This week is going to be a short post going over some of what I’ve been doing as far as my personal projects in the last couple weeks.
If you remember what I said last time, I was torn between a couple ideas. One focusing on a Five Nights at Freddy’s style horror game, and another based on expanding on the idea of exploration. I’ve decided on the latter because it gives me more room to experiment and try something entirely different from what I’ve worked on in the past. Additionally, I will be able to incorporate the FNaF concept if I so choose. (But that will be for another time.)
The concept I want to go with requires me to try to inspire exploration in players. To do this, I did research on other games which do just that. In particular, the game, Journey, comes to mind. In Journey, the player is inspired to explore via simply seeing a large structure in the distance. I want to reverse this concept. I want to have the players start near a large tower, and they can look out from the top of it to see everything around them. They will be able to see the various biomes to explore.
Side note: During this time, I did a lot of art research as well. I felt the need to have a better idea how I want to have the whole thing look like before progressing with more designs. But we’ll talk about some of those later.
Additionally, this tower would act as a lighthouse. The purpose of a lighthouse is to let all boats know how close they are to the shore, in essence allowing them to get their bearings. When looking at a map or trying to figure out where you are, it makes it easier to find your bearings when you have a landmark to look at. I want to help players figure out where they are at any time via simply looking for the tower.
If the players are starting in this area, we’re going to need to teach them the basics. Personally, I like to try and challenge myself by designing games, which require minimal text to teach players the mechanics. So here’s an overview of what I started with:
So let’s talk about what’s going on here:
· We need to teach the players to jump:
o One way to do this is to create oversized stairs. This creates a safe environment where players can experiment and learn to jump up the giant blocks. We want to force the player to learn this, so we’re going to start them in a pit with these giant stairs surrounding them in an octagon or circle. Kind of like these:
Side note: Notice how I added a stair layer. I feel like three is a better number to really make sure they know their stuff.
· We need to teach players how to sprint as well
o There are a couple ways to do this: one way is to have spinning blocks which the player will need to run across to cross the bridge and access a new area. But having the blocks spin actually serves another purpose. When combined with a rushing river, it can be used as a sorting device. Players who have mastered the mechanics and are able to make it across the spinning block can gain access to a more difficult area, which requires them to have a better understanding of the mechanics. If they can’t get across and fall into the river below, they get washed out to a more newbie friendly area where they can practice a little bit more before exploring the more advanced areas.
Side note: Here we can see the outside of the stairs. The part facing the river and the opposing shore. You’ll notice the stairs form a wall on this side guaranteeing that if a player falls in the river they will be unable to return.
So I want to create a pit in the beginning that the players will have to find their way out of thus teaching them the most basic mechanics. But you might ask, what about our previously mentioned tower? Well, before I go further into that, I wanted to do some more research, this time into how towers look and how pits look. This way I will have some idea as to what this whole thing will look like in the end.
I found this image of what looks like the Black Garden in Destiny to be helpful. The feeling of size and sheer cliffs along the side of the pit are particularly interesting.
This is a concept form Dark Souls 2. This concept of a lighthouse came from this image.
The idea of a tower actually came from this unused piece of concept art from Dark Souls 2 as well. The idea of the spiral stairs on the inside is the result of inverting the idea from this image. I’ll address the inner stairs later on in this post.
Last but not least, I like the feel of the roots covering the walls. This is something I really want to channel for the tower as well. The feeling of abandoned area with overgrown vegetation I think will add to the overall feeling of being alone pushing the player to explore. To find something in this abandoned place, or someone.
Okay, so I’ve found a few images to help inspire a feeling for the area. It’s time to plan out the tower:
So what’s going on here:
· I want to poke at the player’s curiosity and push them to further learn more of the games mechanics. How can I do that?
o If the player spawns facing the doorway with something twinkling inside, they are going to be drawn to it. But they will have difficulty moving across the water as the only path across seems to be a platform that falls quickly underwater at timed intervals.
· Let’s talk about the platform:
o To be honest, I don’t think the spinning platform was the best way to teach a player a new mechanic in a safe environment. They have a strong consequence if they mess up, and I feel like they should learn in a safe environment where they can fail without much punishment. So I added in the platform in the water, which is surrounding the tower. The player will see something twinkling inside and have to sprint across the platform to enter the tower. If they fail, the water will push them back to the shore they started on. This way they can try as many times as they like and easily learn the mechanic.
· Let’s talk about the tower:
o Here is where I screwed up. I need to do one more drawing which will show the inside of the tower. What I want to do is put stairs on the inside that have gaps in them. This will allow the player to learn to move and jump in a safe environment. If I stagger the gaps, then the player will only fall a single story down and will not die from the fall, just lose a little bit of progress. On the final jump, I want to teach the player to run and jump so the gap will need to be a little larger. Again, the gap will need to be staggered with the other gaps so the player will only ever fall one story and lose only some progress. At the top of the stairs, there is going to be a door, which the player can open to get on top of the tower.
The top of the tower was a little tricky for me. I really had to set the tone here, and because I’m such a fan of the wonder I felt throughout Dark Souls, I think I am going to try to channel a little bit of the feeling of those environments. So I decided on using a tree instead of a traditional light source. The way I see it, I can pull some lighting effects similar to the ones we see in Avatar to give the feeling of a lighthouse to those who have ventured far away. Something wonderful and beautiful that the players will never want to lose sight of but will still wish to explore around it.
This image is from the concept art for Avatar land. It perfectly depicts the kind of tree I’m going after.
Side note: I really want to channel Dark Souls here in the sense of wonder I felt traveling from the Undead Burg to the Darkroot Garden. This exact feeling is a big part of what I’m trying to achieve through this project because I found it to be absolutely fascinating. For anyone wondering, here’s a video showing you what the transition is like, though I recommend you play Dark Souls and experience it for yourself.
Side of a side note: While I recommend watching the full video to really get a feeling of the transition, I know we don’t always have 30 minutes to spare. If you want to just see the transition of areas, watch a couple minutes at the 20 min marker then jump to 28 minute marker and watch for another couple minutes. This will show you what each area is like and why the change is so interesting.
Here is some concept art for what I ended up sketching out. This is meant to help give me a better idea as to what I will be creating.
Things like aviaries I think we don’t see enough in games, and can be used to an interesting effect because of this. Most players won’t have experienced a green house or an aviary like this before, or at least not recently, and I’m hoping opening the door to the top of the tower will fill them with wonder and make them want to really explore. The trick here is going to be making this an absolutely jaw-dropping beautiful place. This is part of the reason I’ve decided to go with Unreal over Unity. I believe it has a better lighting system, so we’ll see what I can achieve in the weeks to come.
And that’s a little bit about what I’ve been able to put together in my free time. I’m excited to start this project, and already have many of the assets ready to go. The others I will have to create in Maya or find in the Asset store. I’m not going to lie; I am pretty excited for this project. I hope you are too!
Next week we’re going to be taking a look into the Dark Zone in Tom Clancy’s The Division. I hope you enjoyed this week’s look into my personal project, and will return next week to enjoy the analysis.
I’ll see you guys next week,