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A Third Person Sci-Fi Puzzle Adventure


This piece highlights level and puzzle design, centered around light as a mechanic via the sunflower feature.


The focus also lies in introducing puzzle features and the rules surrounding them in a digestible way, with the help of

KI-SHO-TEN-KETSU as a flow structure.


  • Developed in 5 weeks half time

  • Software used: Unreal Engine 5, Blender

  • Made using Basic_Template by Max Forsberg and modified by me

  • Sunflower by me

  • Vignette FX by Ameer Khalid

  • Sunflower Ray FX and Range indicator by Sabina Högvalls

  • Inspired by Outer Wilds and Limbo


The Sunflower

The main feature in this project is a sunflower, that drains energy from the nearby light sources. This is a core rule that I wanted to focus on and build upon with the rest of the puzzles.  One example of how this manifests in the design, is when approaching it with a lantern makes the sunflower drain its energy, harming the player in the process.

I was inspired by Outer Wilds, when I was blown away by how natural phenomena such as quantum physics, black holes, time-loops could be integrated into fully-fledged game loops and features. Completing the game under a summer vacation made me wonder... what type of other puzzle features could be inspired by natrual phenomena?


I eventually came to the sunflower, with the idea of a bunch of sunflowers on a far-away planet watching the player. This idea led me further down the theme of light, with the player being the target for the sunflowers as they carry the lantern.



With a relatively unorthodox and unique puzzle feature, I had two goals:

Keep the feature engaging by building upon the core rule; that the sunflower looking at the strongest light source.

And introducing each subsequent rule around the sunflower in a comprehensible way.

Most of my time was dedicated to playtesting and iterating based on feedback to improve readability and puzzle design.

Initially, the sunflower concept was more narrative-heavy. To underscope and redirect the focus on puzzle design, I instead draw inspiration from games like Little Nightmares and Limbo for puzzle structure.


Since this piece focuses on puzzle design, I decided that the KI-SHO-TEN-KETSU flow structure would complement my intentions and would highlight the sunflower as a feature.

KI-SHO-TEN-KETSU is a common storytelling structure in chinese poems and japanese manga. In games, it is an ideal level flow structure when highlighting a specific feature or theme. As it introduces a new feature, develops it, adds a twist, all to round off the feature in a way that feels meaningful and progressive.



in KI, the player has to learn how the sunflower works by using the main gameplay loop.

This puzzle had to introduce the sunflower, and that it reacts to light. Being able to damage the player if the lantern is equipped. 

I aimed for players to initially enter the sunflower's range without the lantern, contrasting the moment when they approach with the lantern in the dark. This puzzle can be as easy as possible, since KI should only teach the gameplay feature.

Sunflower encounter

The first puzzle introduces the sunflower in a harmless environment.

To open the door, the player has to walk past the sunflower without the lantern. Opening the door however, also shuts the hole, making the room become dark.


This prompts the player to use the lantern to navigate. Which in turn will make the player walk into the sunflowers range with the lantern, seeing how the sunflower damages the player when the lantern is equipped.


SHO should explore more of the sunflower and develop it in a way that the player can get a deeper understanding of the sunflower.

The second puzzle introduces the rule where the player will be a target for the sunflowers, if the player stands in the sunlight.

The Wheel Puzzle

The third puzzle starts with a door and the button connecting to it on the other side of the crevice. A sunflower on a wheel prevents the lit up button on a platform from moving to the other side.

The solution is to activate the wheel by spinning it out of the platforms path and open the door from the other side. The sunflower acts as both an obstacle and a tool, allowing players to return to the door.

This puzzle was players favorite, seeing a rule not only affecting the player, but also the environment!


TEN introduces an unexpected change to how the player approaches the sunflower.

In this case, it is the anti-light turning off nearby sunflowers. In puzzle four the player has to wait for a swinging anti-light to shine on sunlit flowers, in order to progress. Acquiring the anti light in the fifth puzzle lets the player manipulate sunflowers. Using every rule and mechanic the player has learned before, the player has to master the use of both normal light and anti-light.

Using the anti-light

In the final puzzle, a sunflower is draining a buttons energy, preventing it from opening the door. By using anti-light to repel the sunflower, it restores the button's function, allowing the door to open.


However, running to the door triggers the sunflower to drain the button again, causing the door to close before making it.

The player has to explore more of the area and move the platforms on the wheel to act as a bridge to the door, and make it in time.


The last part involves no puzzle-solving! 

KETSU should only reward the player, rounding the entire experience off in a non-dramatic way.

The player reaches KETSU before TEN, but can't progress since the path is covered in sunlight and surrounded by sunflowers. Presenting it like this, it introduces KETSU as a 'problem'. Acquiring the anti-light in TEN will solve the 'problem' when returning to KETSU for a satisfying pay-off.


Puzzles are built on the expectation that the player will understand the problem, and the solution in due time.

