Thoughts on a game design decision

A few weeks ago, I announced the upcoming release of my next game : Forward: Escape The Fold. I highly encourage everyone to add the game to their wishlist so you don’t miss the release!

In Forward: Escape the Fold, there will be a number of characters to unlock (I have around 8 at the moment) who will offer very different ways to play the game. The main objective will be for the player to progressively unlock these characters to explore these new gameplay mechanics. I have many ideas on how to unlock the characters but none seem perfect yet. So, by talking about them today, maybe you can help me choose :)

An important point relates to the sense of progression. It’s very important that the first few characters are easy to unlock (to create some motivation to continue playing the game!) but make it harder to unlock the last characters.

Idea 1: Purchasing the characters

My first idea was to spend gold found in-game (no real money obviously, the game will NOT have microtransactions). It’s simple but there are two major inconveniences:

  • The player might find it hard to understand what he is purchasing using the gold coins as the description might not give that excitement.
  • The unlocking curve is tilted. The player could purchase a very expensive character (but would find the grind frustrating and exhausting) or if I were to block the purchases in order then using gold would simply be an illusion of choice.

Idea 2: Narrative integration

I thought about associating the unlocking of characters with the game’s story. It could be really cool because it would increase immersion and the game’s variety (the happiness of discovering a new card with some cool power). The biggest problem with this approach is its linearity, the player does not have a role to play and is ‘passive’ towards unlocking the characters.

Idea 3: Achievements

The current beta version uses an achievement system. Each character is associated with 3 objectives that need to be completed to unlock him. This allows the player to have mini-objectives and choose what characters he wants to unlock first by adapting his playing style. I developed this idea in the game and I’ve come across one major problem. Most objectives are unlocked by mistake by the player. In other words, he will unlock characters unknowingly simply by playing the game which is not what I intended!

Idea 4: Mission

For this reason, I think I will go towards a system that fuses the two last ideas. I am thinking of associating a “mission” to each character in order to unlock him. This mission will have an objective that will guide the player on how to play and what objects to use. This will reinforce the strategic aspect of the game whilst allowing the player to follow objectives as he sees fit. The complexity of these missions will naturally determine an interesting difficulty curve.


This is not a definitive choice and I’d really be interested in getting your feedback on this game design challenge (PS: I have never followed a training on the subject).

What do you think ? :)

Friendly reminder that you can find the game on Steam here. Wishlisting really helps when it comes to visibility <3


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Id ay nr 2 or 4 nr or maybe a mix of some kind.


I think a mix of 4 & 2 might be interesting, you find the characters in game and if you do a quest for them you can play as them.

I’m surely going to tie in the unlock system to the narration but to what extent is the question :)

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For now I am not planning on integrating the game into a ‘world’ but I like your idea and can try and integrate it to my ideas :)


#4 seems worth exploring, and it clearly has you and others excited. Without knowing more details, it's hard to foresee what the drawbacks are going to be.  Though #1 has drawbacks, I think they are solvable. Theming the experience to start at a tavern where mercenaries are available could help.
To throw in an idea, rather than unlocking the characters, have the player hire them per game. Naturally a few starting character are always free. The characters available to hire could also alternate from game to game.


That’s an interesting idea! As I explore more the 4th proposition I will most likely find some drawbacks but for now it’s promising :)


I have to agree with you on choosing number 4. I’ve played games that do 1-3, and the problem I’ve noticed with them all is that it becomes a slog to grind for either the gold or the achievements (typically of the ‘Kill X enemies’) and turns me off of games. Having a new style to play would definitely be a breath of fresh air, so go right ahead!

Exactly! I have also encountered many games that suffer from sluggish progression systems and can easily kill the fun of the game. Forward is also the perfect game to offer different playstyles.


I like #4 as well, and maybe instead of achievements there could be special items that drop randomly and are then used to 'craft' (for lack of a better term) a new playable character.  Good luck! :)

That’s interesting! Would you then need a certain amount of items to craft the character ?

That's kind of what I was thinking. Like you collect a certain amount of crafting materials for each new player character and then make them (summon them?). Anyway, you could make different materials more or less rare so it would generally be easier to unlock lower level characters, but there would still be some amount of randomness and/or planning behind which characters you unlock first.


Well, I think that probably number 4# is most acceptable. Ideas 1&2 are pretty common in games, but I played some games with these systems and It soon got boring and linear (N. 2 is not that much boring, if it's well interpreted, it can be a good solution, although I don't know how it gets well with a card game). Number 3 is a pretty good system, one game is using it to unlock  new equipment and it's pretty good to play.

If I'll get any more ideas, I'll "comment under this comment".

Happy developing :)

Thank you for your feedback! It’s a lot of trying and tweaking to try and figure out the best way to engage the player.