Sea Level

From Ludocity
Sea Level
Sea Level.jpg
Designer: Invisible Playground
Year: unknown
Players: 10-40
Stuff required: lots
Crew required: 8
Preparation: 2 days
Time required: 1 hour
Place required: Nyugati Underpass, Budapest
Activities: diving, collecting, exploring, chasing, protecting, massages, teamwork, imagination
This is a playable game - it's finished, tested and ready to play.
This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

Hold your breath and dive down into the depths of the underpass, work in teams and use submarines to explore even further. You will meet dolphins and mermaids, avoid dangerous sharks and reach underwater realms that you weren’t even aware existed. Scuba gear will be provided. Oh, and don’t forget to rescue the little turtle.

Non-Player Characters

You need several non-player characters to run the game: 1 Mermaid, 2 Submarines, 1 Fortune Teller, 1 Deep Sea Diving Station Operator, 1 Poseidon. It is also good to have 1 Shark and 1 Dolphin to start out with.


Watch this instructable video to get started!
  • You need lots of Corals (around 50) in 5 different colors as the main currency for the underwater world. Cheap plastic hair clips are good, because they can easily be attached to walls, bins etc.
  • Mermaids are equipped with battery powered guitar amplifiers and MP3 players. We chose Smoke City's Underwater Love song. Build shoulder straps out of soft material (e.g. string and felt) and attach them safely to the amps so that they can be worn like a vendors tray and your mermaids become mobile. Mermaids also need head massaging device.
  • Submarines carry packs of 3 MP3 players with splitter adapters, so that 6 headphones can be plugged in. Use a track with submarine sounds. For better visibility, it is good to mark the submarine captains with reflecting safety vests.
  • Dolphins carry with them a set of two marbles to click together and hence produce the shark fending sound. Take care that marbles are slippery safe for passants, best plaster them with tape.
  • For the Deep Sea Diving Station, you need a Mini-Submarine (another MP3 player with a diving track).
  • For Poseidon, use a plastic fork as a trident and small plastic turtles that you can buy on your local chinese market.
  • As divers, players need at least a headphone and a sand clock each to measure the time that they can breathe underwater (around 90 seconds is good). It's great to equip players with diving goggles. You can create goggle inlays out of green-blue colored transparency to add to the visual underwater effect. Additionally, heavy footwear really helps players feel like they are walinkg underwater. We used bathmats cut in a special shape to hold 0.75 l water bottles on each of your players foot. Bathmats are a convenient material for shoes as they are themselves non-slippery. Tie the shoe with a string of choice. For good looks you can use strips of garden fence net.

Level Design and Site Preparation

Map of Nyugati Underpass with game locations (do not hand out to players!)
  • A great place to start is on the large outdoor staircase right in front of the old Skala department store. Equip players and explain the game on the platform right below street level. In the game, street level is sea level, so that players are completely underwater if their head is below street level. On the starting platform, their feet are already in the water, but everyone can still breathe.
  • Spread Corals around the playing area, use different color types so that a player can collect a set of colors to buy a service. In order to prevent your players from dying early, check immediately before the game start if your corals are still in place or have been taken by passers-by.
  • Mermaids live in the large underground plaza in front of the entrance to the subway. It is good to have female and male mermaids, in order not to be confused with prostitutes and bothered by clients.
  • Submarine Routes should be fixed at first so that players can work with them, but also adapt over time to nudge players in the right direction. We had one submarine on a circle route between the open space in front of Skala Metro and the central underground plaza in front of the entrance to the subway, and a second going back and forth along the full length of the passage leading down to WestEnd.
  • We used the Field Office in an empty shop in the long passage between Skala and WestEnd as the Fortune Teller's Cave. Of course you can also place the Fortune Teller in WestBahnhof Café.
  • The Deep Sea Diving Station is located at the escalator leading down to line 3, close to the entrance to WestEnd (keep this secret from players!)
  • Poseidon is located on the subway platform of line 3 (keep this secret from players!)
  • Atlantis is located in the lower level of WestEnd Shopping Center (keep this secret from players!)


Rulecard for Sea Level (hand this out to players!)

