For my group’s capstone project our game is supposed to be a 3rd person puzzle adventure game about a robot that was reactivated in a scrapyard where the player is left not knowing where they are, what happened, and with no one around to help.The player will be able to give and take energy to solve puzzles among other things and head towards the final goal of the only illuminated building they will see in the city. In order to further contribute to the player feeling alone and emphasize the use of environmental story telling, the player will not be able to speak and any text found throughout the game will be in an unknown language.
For my group’s capstone my pre-production role is level design. More specifically, I am focusing on the level layout while another team member focuses on creating the puzzles that i will integrate into the game’s environment.
Since the capstone has only started about a month ago and we were just recently able to move on from the game design document phase there is not much visible progress that I can show currently so i will focus on what I have made so far and the thinking that has already been put in to give an idea of how my thought process has been so far during this.
From the Start
As I mentioned previously we only recently went from focusing on the Game Design Document to doing our individual roles. This means that not only was I recently able to start on my individual role but so were the other in my group including the member in charge of concept art and the member in charge of story boarding.
To make up for this I started by using what information has been decided on for the game’s levels so far to go online and look for references I could use to start some kind of greybox level. What I had to go off of at this point was 3 small gifs made by the concept artist for the game pitch and knowing that the areas for the game would be a junkyard, a wasteland, and a city that follows the theme of a robotic world where it is not closely influenced by human creations but is not so far removed from human influences that the players would not be able to identify what things were or what to do. Starting with the scrapyard where the player starts I looked at the gifs used in the group’s pitch as a basis for areas I would try to translate from 2d to 3d.
The gif above was to show the absolute beginning of the game where the player would be brought to life and immediately be given the first showing of the effect that energy has on the surrounding environment through through the use of give and take with energy, in this case with lightning.
In the gif above the player is given their first look at the take half of the give and take mechanic as they involuntarily absorb energy from the nearby device and are able to give the energy to the control pad that activates a bridge
In the gif above the player is shown traversing through the wasteland before reaching the entrance to the city in which they are introduced to their first puzzle.
Now that I knew what types of environments were needed, or at least in general, I could start looking online for references.
Going in order I’ll talk about the scrapyard first. I knew that the scrapyard was supposed to be the starting area and by the time that they leave the area the player will have learned how to move, give energy, and take energy. Given that the player learns the less intuitive mechanics as they leave the scrapyard I did not have to worry about setting up any extra obstacle in the environment for the player to learn. Since the only mechanics to learn were as the player was leaving it meant to me that the scrapyard area should be small, but not small enough that the player would walk 5 steps (or rotations depending on what character design is chosen) so in order to keep the area generally small but still feel bigger than it actually is I arranged the greybox area in more of an “S” shape so that the player could not see past the curves in the path of scrap therefore making it seem slightly longer than it actually is.
Although I made an “S” curve to the general path of the scrapyard to cut off the player’s sight of what was in the distance in order to make the level seem bigger I refrained from blocking the player’s site as much in the large open space of the scrapyard in order to keep the path simple enough for the player to easily understand where they are going. The building off to the side of the opening of the scrapyard will serve as mostly an aesthetic piece but also can double as a landmark for the player even though the area should be easy enough to make out at this point.
The point of keeping it easy for the player to remember where they are to me is to keep an immersion in the game since being confused which way you were just going can be frustrating for the player.
The two pictures above are a part of some of the references used when deciding what the scrapyard might look like. The picture on the left provides examples of what the scrap piles in the games robotic world might look like while also provides a more detailed image of what the bridge scene when leaving the scrapyard might look like. The image on the right was used as reference to what the scrapyard paths would be like, winding and with the height of the scrap being lower towards the edge of the pile in order to carve out a path that fits better than if the scrap piles were to stay at one height. The idea of their being some type of building was also brought up from this example.
The images shown above are references found for the wasteland area. The idea of them that fits into the idea of the wasteland is that it should feel devoid of life and large with things such as large rocks that shape out a trail for the player to follow towards the city while also containing some sort of sign of life with the presence of old buildings or ruins among the wasteland since it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for their to be something built in the expanse between the city and the scrapyard that would obviously have been used by the residents of the city before whatever unknown event occurred to cause everything to shut down