MAD-GFX: New Team Member - Glenn Foster / Madd / Fostworks

Welcome to our newest team member, the talented artist @fostworks / Glenn Foster / Madd

Location: US / Clermont Florida
Background: Freelance Multimedia Illustrator and Concept Artist with over 20 yrs. in traditional and digital medium ranging from concepts to graphic design to animation and sculpting Profession: Multimedia Illustrator in military , Graphics Designer work with Vinyl and Murals, Personal projects and commissions
Position/Role: Character/Creature Artist Secondary Role: Asset Artist
Portfolio Links: https://app.sketchclub.com/user/38690781
PSN: madatarms

MAD-GFX: New Team Member - TecTac

MAD-GFX would like to warmly welcome the latest addition to our ever growing team, Audio specialist TecTac.

Location: UK / Leeds
Background: Sonic Chef from Leeds, UK, cutting up edibles by day, chopping up audibles by night. Studied music production, video editing and sfx for film and tv. Hugely passionate about creating music and visuals. An avid film buff, gamer, game modder (GTA V - ps4), map creator (FC5 arcade editor) and drone pilot. Lover of food, nature and being by the sea.
Position/Role: Primary Role: Audio Artist / Secondary Role: Environmental Artist / Cinematics
Portfolio Links: Primary Soundcloud | Secondary Soundcloud | Youtube
PSN: TBA

Into The Forest: Storyboard

Initial work has started on the 40x Elemental storyboards.  Expected runtime for each Dream - 60 Seconds (Speedrun) / 90-120 Seconds for all collectables (Completionist)

Note:
1) This storyboard does not display the scenes where players can venture into the background (3rd person gameplay).  Scenes that initially look simplistic (see Air-2) will contain this feature to extend gameplay.
 2) Trap design and potential routes will vary from actual gameplay as this will be developed and tested during the Greybox phase of construction in Dreams.

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Into The Forest: Dreams Map

Initial work was completed this weekend to map the potential Dream routes available to players as they progress through the elemental journey.

Numbers:
- Total Hubs: 42 / Total Unique Hubs: 16
- Total Elemental Levels: 40
-- Total Unique Dreams: 56 (+Potential opening/closing cinematic)
-- Expected Runtime: 65:00 (Speedrun) / 90:00-120:00 (Completionist)

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Europa Descent: Debris Test

These objects contain limited duration player power-ups (30 seconds) - boost to player run-speed / jump / damage resistance / strength etc - providing a mechanic to unlock new map routes (normally within 20 seconds movement from source location)  The debris can also provide a source of game narrative - datalogs / recordings.

 

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Game Design: 10 Principles of Good Level Design

Level design has evolved greatly over the past 20 years, the following contains a list of 10 Core Principles and Learnings that MAD-GFX will endeavour to adhere to with Europa Descents Surface, Subsurface and Alien level design.

GOOD LEVEL DESIGN ...

1) IS FUN TO NAVIGATE

Create a clear visual language (+ throw in chaos)

  • Traversing a level presents the player with many different gameplay vectors: Observational - The act of surveying your surroundings. Strategic - The act of processing your observations to a plan. Navigational - The act of traversing the level yourself.

  • For a smooth and enjoyable experience the player should always know exactly where to go, which is why its important to develop a consistent visual language that clearly guides the player through the critical paths. (through the use of light, geometry, colour and animation)

  • Play with Intuitive to navigate and Fun to navigate, encourage freestyle exploration (This helps to create depth and replayability)

  • Introducing confusion can provide tension.

2) DOES NOT RELY ON WORDS

Use implicit and emergent narrative rather than explicit

  • Use Mise-En-Scene/Environmental Narrative - The art of telling the story through the environment.

  • Experiment with ’The Broken Circle’ paradigm - using the three types of narrative present in level design:

  • Explicit - Information that is called out to the player through cutscenes, text, spoken dialog (Circle)

  • Implicit - Information that the player figures out themselves by looking at the environment (Gap in the Circle)

  • Emergent - Information that the player constructs in their own head (Gap in the Circle). Enable emergent narrative by providing player choice (freedom of mechanic use)

3) TELLS WHAT BUT NOT HOW

Use clearly communicated objectives that players can complete in any way or in any order they want

  • The player should be in no doubt as to what they need to do when they go through the level, provide clear objectives (waypoints/other navigational aids)

  • Experiment with Nebulous Objectives and provide the player with multiple techniques and mechanics to complete. Encourage improvisation.

