Ghosts, haunted bones, more on incremental design

So here's a good example on the way I'm building this game, and why approaching the design in an incremental fashion is both agile and flexible and really works with how my creativity works. It can lead to surprising ideas, cool and interesting techniques, and a game that is both unique and interesting with cool gameplay. I already mentioned before on how I used this design method to eventually come up with the basic way the game plays out. Sure, it took a few months, but the end result is something very unique, and so far I haven't seen in a game of this type (exploration based action adventure platforming), but feels like a natural extension. The same with the concept on using no health bars and a minimal (if any) HUD for the player. Instead of health bar, the player fades more and more each time she gets hit. Health gets too low, and a heartbeat sounds. near death? The heart beats faster and faster and faster.

Which, I think, makes sense in what the character is (someone summoned to the world of the game, and whose hold on it is very liquid and slipping), and how the reality of the game works, and why you would "come back to life" at the standing stones with full health and all the items you found. Because your tether to this other world are those stones, and they give you your current form in this world.

Anyway! Back to the topic at hand. So I knew one scene I wanted ghosts haunting the garden of the mushroom duchess, with all of them flying around, etc. I did the pixel art and start placing in the ghosts. But it got too noisy, too much, it didn't look right. And as a player, it's weird to have ghosts flying and not be able to attack them? But as a world designer, why would you be able to attack ghosts? They're noncorpreal.

So I stripped it down to one ghost. And then I was like, why was this ghost here? So I pixelled up a pile of bones, and the ghost haunts her bones. She floats around it, staring at the player. There, one unique ghost, coolio. Then I was like, you can pick up everything in the game. EVERYTHING. Skulls, mushrooms, sticks, stones. If you see it and it's not an enemy or a giant piece of stone, you can pick it up and it does something.

So, I knew if I had the pile of bones there, someone would try and pick it up. But it would have to do something, right? I mean, if you pick it up, then what? So I thought about it. There were already skulls and bones you can throw, that wasn't interesting. Let's say you pick up these pile of bones, the ghost should do something, right? My first idea was to have the ghost follow you about, which was cool and interesting but to what end? Maybe it would follow you until you placed the bones on a gravestone, and put the ghost to rest?

But then what? This seems to be moving away from my idea of simplicity. Also, it would get to be obtuse- how would the players know to do this? Well, I mean it is obvious in a way, but...this didn't feel *quite right*.

Then I though about maybe the ghost can do something for the player, not just follow them. I wanted the game to have a shield...

AHA. Ghost shield. You pick up the bones. When you press the button for that item, the ghost appears, floating around you and protecting you from enemies. There is a time limit, it uses magic points (which auto refill, but take some time), but there it is. The screenshots are misleading, this isn't the place for the bones and the ghost, I was just using this area to test out the functionality.

But it's cool and unique. You pick up the bones, you get a ghost shield. NICE. I know exactly where I'm going to place these later, but I'm not going to tell you. Somethings still need to be secret.

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I like your workflow!

Thanks! It took me foreeevveeerrrrr to get this down, lol. But I'm happy with it.