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  • Writer's pictureTiago Massochin

Dual Polarity: A Symphony of Synergy in Circuit Breakout - Dual-character Game Design

Welcome to another chapter in our game development journey, where we delve into the intricate process of crafting a single-player game with two equally significant characters in Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity. This exploration is not merely a technical discourse but a testament to the passion and creativity that fuels our work.


The Dance of Dual-Characters Game Design

In the realm of Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity, we've crafted

a unique narrative that revolves around two main characters, Data and Surge, each with their distinct abilities and roles. The challenge we faced was ensuring that both characters remain meaningful throughout the gameplay, even when one isn't in direct control. This delicate balance between narrative and gameplay significance has been our guiding star, shaping our design decisions and driving our development process.


Learning from the Masters

To tackle this challenge, we turned to the masters of the craft. Games like "It Takes Two" have brilliantly executed the concept of two characters with complementary skills in a multiplayer setting. However, our vision was different. We sought to create a single-player, but with the same idea of making an experience where both characters always remain relevant.

Gameplay screenshot showing the split-screen and co-op mechanic from It Takes Two
Gameplay screenshot showing the split-screen and co-op mechanic from It Takes Two

In single-player games like "Watch Dogs Legion," character switching is possible, but the previous character loses relevance once the switch is made. Our goal was to transcend this limitation and maintain the presence of both characters throughout the gameplay.

Concept art from Watch Dogs Legions showing the player controlling a drone from afar
Concept art from Watch Dogs Legions showing the player controlling a drone from afar

This graphic demonstrates how the main character becomes irrelevant when the player controls the drone, and vice versa in Watch Dogs Legion. We aimed to overcome this limitation in Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity.

Graphic demonstrating how the main character in Watch Dogs Legions becomes irrelevant when the player controls the drone, and vice versa
Graphic demonstrating how the main character in Watch Dogs Legions becomes irrelevant when the player controls the drone, and vice versa


A Harmonious Solution

Our solution was inspired by the game "Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons," where two characters are controlled simultaneously. We adapted this concept to our vision, allowing the abilities of both characters to be used uninterruptedly, regardless of which character is being controlled.

Gameplay screenshot from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Gameplay screenshot from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

This core system diagram demonstrates that both characters in Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity have gameplay relevance even when the player switches between them.

Core system diagram for Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity demonstrating that both characters have gameplay relevance even when the player switches between them
Core system diagram for Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity demonstrating that both characters have gameplay relevance even when the player switches between them

In other words, the player can use the other character's abilities at any time to help the game progress. Data can move and interact with mechanical objects, while Surge can use electrical charges or his magnetic powers to interact with electronic objects. This opens up a range of possibilities for how different levels can be built around this mechanic.

Graphic demonstrating the ideal balance between the meaningless of the two characters that we are aiming for your game
Graphic demonstrating the ideal balance between the meaningless of the two characters that we are aiming for your game

Designing the Symphony

Our design process was akin to composing a symphony, where each character represents a unique instrument, contributing to the overall harmony. We defined each character's abilities, considering how they could reinforce their unique characteristics and be beneficial to both in solving the puzzles.

Infographic detailing the metrics and rules of Surge's Electric Arc ability
Infographic detailing the metrics and rules of Surge's Electric Arc ability

This was a critical pillar because it not only helps to create a narrative differential between the two characters that can be explored but also creates a memory of how each character should be applied in the exploration of the scenario, making usability intuitive and improving the user experience.


The Art of Signifiers

In this symphony of dual character design, signifiers play a crucial role. They ensure that the player always knows the location and status of the characters. Each character has elements in their design that change when the other character uses their ability, providing visual feedback to the player.

Following the same logic, the interactive elements in the scenario have colours and shapes that refer to the character that is able to interact with these elements, creating a great signifier and ensuring that our game has a well-founded base in the principles of User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design. In this case, mechanical objects used by Data have warm colours and shapes that refer to machinery, gears and industrial things; these same elements can be found in Data's design. At the same time, electronic objects used by Surge have cold colours and more rounded shapes and silhouettes that refer to real electronic components, as well as Surge's own design.

We also ensured that each character's abilities are easily accessed by different buttons, providing a consistent control scheme throughout the gameplay.


In The End, It's All About Experience

We've always prioritized the player's experience in our game development journey. This is where Player-Centered Design (PCD) comes into play. PCD is a design methodology that focuses on understanding and addressing the needs and capabilities of the player. It involves observing and understanding the player's behaviour, preferences, and abilities and then designing the game mechanics and elements around these insights.

Infographic pointing out the visual and aesthetic differences of both characters
Infographic pointing out the visual and aesthetic differences between both characters

One of the key aspects of PCD that we've incorporated into Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity is the use of visual feedback. During our playtest sessions, we noticed that players had difficulty understanding if the other character was really using their ability when they were out of sight. To address this, we added elements in each character that change when the other character uses their abilities. This way, the player can always have visual feedback, even if the other character is not in the camera frame. This is a prime example of how PCD can enhance the player's experience and make the game more intuitive and engaging.


We believe that PCD is not just a methodology but a philosophy that guides our game development process. It's about putting the player at the heart of everything we do, from the mechanics we design to the narratives we craft. It's about creating a game that is fun to play and resonates with the player on a deeper level.


The Final Composition

The result of this intricate process is a game where two characters dance in harmony, each contributing to the gameplay in their unique way. It's a testament to the power of creative problem-solving and the passion that drives us to push the boundaries of game design.

Diagram showing step-by-step how the mechanic of controlling two characters is used in the gameplay
Diagram showing step-by-step how the mechanic of controlling two characters is used in the gameplay

In the infographic above, it is possible to analyze this concept of mechanics. In this case, the player can use Surge to electrically charge an electronic component that, when energized, unlocks a passage for Data by opening a gate. The player can then switch controls to Data, hold Surge's ability button down while continuing to power up the element, and then move Data through the open gate.


There Are No Bad Mechanics, Just Poorly Implemented Ones

Creating a single-player game where two characters maintain simultaneous significance was a challenging yet rewarding journey. It required us to think outside the box, learn from the masters, and adapt their techniques to our unique vision.


The process taught us the importance of clear communication between the game and the players. The player needs to perceive and understand what the two characters – in separate places – are doing.


Designing a puzzle game where the player must use the abilities of two characters simultaneously to solve the challenges was an exciting experience. We believe that it is precisely the innovative way we are developing this mechanic that will make our game stand out from the market. After all, there are no terrible mechanics, only poorly implemented ones.


Ultimately, the journey of creating Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity has been a symphony of design challenges and creative solutions. It's a testament to our passion for game development and our commitment to pushing the boundaries of what's possible.


As we continue to refine and improve Circuit Breakout: Dual Polarity, we remain committed to our vision of creating a game that is not only fun to play but also offers a unique and engaging experience. We're excited about the journey ahead and can't wait to share more updates with you in the future.


Until next time,

Zizo Mass



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