  • Players should be presented with Concurrent Objectives that they player can complete in any order, further more on completion of one of those objectives player should receive a reward which either makes the other objectives easier or modifies them in some way.

4) CONSTANTLY TEACHES

Keep the player engaged by continuously introducing or subverting new mechanics

  • ‘The Theory of Fun’ - Raph Koster: “The human mind enjoys processing patterns for storage and retrieval later” / embrace this pattern analysis - Prolong this through good level design. Each level should introduce, showcase or subvert a key mechanic (Use holistic design to control pacing throughout the entire game)

  • Bethesda Mantra: Learn -> Play -> Challenge -> Surprise. Teach the mechanics explicitly, provide a safe area for the player to experiment with the new mechanics, introduce a threat or compelling objective to challenge the players mastery of that mechanic, when the player feels comfortable with the mechanic surprise them in some way.

5) IS SURPRISING

Don’t be afraid to take risks with the pacing, aesthetics or any other elements

  • Keep things fresh by not falling into routines, don’t rely on rollercoaster pacing method as this becomes predictable.

  • Fun is created through uncertainty, flip the player in and out of their comfort zone. Experiment with being subversive - take an existing game design paradigm and flip it (e.g. inverse/disrupt pacing).

  • Take Risks - Grey-box and test ideas (early in development) for feedback.

6) EMPOWERS THE PLAYER

Video games are escapism, let the player feel the impact of his actions

  • Deliver the fantasy (Players want to be badasses), avoid dull menial tasks.

  • Design levels to show the players influence on the world illustrating the the consequences of choices.

7) IS EASY MEDIUM AND HARD

Use Risk/Reward so that the player can set the difficulty dynamically

  • Design multiple pathways through levels. ‘Basic path’ - easy/medium challenge, clearly called out ‘High risk’ paths with an obvious reward.

  • Use a layered approach (increases replayability) with rewards in clear view that provide navigational risks. Provide alternate paths for flanking or bypassing tough challenges (perhaps with a puzzle for cerebral skill Vs tough conflict)

  • Experiment with clear objectives with hidden paths and secret areas that are called out with a visual cues

8) IS EFFICIENT

Design for modularity, bi-directionality and nonlinearity

  • Be aware of constraints: Technical limitations of hardware (Thermometer) Real world constraints (Production schedule, number of people on your team etc)

  • Use Modular Design - Create a series of mechanic driven encounters that you can string together to make multiple levels. This is useful for players as they have a series of identifiable events to master mechanics. Create modifiers and variables that can break up repetition (increase challenge / surprise)

  • Use bi-directionality to reuse artwork (avoid backtracking unless mechanics/experience changes with each pass)

  • Experiment with nonlinearity, provide implicit objectives that require intuition and exploration to complete (Collectables can take advantage of this) Do not use this method unless your clearly call out these systems/rewards in advance (if possible tie these into the main narrative thread).

9) CREATES EMOTION

It begins at the end with the desired emotional response and works backwards to select the appropriate mechanics to elicit that response.

  • Use architecture and spatial empathy to induce an emotional response. For example: tight corners to reduce view, verticality both up and down, twisting/labyrinthian paths to create confusion, large spaces for isolation and epic scale, the transition between small and large to force the player to view a specific vista.

  • Use AI to assist, e.g. an NPC that hunts the player for the feeling of persecution.

  • Modify core mechanics and goals to increase tension, objectives in difficult to reach areas that then provide vistas and other rewards (new paths).

10) IS DRIVEN BY MECHANICS

Above all it showcases the games mechanics through the medium of the level to reinforce the uniquely interactive nature of video games

  • “Books let you IMAGINE extraordinary things, Movies let you SEE extraordinary things but Video Games let you actually DO extraordinary things” (source unknown) Great level design is driven by interaction of game mechanics, game levels do not just provide the content or the setting for mechanics they provide the very reality in which they exist.

  • A games level is the metaphysical medium through which the gameplay is delivered. Levels should be a gameplay delivery system who’s primary function is to leverage your mechanics to create a great experience.

