Good evening readers! I have decided to start a blog based on a project I am currently working on during my final year at Teesside University. I have worked on it for 4 weeks now and this first post will have recaps of everything I have done in those 4 weeks. After this post, I will continue to post weekly.
The project is called “The Journey Home”. It is a 2.5D side scroller set in the Edo Period in Japan. It will have an emphasis on level design, camera design and character design and mechanics. The project is a 16 week project. The end goal is to have a small game that is polished and showcases all of my skills I have developed over the years studying at University and working in small indie companies.
Week 1 +2:
Week one was all about creating the idea, refining it and creating a proposal to present to my supervisor. The idea is this; It will be a single player game where the player will travel through different sections of the level, completing puzzles along the way. They will travel through forests, villages and temples. The level design will consist of a few platforming sections, puzzles that require the character to push and/or pull and a camera system that will showcase the background environment. These cameras will also showcase the path ahead or behind and could indirectly focus on the player. The setting is the Edo period in Japan. The main character is a lost samurai travelling back to his village. This village will be set on a peninsula with old village buildings leading up to the temple. The end goal is to reach the end of the peninsula where the temple is present.
The reasons behind my choice of game was that I have not worked on a game like this before. I have worked on 2D side scroller games and 3rd person 3D games. I will be able to transfer the skills I have learnt previously to create this game. I will also develop new skills, like learning camera systems and improving mechanic creation, and extend my knowledge of more games. Another reason is that this particular project has a small scope and it gives me the opportunity and time to refine and polish. While I won’t be creating everything myself, I will be creating this project focusing on level design and camera design. The art assets and animations will be from asset packs I will purchase.
The game Inside is the main inspiration for this project.
Inside is a 3D side scroller set during a dark, unsettling world. The character travels through a number of different environments, solving simple puzzles while the narrative unfolds.
The character has simple movement mechanics like jump, running and pushing/pulling objects. The game is engaging due to its level design and environment portraying its narrative. I will take inspiration at how the character moves and acts and how the level flows.
While looking at games, I will also look into real world locations, time periods and research into history. I will look at locations like Lake Hartwell, Izu Peninsula and Boso Peninsula for their environments and the peninsula layout. The history I will look into will be the Edo Period in Japan as well as the Bushido, a samurai group present during the Edo Period. Researching the history will give me an idea of how people acted and how the environments looked. While researching this time period, I will take into consideration culture sensitivity. Any additional elements I create, like a user interface, will have to match the theme while also not offending anything about it
After presenting the idea to my supervisor and got the go ahead, my next course of action was to start on my pre production.
Level design is an area I wish to purse as a career and a major part of being a level designer is creating effective pre production before even starting work on engine. The Journey Home has 3 level sections in the one level. I took each section and created a list of possible scripted events that can occur. This list helps me visualise what I am wanting the level to look like.
After creating this list, I went ahead and started researching into real life areas and created moodboards. These moodboards have a collection of real life photos, layouts of golf course or parks and video game examples. The first moodboard, shown below, showcases the starting area, the forest paths and what could be seen in the background while playing the game.
I created moodboards for the other 2 sections of the level and lists of scripted events. After completing, I went to start creating level layouts.
I created these layouts to help me when I come to the whiteboxing of the level. I created a hexagonal grid and a colour key to visualise what I wanted to go for.
Each grid can be represented as 10 Unreal Units within the engine (10m) which will help me gauge how long each section will be when playing the game. I will create more layouts for each section when I come to develop the idea.
After creating the layout for the Forest, I decided to jump into the engine and work on the character and the camera system.
From the asset pack I purchased, their were a selection of characters to use. I went for the Samurai Grunt as the main character. I first retargeted the character mesh to the UE4 default character to use its animations. From doing this however, the animations did not fit to the character and I decided to use a website called Mixamo. I exported the character as an FBX, uploaded it to the website.
After importing a selection of animations the character will use, I went back to the engine and started to create the movement mechanics. I was going for a more simple approach to the character movement mechanics but concentrated on the feel. So getting the animations right, the movement speed and the weight of the character.
Going with a base movement, I decided to go into a new level and create a blockout path for the forest using my layout I created.
The character will be moving along a spline so will only be able to move left or right. I create this spline based movement in a Blueprint. The character spawns in at the end of the spline and can move along it. It checks ever tick that it is on the spline, making sure it can never go off it.
This side scroller will not be a completing linear pathing. The path will have curves and turns. However, the camera I have created will make sure that after every turn and curve, the camera will follow and make the character appear side on at all times.
The camera system I have created is within the character Blueprint. It has 5 cameras within in and the focused camera changes after certain sections within the level. This system will be my base system to develop upon. I will look into other more efficient ways to create a better camera system.
This is everything I have developed so far for this project. I am working at R8 Games as a part time Designer so I have had to schedule my work accordingly. My project plan works for me and well help me create the polished piece of work I wish to create by the end of the project.
Next week I will have developed my blockout level for the forest, go into idea of how the levels work and showing art asset placement.