWAY

Concept

A little girl named Anastasia has found herself in a dream world. She is trapped in her grandma’s large, mysterious mansion and cannot find a way out. Disoriented, all she can do is continue moving forward in hopes of finding an escape. It is up to the player to rearrange the rooms of this mansion to help guide her to safety. There will be many challenges and puzzles for the player to solve, all while protecting Anastasia from walking off the edge. She, too, may come across certain objects around the mansion that will help the player to rearrange the rooms, but ultimately her fate lies in the hands of the player. Tap and swipe to move the magical mansion and quickly solve puzzles to help Anastasia survive.


Design Goals

Our primary design goal is to provide the player with mentally stimulating puzzles. There should not be one dominant strategy or a common solution between levels to the point that the player gets bored with the puzzles. The player should feel a sense of accomplishment for completing a level and want to continue progressing through the game. This goal is a requirement for our game in order for it to be fun and carry out our vision.

Our secondary design goal is to provide a sense of urgency and to force the player to make quick decisions. The character will move at a speed that the player cannot look away for too long without having Anastasia fall off the edge of the screen into the void. There will also be the possibility of multiple characters, increasing the risk and urgency felt while playing the game since the player will have to keep track of both of them at the same time. This urgency is a key component to our vision, but we can vary the degree of urgency with the character speed and number of characters in a level.

Our tertiary design goal is to provide a sense of wonder. Anastasia is lost in a magical mansion that is full of secrets. We want to convey this story through artistic elements and interesting puzzles. This goal is more artistic and does not affect actual gameplay so it is not required.


AUDIENCE

Magic Moving Mansion Mania is meant to have a wide audience. It is especially targeted at puzzle and mobile gamers.

Gameplay


ACTIONS

Actions in the gameplay


INTERACTIONS

Interactions in the gameplay


CHALLENGES


finding path

Anastasia walks through a two-dimensional world, but unlike traditional platformers, the player does not have direct control over her movement. She walks and falls down short heights, but she does not jump. Thus, the player must make use of structural features like walls and stairs to build a path for Anastasia to the end of the level.


obstacles

Each level is a scrambled collection of rooms, and there is no way for Anastasia to arrive at the end of the level in the initial state due to obstacles blocking her path. The puzzle involves changing the position of rooms to find a path around the obstacles for Anastasia to reach the finish. Some of the obstacles are merely inconveniences, such as a wall that prevents Anastasia from reaching the adjacent tile. Other obstacles are especially dangerous, such as a gap in the floor that could potentially lead to Anastasia falling dangerously. The difficulty arises from trying to build a path in the level while keeping Anastasia from walking off the edge of a tile.


locks and keys

Some tiles are permanently locked, so players must work around them. Other tiles are locked until Anastasia picks up a key located in another room. These temporarily locked tiles often need to be moved to another position in order move forward in the level, so players must first find a way to direct Anastasia to the key.

Case Studies

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Continuity

While Continuity is a similar puzzle platformer involving the player rearranging tiles, Magic Moving Mansion Mania adds an element of urgency since the player does not control character movement. Unlike Continuity, our character cannot be frozen in time to allow the player to visualize a solution to the puzzle without penalty. Additionally, our tile switching is not limited to a sliding grid, allowing for more possibilities for interesting levels. Lastly, our game has more colorful and themed artwork.

Framed

While Framed provides a similar tiled puzzle feel, its pieces flow into one another so that there are a limited number of solutions. Magic Moving Mansion Mania has endless possibilities and is not paused while switching tiles, again providing more urgency and action.

Monument Valley

While Monument Valley provides puzzles with a magical feel, it has a slower pace and no time pressure on the player. Timing the switching of tiles as the character walks or falls across them is an additional aspect of our gameplay. Magic Moving Mansion Mania achieves a similar magical feel, but with more excitement and quicker gameplay.

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Iterative Process


Paper Prototype

After a series of brainstorming and discussions, our team has decided to focus on the concept of rearranging rooms through the section drawing of a house. To test the existing gameplay and future polish the rules, we have made a paper prototype to try the settings out.
Paper Prototype Paper Prototype
Paper Prototype Paper Prototype


User Tests

To better evaluate the gameplay and UIUX design, we had two rounds of user tests after alpha and beta release separately. I n the test, we asked our friends to play the game, observed their interactions with the game, recorded the time they need for levels, and asked them to write down the things they found interesting, frustrating, and exciting. Paper Prototype Screenshot of the user test document

One important feature we have added in based on the feedback from the user tests is the speed up button. We have observed a lot of people complaining about the long waiting period when they have finished arranging the tiles but waiting for Anastasia to walk through the path. The speed up button allows users to accelerate the walking speed of Anastasia and therefore reduce the waiting time.


Overall Style

Deciding on one graphic style is always challenging for me, especially when there are so many different things we want to try out. After finalized the core vision and background story, we came up with some guidelines for the graphic and put together mood boards to better communicate our design vision within the whole team.

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Color Palette Color Palette
Graphic Style Graphic Style
Mood board Mood Board

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Character Design

We have designed two characters, Alexa and Anastasia, even though in the final version only Anastasia is implemented in consideration of a better gameplay and limited development time. Alexa is the elder sister of Anastasia, who tries to take care of Anastasia even though she doesn’t understand Anastasia most of the time.

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Moodboard Character Design Moodboard of the design of Anastasia
Moodboard Character Design Moodboard of the design of Alexa

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Even though we only need a visual representation of the characters in the actual game, in order to make the characters more real and vivid, we have came up with background stories for them and created some concept arts. Below shows how the character designs evolved from sketches, to static drawings, and eventually animation frames.
Screenshot Screenshot
Screenshot Screenshot


Environment Design

The environment of the game is mainly the interior of a colonial style mansion. Because Alexa and Anastaisa’s grandma is a professor in botany, her home is filled with exotic plants. Thanks to the detailed background settings, we have easily found a lot of references.

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Moodboard Environment Design Moodboard of enviornment design
Moodboard Environment Design Moodboard of enviornment design
Moodboard Environment Design References of enviornment design
Moodboard Environment Design References of enviornment design

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Same as the character design, our design of the environment, especially the tiles, also went through a lot of iterations. We have to balance between their visual aesthetics and their functionalities as a component of the interface. First Iteration Second Iteration: Final Iteration:
Tile Tile Tile Tile Tile Tile Tile Tile

Deliverable


Final Product

We have deployed the game and published it on both App store and Google Play. One can download them using the links at the beginning of this page. We have more than 1000 downloads on each of the two stores. Below are some screenshots for the iPhone version:
Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot
Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot


Promotional Material

Besides the digital product, we have also designed and prototyped a series of promotional materials such as posters, banners, game manual, and some giveaways.
Game Manual Game Manual
Game Manual Game Manual
Promotional Booklet of Magic Moving Mansion Mania


GDCIA Showcase and Boston Indie Game Festival

We brought our game to the Boston Indie Game Festival that was held at MIT in September of 2017, and won the Best Digital Game for the student group.
Showcase Showcase Showcase Showcase Showcase Showcase Showcase Showcase
Boston Indie Game Festival. Photo Credits: Charisse Foo

Takeaway and Next Steps

After we have published the game, I have further developed the background story and made a monograph, which you can read more at MMMM Monograph

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