Way of the Turtle


You follow the adventure of the turtle couple Mr and Mrs Turtle, now shipwrecked on a tropical island after a huge storm. Not all turtles can swim you know... You are tasked with dealing with a crazy wizard in exchange for a way off the island.

I joined the team at Illusion Labs in the very early stages of development of Way of the Turtle. We had a big task ahead of us, it being a small team with some on parental leave, and a big release with Apple's new Apple Arcade service. With a lot of features and mechanics still up in the air,
we had a lot of work ahead of us.

The first week or two was learning their in-house engine and editor, familiarizing myself with its features and limitations.


Platform - iOS 13+, macOS, tvOS (Apple Arcade)

Genre - Auto-run platformer, Metroidvania

Engine - In-house engine w/ editor

Features - Apple Game Center, controller support, cross-platform progress

My Role - Level Design, Environmental Artist, Game Design, QA

Apple Arcade - Link

First Assignment

My first assignment was making short and simple blockout levels of all our features and mechanics, which we then showed to the people at Apple. This way I got to learn the editor in a fast and efficient manner, while still getting good work done. I worked close with the engine/editor programmer and I even got to teach our new Artist his way around the editor.

While working on the feature levels I noticed some features, like the enemies, were still very undecided and undocumented. I felt it was important for us LD, who is dependant on these features to design and build our levels, so I took it upon myself to set up meetings and write design documents. This ensured everyone involved had something concrete to work with.

Level Design

We started off with a generous amount of levels, but we soon realised it would be too big of a task making 30-ish levels with various lenghts. After going back to the drawingboard we settled on 14 levels to ship at launch with a grand finale of the adventures of the Turtles as an expansion. I was directly responsible for designing five, but got involved in most, fixing bugs and balancing.

The world consist of four different themes, beach, jungle, mountain and volcano. Each theme has its own hub featuring fast travel and an item shop. The main hub ties all themes together with a blend of all four, acting as a home for the player and a way to deliver story through quests.

To make the world feel open with lots of interesting views and secrets, despite being restricted to only two axes relative to the player, we utilized splines to move our player through a sprawling network of paths.


As a Level Designer my main task was creating entire blockout levels featuring the required mechanics which we then handed over to the Artists who dressed each level with the correct theme. I'm more used to the broad sense of the words 'level design', working from blockout to a finished environment so this was new to me. Later in the development us LD also transitioned into dressing the levels to ease the workload on Artists, so they could focus on polishing assets. It was nice to get back into environmental art after working with blockouts for some time.

To make the hand-over and development process as smooth as possible I created a system for all involved. I made a spreadsheet featuring all levels with their respective owners, status, notes and links to each task on Monday, all automated to show the total progress of the project.

Closing Words

It was an exciting project to be part of, with a lot of interesting obstacles to overcome. I got to use my skills and problem solving to make a positive difference on the workflow and efficiency. Where many might see a problem I try to see a solution. I'm proud of my personal growth and what I accomplished during my time at Illusion Labs.

Thank you for reading!