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MindState – Post Mortem

09 Nov

MindState

Download Link: Itch.io

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I would have liked to bash this out a bit earlier but I was in Melbourne attending PAX. Don’t worry, there’ll be a blog about it!

What:

The intent of MindState was to represent four different emotions. This was made in just over 3 weeks by myself and a team of people.

Games Designers:

Games Programming (Specifically Camera):

  • Marivan Ebrahimi – Blog

Audio:

Animator:

  • Macauley Bell- Blog

Graphic Designer:


Design Intent

The section that was primarily under my design was the third section – Anxious, Stressful, Jittery. The intent for the game was to transition through four different areas seamlessly.

anxious

Originally I was hoping that the overall feeling of my level would be accomplished by lighting, player character animations, level design + flow and audio. While these were still very big contributors, It lacked the very essence as a whole that would really pull this section together.

From the start it was intended that this section within the level would be a dark cave that flows from right to left and had a small amount of non lineal progression. Where the end of the cave was to be filling up with water that really pushes the player to want to leave that cave pushing them straight into the next section of – calm, relieved and relaxed.

Making my section of the level as an unlit underground cave was one of the first changes that I needed to make, because the majority of my section relied on it being dark and would set the mood/feel. Also in combination with having the camera positioned close enough to the character that only reveals a portion of whats to come. Even in a placeholder level with practically no level design at all, having a light on the player character model with only a small radius of light completely eliminates predictability on what’s coming and where to go. By having only a small radius of light around the character, it instills a sense of unfamiliarity and make the player jittery from the unknown. Have you ever tried to navigate a room or an area with no light at all, let alone in a completely new environment to you? That’s part of experience my section is trying to achieve. Although you can replay this game as many times as you like, it doesn’t exactly have replay-ability. The more that you become familiar with the terrain and the game the more that experience diminishes. So part of the design intent is to make the game feel anxious, stressful and jittery the first time it’s played. And less so if played again.

Then next, once a placeholder level was in place I needed to make the ending of the cave fill with water. It’s just a sprite with an animation that rises non linearly over time which is just tweaked by the amount of frames and positioning of the animation. The water starts to rising after falling from a higher platform and into a new unfamiliar place. If it’s not already apparent to the player that they’re being submerged, the intent is to panic the player by the thought of not wanting to drown and push them to always stay above the water. Causing this particular part of the level to feel stressful and making the player anxious to evade.

Crystals were a part of the art and I decided to utilize them and make them illuminant crystals. Add the similar source of lighting as the player but with different intensities. The crystals were placed in positions to act like a small guide so the entire level isn’t just black and boring. It makes it less of a maze and more of an environment. But it didn’t detract from the unfamiliarity of the level, it added a “now I’m not stumbling in the dark, that looks like where i should go”.

At this point it felt like the progression of the level was:

  • I can’t see a lot at all times.
  • I should go here
  • Oh water, I don’t want to die.

So as I mentioned earlier there was something missing that really pulled this section together to make it whole.

It was making every area fill with water.

By making every area fill with water the entire level was a constant push to not drown. There are safe zones, but to reach them, you had to run, run fast. It pulled everything already in place and made you feel it at once and constantly. Not knowing where you’re going, not seeing much, having to navigate in all directions and the constant fear of drowning.

Among other small things like making light intensities of all light sources resonate between certain intensities and extra art.

 

What Went Right

Source Tree:

I set up a private repository on BitBucket and got each of the other designers set up and had a unity gitIgnore file at the ready. If you don’t have one or want an easy link: HERE. In the entirety of this project – the team and I wasted about a total of an hour. In about 3.5 weeks (588 hours) we lost a single hour due to source tree conflicts and troubles. That’s an amazing result.

I’d learnt from my previous mistakes in Studio 1. Making sure the ignore file is in the right location and don’t work in the same scene. From making these mistakes previously I was able to not only not make mistakes and lose time while working on MindState – But also impart my wisdom onto my team-mates to better their knowledge and help us perform better and smoother as a team. Along with the other designers also being on the ball and not wanting to make a sourcetree pile of rubbish. Announcing when they’re working in particular scenes/scripts so we don’t end up having any conflicts between pushes.

Micro Managing:

Three other designers, one programmer, two audio, one animator, a graphic designer and I was the external talent liaison. Meaning I was the point of contact for/between all 8 of them. Sure there was communication between others (especially between all designers) and documents were updated and shared – But ultimately when issues (game related) arose or collaborators needed chasing up it was majoritaly me that stepped up. The problem solver.

I didn’t have to exactly  manage the other designers or graphic designer, but collaborating with the audio students for the third time was a breeze. Give them a list of what we needed. Have a face to face once a week, every few days have an online catchup and discuss direction and progress, how we felt and how they felt about certain sounds/implementation processes.

This was the first time I was dealing with a 2d artist/animator, I was rather inexperienced in that field. The team knew what we wanted for a character – alot of Mac’s knowledge and expertise helped guide the creation, because ultimately this was his field and he knew the little tips and tricks on what makes 2d work and fail. Weekly checkups and implementing his work into our game almost as soon as we got it allowed alot of time to make fixes and tweaks to things that needed the attention.

At times trying to communicate to 8 people at once felt a little overwhelming but never got the better of me or my abilities. I feel rather fulfilled that people are able look to me for assistance and that I have the willingness/capabilities to work well in teams. We are all in this trying to achieve the same thing and I always want to help others achieve and learn


Without making this blog any longer, some of the other things that went well were

  • Four Designers On A Team
  • I Learnt FMOD
  • Working In Four Scenes Combining Into One

Until next time –

Nic

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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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