When explaining the game, be careful to give the players only the information they need to get started (see the rule card). Players learn everything else during the game from the Non-Player-Characters. Don't make the competitive aspect of the game too strong during the explanation, it is much more about the imaginary experience and the journey.

  • Diving. Sea level is street level. While your head is above sea level, wait for all the sand to be on one side of the sand clock (this is like breathing in). As soon as your head is underwater, turn over your sand clock (this is like holding your breath). You can stay underwater until your sand has run out. Use the numerous stairways leading to the surface to get air as you make your way through the sea. Additionally, there are various places where you can breathe in underwater: Mermaids, Submarines, the Fortune Teller's Cave and the Deep Sea Diving Station.
  • Teams. Players are grouped into teams of about 5 Divers, marked by the color of goggles or a team identifier on the sand clocks.
  • Collecting Corals. Divers try to collect as many different colored corals as they can find on their way and attach them to their fingers. Collect no more than two of each color! It is best to have a complete set on each hand. Collect corals together with your team members or trade with the other teams!
  • Mermaid interaction. Mermaids are easily recognizable by the beautiful music coming out of their amps. Divers pay Mermaids 3 corals and plug their headphones into the headphone jack on the amp. The music is now only audible for the diver that is plugged in. While listening to the music in private, the Mermaid uses her head massaging device on the diver and the diver can breathe in using the sand clock. After the massage is over, the Mermaid discloses valuable information to the diver: That Poseidon lives deep down in the sea and carries a trident. The diver must get to the Deep Sea Diving Station at the far end of the station to reach him.
  • Submarine interaction. Submarines move around in the underwater world and are an important means of transportation for Divers. To get on board, Divers plug themselves into a free headphone jack. As long as they are plugged in, they can move along on the Submarine's path and refill their lungs using the sand clocks. Divers cannot influence a Submarine's path. They can unplug themselves any time if they want to get off.
  • Sharks and Dolphins. Beware of Sharks roaming the underwater world! Sharks can be recognized by the fin on top of their heads (use your hand to symbolize a fin). When a shark touches a Diver, the Diver dies and heads over to the Fortune Teller's Cave for reincarnation. After a kill, a shark moves out of sight of the group he attacked. Dolphins protect Divers from Sharks by using the sonar force created by rapidly clicking two marbles against each other. On hearing this clicking sound, Sharks must recede from the the sound source.
  • Reincarnation. When a Diver dies, either because she ran out of air or was killed by a Shark, she visits the Fortune Teller's Cave to reincarnate. The Fortune Teller lets the Diver choose one of three cards to determine wether the Diver comes back to life as a Diver, a Shark or a Dolphin. It is important to balance the game state by manipulating the odds here. If there are too many Sharks in the game, offer only Dolphin cards. If there are too few Sharks, offer only Shark cards etc.
  • Meeting Poseidon and Bringing the Little Turtle to Atlantis. To dive down into Poseidon's Lair, Divers must reach the Deep Sea Diving Station and present the Station Operator with one Diver carrying a complete set of corals on both hands. This Diver represents her teams and receives the High Pressure Mini-Submarine that he can use to dive down into the lower level and meet Poseidon. As long as this soundtrack is on (5 minutes), the Submarine provides air. The other team members can wait safely at the Diving Station and refill their lungs. On the platform of the M3, the Deep Sea Diver must identify Poseidon by the plastic fork and gives him the complete set of corals. She then receives the Little Turtle. Poseidon tells her that she must bring the Turtle to Atlantis and release it by the waterfall. He also gives clues on how to find it ("behind the revolving glass door"). The Deep Sea Diver brings the turtle back up, gives back the Mini-Submarine, and, with a bit of luck and the help of his team members, manages to avoid sharks and reach Atlantis to set the turtle free.

Photos and Videos

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(These are the ten most recent Flickr photos of Sea Level. To add your own, just add the "ludocity:game=sealevel" tag to your Flickr photos.)

Video showing the full Nyugati Game Set. Sea Level starts at 5:00.

Design and Play history

Sea Level was created in 2011 as part of the Nyugati Game Set by Invisible Playground, working out of Field Office Budapest at PLACCC Festival.

Other games from the Nyugati Game Set