Co-op Puzzle Design for We Were Here Forever – Xbox Wire
We Were Here Forever is the newest game in our We Were Here series of co-op puzzle adventures, releasing today on Xbox. You and a partner play the role of Antarctic explorers who find themselves trapped in a sinister castle and must work together to escape! With the introduction of cross-play, we’re opening up a world of new players to team up with. Whether you’d like to play with a friend or dive into the game and connect with a stranger, it will all be possible. Communication is everything, and you’ll have to trust your partner, as streamers Copacaxi and Icharr_ demonstrate beautifully in our latest trailer!
Our Design Philosophy
What goes into making a good puzzle? We Were Here Forever is the fourth game in the We Were Here Series, so this isn’t our first rodeo. We start with some basic principles of what an ideal puzzle looks like for our game: every puzzle should be related in some way to communication and the different challenges and kinds of fun you can have with that. Describing symbols, guiding someone to navigate a maze, mimicking sounds, pronouncing silly words, and more.
Simply put: if it doesn’t get you talking, whispering, laughing or yelling then it shouldn’t be in our games.
Puzzling on Puzzles
Inspiration for puzzles can come from many places! From a movie scene, an idea for a cool mechanic, some part of the game’s story, or even a completely abstract theme. The process of creating a puzzle is also very personal; every designer works in their own way and might use different tools. Options include building a prototype out of cardboard and boardgame components, sketching storyboards, detailed diagrams, making little movies or in-engine prototypes, and we’re sure there are many more. There have even been origami models made for certain puzzle environments!
Generally speaking, we always search for the fastest and most efficient way to ‘prove’ the core idea of a puzzle – what makes that puzzle cool and unique, and does it work? Once we have confidence in that core idea we make increasingly more detailed prototypes involving custom art, tweaks and updates to the puzzle design, placing it somewhere in the world/story, and so forth. There can be months between that first version and something that looks like the final result!
Challenges in Design (Spoilers Ahead!)
Getting the difficulty right for puzzles is one of the toughest parts of puzzle design. We have very different kinds of players enjoying the series, often for different reasons and with different levels of experience. Any puzzle should be just as interesting to a series veteran as to a brand new player. There’s also a very fine line between a challenging puzzle and a frustrating one, and getting that balance just right takes a lot of testing, tweaking and sometimes redesign.
Simply put: if players get stuck it should be because they’re not cooperating or communicating well, not because the puzzle isn’t clear or is too difficult.
Puzzles rarely make it all the way from initial idea to implementation without any changes. An example (with mild spoilers) is a puzzle where the players have to communicate with a creature using sounds – the players are separated while one has the ‘dictionary’ and the other has to do the actual communication. This means trying to mimic the sounds the creature uses to communicate, with one player translating them.
This puzzle started out with the idea of mimicking sounds, but almost everything else changed. There was originally a kind of beatboxing challenge where players had to match the rhythms of two different machines. Players had to use record players and even something resembling a drum computer or sequencer! It soon became obvious that this was really hard, and that more organic sounds were more fun to try to mimic, so a creature was introduced. The last ingredient that makes it all work was the translation element: you were actually talking to the creature. That ties it all together and gives it a purpose. But even when that was figured out, getting the details right – the questions/answers, dictionary, controls, and level of challenge – took a whole bunch of attempts before we reached the fun final version of the puzzle.
Try the Puzzles out Yourself Today!
But that’s enough about how we made the game – We Were Here Forever is out now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, ready for you to dive in and explore! Grab a friend and team up to solve the mysteries of Castle Rock together! We Were Here Forever is the biggest adventure yet, following three thrilling standalone games in the We Were Here Series, each one a unique puzzle adventure you can experience with a friend. We’re happy to say that even after three games, we still have plenty of great ideas for puzzles – and long-time fans of the series agree, saying We Were Here Forever is the best game yet!
Find out if you and a partner have what it takes to escape, or if you’ll be trapped in Castle Rock… Forever!
We Were Here Forever
Total Mayhem Games
Beginning in the dungeons deep in the bowels of Castle Rock, you and a fellow prisoner must seek a way out and return to stand again beneath the icy Antarctic skies – but escaping this nightmare is not so easy as just leaving the castle itself. If you can free yourself from the cells, you’ll need to make choices about where to explore next. Outside the Keep, you will discover the story of Rockbury, its inhabitants, and plans of a resistance formed against the King to escape this icy place. Hope will lead you on to an eerie Graveyard and have you descend down into the dark waters of the Foundry.
Someone, or something, has brought you here, and you are a central part of a plan centuries in the making. Only an unshakeable bond with your partner will give you any hope of survival in the face of such dreadful desire…
NOTE: This game is co-op only. It requires both players to have a working compatible microphone and an internet connection.