This week marks the end of Wildborn’s refinement and production; leaving myself plenty of time to go over my report drafts and prepare for Expo tees. This post is going to detail the entire process through the form of a brief conclusion, summarising my experience, the project’s evolution, and what I learned throughout.
I am very happy with the final outcome. Not just because I am satisfied with the result, but because the whole process was challenging, dynamic, and rewarding. Huge technical hurdles resulted in issues that had to be overcome, bolstering my confidence and giving me new knowledge of the process of Level Design, Environment Art, and Programming.
This was the game I always wanted to make. Unfortunately it didn’t sate my desire to make it. It made me want to tear it all down and start again, reliving my experience with the project over, making it better, making more. But that doesn’t mean I regret pursuing Wildborn. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I learned so much. Which is a good topic to address next.
What I learned.
Even though I took on a pipeline I was familiar with, It’s difficult to absorb everything I discovered to make it better. From an Art standpoint I learned so much about how to make my forms more striking; doing more with less in my scenes, as well as certain rules to do with lighting gave me huge insight into how to add depth to my scenes, and also highlight the playable area. Creation of proper structure and flow in my level design, and how to reward the player for adapting to the games mechanics purely through the shape of the space they are traversing.
I could write a four-thousand word report on everything I learned (in fact, I’m pretty sure I have to). This was a great project to explore my specialisms, and it makes me eager to think about what I’ll work on next.
As the crafter of a project, especially one that is so personal to me, it is hard to accept changes in the “perfect vision” I had when I started. But Wildborn shifted and changed, evolving into a better version of itself, as I adopted a stern philosophy, that I would let it grow into what it wanted to be.
This all started with the shift of attention away from puzzles. Wildborn was a Puzzle Adventure game, where the player manipulated the world around them to overcome challenging and mind boggling puzzles. But I left that behind, instead, turning the puzzle mechanics into ones that enable success instead of imposing a barrier to progress.
Wildborn’s main puzzle mechanic is moving giant stones around with your mind, stacking them, repositioning them, riding them, blocking them, to create new paths in the world. But as the game grew, they became tactile tools that let you surmount the world, and break the scenery, something that felt more fun to players, and made them walk in the footsteps of this ancient, tribal, creature that they play.
Traversal became a huge focal point in the project, I never expected my levels to looks like great tropical racetracks that the player would spring and dash across as though it was nothing. It ended up really serving the game’s playability, and this is something I would love to flesh out more if I ever returned to Wildborn with the intention of really fleshing out the mechanics.
In terms of mood, I ended up reaching into a much broader spectrum than just the bright and wonderful world on the surface, diving down into the melancholy depths of the burial passage showed a side to Wildborn I wanted to see more of, and show players; that life in the wild isn’t all just magnificent awe and inspiration, but also festering dread and a looming shadow that tells us to climb back up again when we fall.
Trouble and Triumph.
Every day a new issue presented itself; my physics were broken, my game wont build, there are bad hitches, hardware issues, players getting lost, players getting frustrated, this area looks crap, I just can’t look at this project today… etcetera. But everything passed, some days I just got my head down, and sometimes I had to look away, I’d be lying if I said the whole project was a blast, because at the worst of times it was real pain. But it conditioned me that issues aren’t abnormalities, or even things I need to stress about and fix right away, but rather something to take at a reasonable pace. Not to see them as obstacles that are looking to quash my success, but opportunities to learn and become a better developer. I didn’t need to make hacky work-arounds, because these things were useful to think about, and they taught me so much when I worked on Wildborn.
Even though this project probably gave me a thousand things to improve, and gave me thousand issues to work past, and probably consumed a thousand hours of my life, I don’t regret any of it, and I am glad I finally got the chance to work on Wildborn, to work every week day from 9-5 on the project I wanted to be apart of more than anything else.