Future Aesthetic

I have been busy at work on STASIS, but predominantly on the boring backend stuff! So no shiney new screenshots of videos just yet… ūüėČ

That said, I thought I would go through a few of my ideas with regards to the design theory of the games aesthetic.

I have divided up the ‘feel’ of STASIS into 3 distinct groups, MILITARY, INDUSTRIAL, and MEDICAL.

MILITARY TECHNOLOGY

When approaching the technology design in STASIS, I am really balancing ‘cool’ vs ‘functional.’ In the back of my mind, when designing anything, is the knowledge that this is a¬†military¬†installation. Ill often do research on certain aspects of military technology. One of the things that constantly pops up in my research, is just how out of date military technology tends to be. Helicopters that were designed before the Vietnam war are still in operational use. Many of the current day Aircraft Carriers were¬†commissioned¬†in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Most of us don’t even have cars that are that old!

Military technology also has a hard edge to it. Things tend to be thicker…bulkier. As such, I have tried to carry that over into the design of the military aspects of The Groomlake. You¬†aren’t¬†going to find slim and sexy glass screens here…it is a deep space ship that has been designed to be as maintenance free as possible….designed to be out in action for months, even years at a time without having to be refitted.

MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY

In the middle of this vast military complex, filled with aging¬†technology¬†is the absolute height of research and development….medical technology. The Groomlake is one of the most advanced medical research facilities ever constructed. If you look at the current medical devices coming to the market, many of them¬†wouldn’t¬†feel out of place on a Star Trek set.

I really love the idea of having this slick, futuristic, sterile equipment being paired up against the hard, heavy military equipment. Having that juxtaposition I think will really give the medical side of the design quite a disturbing edge to it. Like its just..out of place.

INDUSTRIAL

The industrial parts of the design really make up the bulk of the structure. So while certain areas will be predominantly military, or medical, they will all be based on the INDUSTRIAL structure.

I have been heavily inspired by the Event Horizon. It really is one of the best Sci-Fi ship designs, and the gothic feel of it has very much bled into the design of certain areas of the Groomlake. The idea is to take those¬†Gothic¬†features, but not make them overtly ‘ornate’. If you take a look at The Arrivals Hall, you will see large curves arches, and different levels that are very similar to a¬†cathedral….but hopefully without shouting out ‘THIS IS A¬†CATHEDRAL!’.

Old factories, train stations, and subways also make up a basis for the inspiration of the industrial areas of the ship.

COOL STUFF

Something that I want to add is a sence of believablility to some of the more ‘fantastic’ elements. One of them is holograms. Holograms just kick ass-and, along with things that hover, holograms should be in every Sci-Fi game, movie, book, or comic. BUT finding a new way to pacage an existing idea is always tempting. A friend of mine posted something on her FACEBOOK page:

http://www.visualnews.com/2011/01/04/3d-paintings-on-panes-of-glass/

For those to lazy to clikc the link (you know who you are!), they are pieces of art done by a chinese artsit named Xia Xiaowan. What he does is paint different slices of a 3D image on panes of glass, and when they are stacked together they form a very unusual effect. Now I think that, instead of having ‘normal’ holograms, using something like this could create a very neat looking, and realistic hologram effect. What you guys think?

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A quick look at Puzzle Design

When approaching puzzle design, I first look at what the result of the puzzle needs to be. What is the obstacle, and what is logically needed to overcome that obstacle. For example, if the obstacle is a locked door, what is the more logical way to get past it? To lubricate the ¬†hinges of the lock with an old banana peel, and then use a coin to¬†unscrew¬†the bolts in the hinges? Or to try and get through the lock using a screw driver? Sure, the one may be more ‘challenging’, but honestly there is NOTHING more frustrating than a puzzle that completely defies logic.

I want the puzzles to have an almost MacGyver feel to them. MacGyver never picked up a paper clip and a rag, for ‘just in case’. No, when he needed them, he would find something like a paper clip, and a torn off shirt strip. When obstacles need to be passed, I want the player to look for inventive ways to pass that obstacle…not look for things that could be used to pass something in the future.
I think that this is in keeping with Maracheck. He is there on a job. He isn’t going to stop, dig through the trash, and take a bottle for later. He is going to need a container, and dig in the trash for something.