Missing this can lead to player frustration, especially when each subsequent puzzle builds on knowledge it teaches in the previous puzzle.


Ensuring players understand and enjoy each puzzle step is crucial.


The core rule

To teach the core rule: That sunflowers look at the nearest lightsource, I aimed for players to discover it on their own.

Placing the button on a lower island will force the player to walk past the sunflower with the lantern equipped once the room is dark.

This effectively makes the player trigger the sunflower by themselves, ensuring that players learn the core rule by their own intiative.


Simplicity is king

Players felt that there was too much information for this puzzle. Introducing the use of the lantern, the sunflower, and the cylinder moving was too overwhelming.

As a result, I added a door right before entering the room. Learning the use of the lantern earlier made the first puzzle more digestable.


Before obtaining Anti-Light in puzzle five, players needed to fully understand how it worked.


The fourth puzzle required players to wait for swinging anti-light to deactivate sunflowers, allowing progression. But testers only thought the sunflowers were randomly deactivating.


I added two sidescenes showing sunflowers and anti-light at different locations to familiarize players with the mechanic before encountering it.



My first step is gathering pictures for a moodboard that will support my vision for the game.

Afterwards it is time to plan out the contents of the level. 

I try to visualize the level better by putting pen to paper and sketching the level, without the intention of designing the final layout.

Before moving on to editor, I start documenting.

The puzzles, the order of puzzles and the flow structure should be finished here.

Second Puzzle

Prototype - Playable

The first thing I do in the editor is focus on making each puzzle functional.


The puzzles themselves can be as basic as needed as long as they convey the intended design.

I separate each puzzle in the level from each other to make them easier to return to and iterate on.

Third Puzzle
Fourth Puzzle

Blockout/Whitebox - Further iterations

Once the puzzles function and the surrounding room supports them, I move on to playtesting and iterating. Since my features rely on light and shadow, I block in the room to control where the light lands.

Since I don't plan on decorating the level, I gather feedback from playtests on puzzles until consecutive playtesters can complete and understand them without assistance.

Once assured, I move on to other puzzles and continue iterating.


Light as a mechanic vs Light as guidance


An important rule for the sunflowers was the player becoming a target for the sunflowers once in the sunlight. This was essential for the KETSU part, since without it, the player could traverse KETSU without exploring TEN.

The issue emerged in other puzzles where the rule wasn't relevant, but I still needed to illuminate the environment for readability.

However, during testing, playtesters feared the sunflower. This created a discrepancy in what the playtesters expected and what I intended.


I attributed the dangerous light to sunlight.


To clarify the distinction, I replaced sunlight with in-world lamps, specifically in puzzles where the light wasn't a relevant rule.

To make the distinction more clear, I seperated the light intensity from lamps to only reach 250 cd, while sunlight reached 1000 cd.

Future Solutions:

Given more time, my solution would be to change the sunlight color to red, making the separation between light and sunlight more intuitive. This would allow me to light up rooms without worrying about light intensity and it affecting the room readability.

Due to time constraints, I resorted to quick sketches of this potential solution rather than committing to a potentially time-consuming process.




Sunflower Readability


Playtesters found it hard to discern which target the flower was actually focusing on.


Many playtesters even found the sunflower to be friendly, and didn't realize it was dangerous.


They also found it hard to know when exactly the player would be hit by the sunflower. 



Collaborated with Technical Artists to implement a range indicator showing the sunflowers range, A Vignette FX signaling player being damaged, and a ray FX pointing to the sunflowers target.


Changed the sunflower core color to indicate its state.

To avoid visual clutter I scripted a custom sunflower trigger with the indicator FX, for multiple sunflower instead of individual triggers.


Due to the rig set up, the sunflowers couldn't look at the player or a light source behind them without looking too disjointed. I scripted a solution to prevent sunflowers from looking more than 180 degrees behind their initial direction.

Though this limited the puzzle design, requiring each sunflower to have a wall to have their backs facing.

While gimbal locks were suggested later, I opted for my workaround instead due to time constraints and lack of familiarity.

Tech limits design



Developing this piece has been the most fun I have ever had, especially watching friends and colleagues solve every puzzle! 

However, the rule that sunlight makes the player a target for sunflowers has been a fundamental design issue ever since the beginning of development.

Despite attempts to address it by changing player color once entering sunlight, separating sunlight from normal light, and tweaking every rooms light intensity, I would have still needed more time to fully resolve it. The time would be commited to changing the color of the sunlight.

If restarting the project, I would consider scrapping the rule altogether The rule was too time-consuming to trying to solve, only for a result that still seemed illogical amongst the playtesters.  

Instead I would've focused on the other rules surrounding the sunflower that playtesters really enjoyed. Such as the sunflower also draining energy from buttons, and sunflowers looking away from the anti-light. This aligns with feedback suggesting too many rules for sunflowers.

Despite the expected challenges, the process has been incredibly rewarding, especially witnessing player reactions during testing.

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