I decided to focus much of my half-term break on building my walking simulator – Ant told us that we would have a peer review when we returned to school, so I thought it was a good project to practice and continue to develop my game designing skills. A lot of effort will be going into this, which is why I’ll be splitting up the blog posts into three sections. This first one will look at the beginning of my design process, from when I first sat down to sketch out what I would like to include in my simulator, and then how I built that up in Unity.
I apologise for the skewed view of the drawing, but I thought I needed to get my concept down on paper and using grids seemed like the best way to “build” my house. I knew I wanted to have a house on a stormy night, to add atmosphere and suspense. I suppose I’ve been influenced heavily by Gone Home and Layers of Fear, with a solo player in a house with a spooky atmosphere.
While designing, these were the things I focused on:
- I knew my player would start in the main entrance, as if they’ve just come home – the house is in the midst of being moved in to, which is why there is an unfamiliarity to the environment. Perhaps it’s a younger character, a teenager, or a nervous adult on their own in the house for the first time. From the entrance, it’s difficult to tell just how far on the house goes.
- There would definitely be more than one floor, with some hidden locations to denote how old the house could really be. From the outside, the house would look bigger as a result, but from the inside it would be hard to tell where the hidden door panels are.
- I wanted to provide the option for the player to go outside, which is why I’ve included a garden, although there may not be much in it at the moment. It also will allow the player to experience the weather outside and for me to build on the terrain.
- While I’m not too sure on the end goal, I thought it would be neat to have a younger sibling playing a hide-and-seek sort of game, where you’re looking after him/her while your parents are away. This adds an explanation for the puzzles, but also provides an end goal (finding the sibling, one would assume).
The original room I began building in class was going to be reintroduced as the study, which is why it’s drawn in the middle of the page, and I just began placing rooms around it in a sensible fashion. Long hallways provide time for narrative or jump scares, while a lot of doors build up suspense and possibly frustration that you can’t see everything at once.
I didn’t end up designing as much in Maya as I wanted, which is something I would like to change as a second version of the game. It would also make for easier texturing, since Unity is not well-known for asset creation. I had to duplicate walls so that I could have interior walls with their own colour/shaders, but also have external-facing walls which could have a unified colour/shader. The same had to be said for the ceilings/floors, since the shaders would show through on either side if you didn’t have two layers. I had to take into consideration cubes above the doors so they wouldn’t be floor-to-ceiling. The windows each had to be plugged in and blocks placed around. While it might look all right on the surface, I would actually like to model separate types of walls: a plain wall portion, a wall portion with space for a door, and a wall portion with space for a window. Then I can lego-block them together.
In any case, my floors ended up looking like this:
There were a number of things I new I wanted to expand on, based on what we learned while we were in class. I wanted to apply a light switch that would turn one or more lights on/off, as well as add some details to the lights (perhaps an odd glow or flickering like the power is being affected by the storm).
The highlighter is an excellent tool, but I also wanted to have further narrative and a more personal feel to the game, like you really are in the body of the character. I feel like a combination of triggers, commentary, and prompts will be the way forward. I started playing with triggers after seeing them in action in YouTube tutorials, knowing they were an excellent way to start jump scares or dialogue reflecting on what the character was thinking/doing.
I decided the best way to start the “dressing” of the house was with the main entrance, since that’s where people will start during the play testing when we get back to class. It was also going to be my test room, where I could use lighting, triggers, the highlighter, and you could see the bad weather out one of the two windows. It’s also the location of one of the secret locations, if I have time to lead players to finding it in the wall.
As temporary measures, I managed to get some assets from the Unity store, but also modelled some with the basic shapes provided in Unity itself. For further down the road, modelling will become a focus of the game, but I wanted to divide my time evenly between planning, scripting, and polishing during the whole week off.
The beginning of the project is coming along nicely, where I feel like I have a plan. I know that I would be able to implement everything quickly enough for the peer review, but at the very least I would like to build on the basics and then find other ways to make the game more interactive. I’ve been harping on in my own mind about a journal, viewable inventory system, and a way to click/hold items to view, examine, carry around, etc.
I’m going to continue looking for inspiration from other walking simulators, including Firewatch and Dear Esther. I think for something like this, a lot of the appeal comes from the atmosphere and interation with the environment, which is where the scripting will come in next!