“Stay in school, loop through time.”
Tessallation is an award-nominated First Person, “Single Player Co-Op,” Puzzle Adventure game available for PC and Mac. Play and Re-play Tessa, a grade-school girl, as you explore a peculiar world and the potential of your own time-traveling talents.
I worked on Tessallation for a period of 7 months with a team of 5 colleagues. During development, I handled all core programming responsibilities including the main time rewinding mechanic, player controls and feel, and puzzle elements. I also supported the rigging process of our main character, Tessa, with a series of scripts to help automate the skeleton construction process.
Additionally, I had the chance to author many of the key gameplay effects in the game.
“Starting Time Travel.”
“Portal Beacon Effect.”
Developing the time traveling and replay mechanics were some of the most challenging systems I’ve ever programmed. They only really hit their stride just past the halfway mark of the project. At this point, enough iteration had gone into the systems and we had sufficiently scoped down our design ideas. This helped shape exactly what data would need to be tracked and saved and what systems could be driven by this data, rather than player input. By this point, I had also revised the time rewinding system on interactive objects to the point where I really felt comfortable our constraints for time travel, (e.g. you can’t steal objects from your past selves until their time line is finished).
“Learning to time travel.”
I felt strongly about not limiting the player’s ability to explore the time traveling system. This resulted in a design choice that we would not impose any limitation on the number of replays you could have at once so that awesome scenes like the one below could happen.
“The only constraint is your computer’s hardware.”
When development on Tessallation began, everyone on the team was aware that games with very similar mechanics had been done before (Prometheus, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, and others). That wasn’t a deterrence to us but rather a motivation to push the mechanic somewhere new. Many games featuring the time rewind and replay mechanic really never pushed the design beyond very basic button and switch puzzles. While we were aware some level of these rudimentary puzzles would be required simply so that the player could grasp the mechanic in the first place, we strived to get the player into doing more exciting things.
A guiding inspiration behind nearly every aspect of the game was the concept of the playground. Specifically, our nostalgic and grandiose experiences with playgrounds as children. This led to a variety of puzzles based on typical playground elements like slides and see-saws. The concept of play and youth took root and ideas started sprouting up everywhere. How awesome would it be to play an entire game of baseball by yourself?
“Or what about basketball?”
We had nailed down a huge list of things that would be hilarious to do if you could replicate yourself and do anything you wanted in an open school. By the end of the project, we felt our game really captured the experience we wanted players to have.
“And we had done it in a strange and beautiful world with whale statues.”