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Facing off at the clown convention in Part of You

We spoke with Bernard Immole of Sometimes Y Games to discuss how the game’s face-altering puzzle elements affected character design and the work that goes into creating a game designed to make the player laugh.

Joel Couture, Contributor

June 13, 2024

7 Min Read
Images via Team Sometimes Y.

Part of You creates puzzles out of faces, having players flip and swap facial features during a clown convention in order to uncover their missing identity.

Game Developer spoke with Bernard Immole of Sometimes Y Games, developers of this lighthearted work, to discuss how the game’s face-altering puzzle elements affected character design, how they created mechanics that were a delight to use even if players weren’t using them to progress, and the work that goes into creating a game designed to make the player laugh.

Game Developer: Part of You sees players swapping facial features around to solve puzzles in silly situations in a sillier town. What inspired the creation of such an experience?

Immole: Part of You’s main mechanic was born from the experience of using the whiteboard walls when we were in school. I went to school for game design, so oftentimes, we’d find ourselves drawing all sorts of different characters, charting out ideas for levels, mechanics, etc. It was always really fun quickly erasing drawings and adding new things to them, I thought it’d be fun to translate that idea to a game.    

What thoughts went into turning changing facial features into various gameplay mechanics? How did you design mechanics around changing the looks on people's faces?

When designing the game, facial features and characters would usually be made with a specific role in mind: “This character’s facial features need to look like the number four,” or “this character needs a face that portrays a specific emotion.” We wanted to make sure that the player would think about all aspects of a facial feature like size, shape, and emotion so that we could use facial features in a myriad of different situations. 

Each of these mechanics has been tied to fun, silly tools. What design ideas went into creating the in-game tools players would use to steal faces and strategically place googly eyes?

The most important design aspect of any of the tools was the idea of easy fun. All of the tools in the game are fun to mess around with while trying to solve puzzles, but they have an inherent quality to them where, even if you aren’t solving the puzzles at hand, they are still fun to mess around with. Changing characters’ faces with the stamp or face flipper can lead to some fun and hilarious results regardless of whether or not the player actually needs to do that to progress. The mask tool that allows the player to talk to any character as any other character has tenfold more optional lore-related dialogue than it does for the game’s main progression.

While it's arguably more useful to just solve the puzzles and keep the game going, part of the fun of Part of You is in how the various facial feature tools can be used to just mark a character up with silly faces. What thoughts went into designing systems that would also let the player be creative and silly with them? Why was that important to be able to do with your tools?

The biggest thing going into this was making sure that the player had a number of interesting options at their disposal. The tools themselves, the characters, and the progression of the game should leave players excited as to what ways they will be able to interact with the world next. Gradually giving the players more options to mess with faces and interact with the characters, as well as introducing new characters, which in turn have new facial features to pick up and place in different locations, means that progressing through the game will give you new and exciting ways to goof off. We felt that it was really important to have these systems in place to mitigate the sort of archaic “I’m stuck phase” common in puzzle adventure games by having a number of genuinely fun distractions that foster player creativity. 

Part of You Screenshot

How did you design puzzles around the facial feature changing mechanic? Can you walk us through the design of some of the puzzles you built around this mechanic?

As I mentioned before, the biggest goal was to make players think about all sorts of different aspects of any given facial feature, such as its size and shape, emotions that it portrays, which character it actually belongs to, etc. For example, there could be a puzzle as simple as needing to give a frowning character a smile so that they’ll be in the mood to tell you what’s wrong with them, or one that requires you to place a different mouth onto a pachinko board so that you can properly bounce a ball off of it to land them into a winning bucket. Slightly more complicated puzzles ask the player to replace a character’s entire face with a tougher-looking one or paste facial features that look like numbers onto a whiteboard to solve math equations. 

The face-shifting mechanic works as well as it does because it feels like it fits right into the ridiculous world of Part of You. What thoughts went into designing the look and environments of Hacksaw Springs and the clown convention that has the whole burg bustling?

When crafting the environments, we wanted to compliment the bold outlines and lovingly odd designs of the characters. With that in mind, many objects were modeled with more bends and curves than their real-life counterparts to whimsical effect. Pairing that design philosophy with bright colors helped bring to fruition a world that feels just as offbeat as the characters who live in it.

Likewise, what thoughts went into creating the absurd characters the player will run into? How did you design them, visually and narratively, to make them fun and funny to interact with?

The characters themselves were designed in a number of different ways. Sometimes, a character would be designed simply because we needed someone to judge the clown contest. Other times, we had a character design that we really liked that had absolutely no context in mind initially and then got slotted into a role that filled a hole in the progression of the design. A large number of the characters in the game ended up being born from jokes within the team that then snowballed into becoming mainstay parts of the game. Plenty of characters have lots of optional dialogue that gives insight into their lives and or lore relevance, and there are also some secret characters that might not appear in every playthrough as well!  

What challenges do you face when trying to make a game that's funny? How do you work to make the player laugh with Part of You?

Lots of the content in Part of You was born from jokes within the team that made us smile. Comedy is difficult because it varies from person to person so greatly. What’s funny to one person might not be funny to another. From very early on, we knew that players had a very strong reaction to the face-switching mechanic and wanted to make sure that there were plenty of options so that players could craft a silly look that made them laugh. Ideally, there is enough variety between face-swapping visual gags, humorous or absurd scenarios for puzzles, and goofy character dialogue so that everyone who plays the game can find something to laugh at.  

What feelings do you hope this experience evokes in players?

At the end of the day, Part of You really aims to turn that frown upside down and make the player smile. Whether they are solving silly puzzles, meeting new characters, or crafting a silly expression, we really hope that the player is able to find something in the world of Hacksaw Springs that makes them feel good. The game’s relaxed pacing lends itself to letting the player really take things at their own pace with no pressure and really immerse themselves in its goofy little world. The light-hearted themes of identity should make anyone who plays feel good about who they are!

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