  • Find creative ways to re-use and modify mechanics through level design variance (new abilities unlocking previous content/paths)

Europa Descent: Exploring A Narrative Approach to Level Design

Core Principles:
- Using the story as the true vision for gameplay.
- Treating games as storytelling medium: Gameplay and storytelling are one in the same.
- Examining story themes and expressing them through game design.

Movie Inspiration:
- Surface: Interstellar / Europa Report / Life
- Subsurface: The Abyss
- Alien Mega Structure: Alien - Aliens / Event Horizon / Pandorum

Europa Descent will feature a wide variety of narrative delivery methods:
Mixing Player Agency (Allowing for gameplay) vs. Certainty of Delivery (Telling the story) 

- Environmental Storytelling: Low Certainty, High Agency
- Triggered Dialogue: Variable Certainty, Variable Agency
- Narrative Systems: High Certainty, High Agency
- Cutscenes: High Certainty, Low Agency

EUROPA DESCENT - STORY CONSTANTS:

WHY: Theme
Survival, Exploration, Curiosity

WHO: Characters
Lowell (Player Character - Android) & Deming (2nd Android) / Light Ones (Aliens - new to Europa) / Old Ones (Aliens - have been on Europa for millions of years) / Previous expedition logs/wreckage.

WHERE: Setting
2087, Europa (Jupiter Moon), Cinematic Approach, Surface, Subsurface and Alien Mega Structure exploration.
Feelings that these spaces create: Isolation, Verticality, Vertigo, Claustrophobia, Foreign / Alien

EUROPA DESCENT - GAME VARIABLES

WHAT: Plot and events -> Mechanics
- Summary: After crash-landing on the frozen surface you must survive the harsh environment, interacting with your co-pilot and continue your prime directive, exploring the subsurface for signs of life.
- Breakdown: Story - Learn about the setting / aliens. |  Gameplay - Survival: in a hostile environment - Escape: The Old Ones / Outwit: Stealth, Puzzles
- Genre: Three Phase 1) 3rd Person Liner RPG / Survival / 2) Side Scrolling Action / Survival Game 3) 3rd Person Liner RPG / Survival

WHEN: Time of events (relative to each other) -> Pacing
Linear storyline, Parallel storytelling,  Slow - suspenseful moments, Quick ramp into and out of action.
Story: Fast moments: Cutscenes, QTEs / Slow, tense moments: Environmental storytelling, data logs, radio transmissions.
Gameplay: Fast action mixed with slower, tense moments
-- Movement Incentives: Threat, Objective (Survive, Breadcrumbs, Reach the Lander etc), Movement (movement around the player, other NPCS), Time Limits
-- Movement Deterrent: Tension (perceived threat), Obstacles, Change in gameplay movement (Puzzles, Dialog and Path choices)

HOW: Presentation -> Tone
- Setting the Tone: Cameras and viewpoint, Lighting, Colour Pallet, Writing (characters, menus, UI), Character Performance (acting, VO), Music and SFX
- Story Overview: Suspense and danger, Camera Control (tight vs wide) tense music, personal moments, moments of levity. Omnipotent point of view.
- Gameplay Breakdown: Cinematic’s Introduction/Key Moments, Third Person* Survival (Surface gameplay) Side Scrolling Action (Subsurface gameplay) Third Person* Survival. Tense Music and Atmospherics.
*Note during the Third Person sections of gameplay there will be brief First person interaction sections.  

Europa Descent: Dream Structure V2

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DREAMS:

- Total Dreams: 53

Dream  Breakdown
- Introduction: 1
- Surface: 10 / Single Path: 8
- Subsurface: 22 / Single Path: 17
- Alien: 20 / Single Path: 11

- Single Path Total: 37
-- Possible Deviations: 8
--- Total Possible Paths: 192

CUTSCENES:

- Total Cutscenes: 7 (5 Single path / 3 Endings)
-- Single Path Runtime: 360 seconds (6 minutes) / Total Runtime:  480 seconds (8 minutes)

Cutscene Breakdown:
- Introduction: 180 seconds
- Subsurface Descent: 30 seconds
- Subsurface: 30 seconds
- Alien Descent: 60 seconds
- Alien Conclusion: 3 x 60 seconds(edited)