Phosphenes Codex

01 April 2017

Categories: Design

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Phosphenes Codex is a cel-shaded party game designed around the theme of 'palimpsest', meaning a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing. The below is all excerpts from the game design document of Phosphenes Codex. If you would like to see the full version please contact me.


The year is 1846. You are a scribe who has just been informed of the possible locations of some of the infamous ancient codex scripts. The problem is that they’re each located somewhere deep in a labyrinth, and you are not the only one with this knowledge. Using an old, faded map, some charcoal, and tools you find along the way, you must navigate each labyrinth in the search for these scripts.


When the player first opens their map, they will be greeted with a fairly blank scroll aside from faint outlines of the walls around the whole labyrinth. To make the map clearer, the player must use the charcoal, which has unlimited use, to reveal a radius of ten metres around them on the map in more detail. The compromise with this is that the remaining map loses clarity as it has aged more.

As the players traverse the labyrinth, they will encounter many different ‘cantrips’ which gift them with various single, multiple and timed use abilities. These are categorised as being passive, aggressive or a mix of the two. All items could be collected from set spawn locations and their activation depends on their type. Both can be activated at any time by pressing the ‘down’/’b’ button on the controller however passive items are applied to the player and aggressive items are set in the player’s location for others to interact with. Some examples of these are bear traps, increased speed, clairvoyance, and wormhole.

Game Modes

To keep Phosphenes Codex interesting, there will be multiple game modes for users to play. In each game mode the players are aiming to get to the codex hidden within the labyrinth by taking the quickest route and risking detours to get potentially game-changing power ups.

The standard mode for the game is party mode. This involves all eight people playing individually to reach the codex in the labyrinth in the quickest time possible, surpassing the others along the way. They will all play within the same labyrinth and start at the same location, however they cannot see each other as this would give an advantage to those not in the lead to see the route and possibly overtake. Party mode is excellent for those playing online against friends or strangers.

A secondary mode is cooperative. The goal of the game will be the same as party mode, however this time each team member is paired up. This will allow players to take advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s two player functionality by sharing a Joy con each, although this is not compulsory and players may still pair up through the network. The mode will emphasise teamwork to choose between taking the best routes, or risk taking detours to collect power ups and potentially giving them an advantage on the enemy pairs.

Finally, there’s one versus seven. This mode is the most unique out of the three. In this, the seven players will have the same goal, however they do not have the ability to place aggressive cantrips. Instead, this will be the job of the eighth player who watches with a birdseye view of the labyrinth, placing cantrips to stop the others reaching the goal in the set time given. The more they stop, the more gold they gain to spend in the store. Each cantrip has a cooldown to stop too many placements and they can only be placed within a certain distance of each other.