Month: March 2016

Self reflection on the level

Self reflection on the level

After having four different people play through the level, I’ve been able to gather feedback and see what worked and what didn’t work. Individual videos were posted in the prior blog, however here is a mashup/multicam of the four different perspectives at once:

The usage of focal points seems to have been effective – All players focused on intentional areas – The skeleton hanging in the first room, the lights individually illuminating the long hallway, the lightbeam shining on the eventual creature, the creature/light switch at the end of the room with water. I was very pleased with hos this turned out, and I think I’ve been able to use them effectively.

In terms of pacing, while players said they could see where or what I was going with however they said everything started happening too quickly – I think this is primarily down to the length of my level and a problem I didn’t anticipate. I was trying to cram a lot of information/elements into a single, short level rather than a more extensive one (Or even an entire game). As such, it had a knock on effect with being a bit dodgy with the tension I was trying to create for the player.

As far as the setting went, I think I was successful in my choice – I was able to start off the level in a deceptively peaceful environment and progressively make things worse, creating scenes that players said were tense, visually engaging and scary.

Overall with the lighting, I feel I did a good enough job with guiding the player to where they had to go, except for when players were presented with the two door switches – When the player triggered one, they didn’t know where the open door was. I’ll need to work on/figure out a way to make that clearer rather than just the text I provided.

As far as the pursuing creature goes, all but one said that it was effective at first, however it quickly got boring once they figured out it simply followed the player and could easily be outsmarted. I did fail here, I should have made the creature more unpredictable and allow it to pop up in unexpected places and behave differently. I should have played on the unknown, and have the player not know what to expect from it.

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Player feedback

I’ve managed to get four classmates to play my level, and recorded the gameplay of them doing so. The four different videos are available below.

The reactions I recieved were mostly positive, with the biggest criticism being the creature’s behaviour – Once players figured out that it followed the player endlessly in a simple straight line, they found it easy to avoid and dodge. Thankfully, they agreed that the pacing was good (Considering the level length), the audio use was good and the level was interesting and eyecatching.

Something I noticed myself, however, is I need to work on better informing the player on where to go – The two switches in the specimen storage area sometimes threw players off and I had to tell them that they could go back and use the second switch later on – I feel I was successful in guiding the player in all other areas, however.

I also managed to provoke (scared) reactions out of three of the four players, with the fourth not being affected at all. However, the fourth player informed me he knew what he was getting into before hand and as such wasn’t expecting to be affected anyway. The fourth player did suggest I use the water in the generator room a bit more, such as have the room flood to cause the player to panic and have to leave immediately.

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Final level – Layout, lighting, focal points and level walkthrough

I’ve built the level from the earlier paper designs I made (With some minor alterations). For clarity’s sake, here’s a top-down view of the level in its entirety:

Annotated Floor Plan

I’ve marked out the areas with colours corresponding to what I anticipate players’ stress and anticipation levels will be as they play. Green is calm, yellow is anxious, orange is worried, and red is scared. As a remainder, the player has to get from the reception to the level finale area.

Reception area

Reception

To attempt to subvert the player’s expectations, I’m keeping the reception fairly neutrally lit, to try to lull the player into a sense of security. The door on the left is jammed, hence it being left in darkness.

Hallway to Office

Hallway to Office

Just passed the reception is the hallway to the office, where things begin to go awry. Note my use of focal points: I’ve added a red glow to the door at the end of the hallway, to draw the player in to that location.

Forshadowing

To attempt to foreshadow what comes next, I added a puddle of blood right under the door. Upon opening the door, a skeleton will fall in front of the player.

Office

Office

As it’s still a part of the reception area, I’ve maintained the neutral lighting, except for the red light on the ceiling, drawing attention to the skeleton hanging from it. Once again, I’ve been trying to make effective use of focal points, and hope that the stark difference here will add to it. I’m also aiming for the fact that, with the scene having such normal lighting, even though there’s a disgusting mess, it’ll unsettle the player morseo.

Hallway to the lab

Hallway to labs

Now that the player knows something has happened, I start to use more ominous lighting. On top of that, I’ve made use of a typical trope here – The lights will turn on one by one, illuminating an otherwise pitch-black hallway. The lights are arranged in such a way to hopefully show the player which way to go – forward.

First security room

Security room - unlit

As soon as they clear the hallway, they’ll come across the first scare I’ve planned in the level – As the player passes the doorway, a sound will trigger of machinery in the background, and a light will turn on revealing a skeleton:

Security with lights

Lab hallways

After clearing the security room, the player enters the lab proper. The hallways are dark, cramped and in disrepair, with each light casting a blue, ominous lightshaft, cutting through the mist:

Hallways

My hope with the very bright lighting between patches of extreme lighting is that the contrast would add to the overall tension of the level, especially when there are extended periods of darkness.

The junction

The junction

Just down the hallway is a 3-way junction. Using what I’ve learned from my previous survey – I want the player to go left to the specimen room. The right, to the generator room, is locked until the player uses a switch in the specimen storage room.

Specimen storage

Here is where I reveal the creature the player will be facing later on – Or rather, multiples of them. As the player steps into the room, a multitude of creatures in stasis tanks are revealed, immobile. I’m hoping that the sudden view of all of them will startle the player and make them hesitant to continue:

Specimen Storage

Once again, I’m trying to make strong use of focal points here. The two switches the player needs to activate are illuminated on the left, while the creature that will then start following the player is illuminated in blue at the back.

In order to progress, the player will have to flip one of the switches (The other will be inoperable) to unlock a room on the right – The generator room.

Generator room

Generator room

Here’s where another scare takes place. As the player opens the door, they’ll be granted to the creature standing at the end of the room. It’ll take a few steps towards the player and then vanish, leaving the control panel the player has to activate illuminated in the back, again using focal points to draw the player to their goal. However, once the player flicks the switch, the creature is then unleashed on them properly, and will begin following them.

The player will then have to return to the specimen room to flick the second switch which now works, and that’s where the player will notice that the creature is out and free – It’ll be missing from the stasis pod it was in earlier. When they flick the switch, they’ll be able to progress up to the surgery area.

Surgery area

The surgery area, highlighed in red in the first image, is made up mostly of hallways with a similar lighting scheme. The main aim of this place is for the player to get lost and make them more anxious – I hope to accomplish this due to the fact that in this area, the lighting doesn’t highlight particular areas. The player is left to their own devices.

However, they will eventually reach this hallway:

Pre escape hallway

Again, taking a cue from my previous survey – For the player to reach the level end, they have to get through a door at the end of this hallway. However, to open the door they need to use a switch, which is behind the door to the right, by the illuminated window. Again by using lighting to create focal points, I’m hoping that it’ll “lure” the player into that hallway and for them to notice the switch.

Once the switch is flicked, the end of the hallway will light up, revealing that the player should then go there:

Second last doorway

Level finale:

Finale forshadow

Before entering the last room, the player will have to go passed this door – highlighted by the red ominous light. The level ending isn’t a happy ending, and hopefully that’ll foreshadow that. After the player passes through there, they’ll be greeted by the sight of daylight through a partially broken door:

Finale

The level will then fade out as the player is immobilised, and surrounded by multiple creatures.

 

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