As Sheer doesn't contain any text or instructions, we need to communicate concepts to the player exclusively through visual design and level construction.
I've spoken before about designing the first levels to teach mechanics by orchestrating what actions the player will attempt. Here we need to communicate an idea: specifically, the goal—'reach this point'.
In our earliest drafts, we had relied on the darker colour of the 'pillars' between each level, and their heavy-set, blocky construction to stand out from the pieces that the player can manipulate. However, we've found in playtesting that players have difficulty immediately picking out their 'destination point' from the complex shapes of the pillars, even when the doorframe was projected from the pillar into the silhouette.
After some helpful input from Rik, we want to use a recognisable shape as a clear symbol, a 'glyph' that the player will associate with their goal. While we'd previously wanted to rotate some doorways and have the player approach from one of the lateral faces, we are abandoning this idea in favour of a more constant, recognisable shape: the doorway, a square frame around it, and two 'legs' hanging below it, the left one longer for a simple perspective illusion where both legs can appear to be in front or behind one another.
To make the doorways more recognisable, we are breaking a couple of our rules.
No rear-facing surfaces – we have steadfastly refused to place curved or stair sections on any of the three rearward surfaces, but here we use two rear-facing curves.
Pathways never terminate against the side of a curved or stair section – walking along a pathway that terminates like this feels wrong, as it looks like the character should be able to simple step over a ledge no higher than a gutter to continue walking. Here the leftward face of the archway terminates in this manner: this creates a distinctive visual shape, and this surface is largely inaccessible to the player anyway.
No shadows – shadows show the relative depth of objects, which is completely against the game's core concept. Here, however, the 'highlight' created by the shadow inside the archway not only draws attention by being a different tone to the surrounds, but should hopefully also make the archway feel more 'real' than the other architecture.
The archway is also a unique shape, originally created by overlaying two opposite-facing curved sections in the same 1x1x1 cube space. The resulting peaked doorway should seem vaguely familiar, slightly reminiscent of similar doorways in Islamic and Indian architecture, while both standing out from the surrounding brutalist architecture and fitting in as the product of simple, clean shapes.