Once I’ve decided on the obstacle, and a logical way to overcome it, I go to the drawingboard. Literally. I plan out every aspect of the puzzle on paper first. ¬†This puzzle involves setting off switches in the correct order on the manual override for a door. This will be a combination of an inventory puzzle, which is needed to actually open up the manual override box, and a ‘Myst¬†style’ interactive puzzle. The following sketches show the development of the puzzle-where the switches are, what they would be labled, and more importantly, how a system like this would work IN THE REAL WORLD. What switches would be connected to which controls?

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Now this puzzle gets a little more complex. I really wanted the player to have SOME of the information, and have to try and decifer what to do next, to avoid ‘trial and error’. Initially I was going to simply have a sticker on the manual override box that had been torn in half, or faded, so that the player could figure out for themselves how to use it-but honestly, in dealing with a sci-fi game, that seems a little…easy. So I’ve added in a piece of technology to Marachecks arsenal that will not only help him with this puzzle, but will also create some rather interesting opportunities later on in the game…XRay Goggles!

The XRay Goggles are a piece of tech which will allow scanning of certain objects, to see how they work on the inside. This way, the captain can easily check how certain objects work, without damaging them. He can see which wires are connected to which switches/devices. This little piece of technology opens up the world of puzzles massively.

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Because of the careful planning of the puzzles on paper, getting them working IN the game is quite simple. When designing on paper, I often also will write out how the game logic will work.

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While this seems to be a little convoluted, it allows for the implimentation to go VERY quickly. After the puzzle was concieved on paper, it only took a few hours to get it, graphics and all, into the game.

Once its in the engine, I will play that part of the game from a few scenes back to make sure that the puzzle¬†doesn’t¬†break the ‘flow’ of the game. This is usually where I will add in sound effects, and ambient noise. Does this puzzle work best when there is just the sound of breathing? Should there be computer noises in the background? Music playing from an old radio? When the buttons are pushed, what sounds should come out? These finishing touches are almost as important as the puzzle itself-as its what will keep the player in the moment.

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Inventory and Item Interaction

Ive been busy with some other work related things for the past few days, but I did manage to get the inventory system up and running. This video shows the basic interaction with items in the game. In this same way, you will be able to combine different items in the game aswell. So while this example has you picking up and item, and combining it with a ‘real world object’, you will be able to make different combinations inside the inventory by simply dragging and dropping items ontop of each other.
This example doesnt have any dialog in it-but rest assured, it will!

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More than just adventure?

Im busy making a new construct set (http://www.stasisgame.com/constructing-a-scene-part-2/) for the general room configurations onboard The Groomlake, and have really been looking at other games for inspiration. I think that DOOM 3 really was a groundbreaking game when it came to level design. If not in the layout of the levels, then definately in the art direction.

Something that really sticks out in those levels was the amount of ‘nothing’ details. Every screen had a readout, there were computers running that opened up storage lockers, log books open with interdepartmental memo’s about ‘having a drink with Dave’…all of those things really gelled to create a fantastically immersive environment. The type of living, breathing environment that I imagine for STASIS.

HOWEVER, with STASIS being an adventure game, where everything can mean something…will putting these touches in the game just complicate the matters? I mean, if I have a clipboard that you can pick up and read, and it says something about regular maintenance on the water system to happen every hour-how do I differentiate that from a proper clue for solving a puzzle?¬†If you search a body, and find out that the guys name was Edward-how do I make sure that you know to look for a Edward in the database at a later stage? How do I make the player know that THAT Edward is important, but the Susan that he searched earlier was just for ‘atmosphere’?

Something I am looking at is that certain areas could be bypassed, if you collect certain items that are in locked containers/cupbaords/etc. Those locked items will be opened by finding key card sequences by looking through log books or other computer systems. You dont NEED those items, but they will help you more in certain areas. For instance, one (cliched) puzzle could involve you making a magnet by using copper wire and a nail…whereas in one of the locked containers, there could be a magnet.

Will this detract from the gaming experience?¬†I’m¬†not sure. Perhaps its just a nice way to have multiple solves for a puzzle? Perhaps you had no idea you needed a magnet, until you opened the container, and then went “AHA! A MAGNET!”. But the big question then comes in, is your inventory just going to end up being filled with shit that you picked up, but no longer need? The inventory has an unlimited storage capacity, but for that players sanitys sake I really want to keep the amount of items in the inventory to a¬†manageable¬†amount¬†throughout¬†the game.

I¬†would¬†love to hear what you guys think about these issues. Perhaps you see a solution that I don’t? (making clues blue, and red herrings red was one idea…but that really does seem like¬†I’m¬†treating the players like idiots).

-Chris

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