Unseen Cradle

SCHOOL PROJECT

UNITY 3D ENGINE

8 WEEKS

10 DEVELOPERS (2 DESIGNERS)

CONTRIBUTION

LEVEL DESIGN

GAMEPLAY DESIGN 

SCRIPT

Unseen Cradle is a single-player horror game made in Unity. The player will traverse the level by crouching, climbing, pushing boxes and traveling between two dimensions. While hiding from a monster that inhabits the ruins. 

Responsibilities:

 

  • Sketched and blocked out the layout of the level.

  • Designed the pacing and the different level beats.

  • Implemented ways to guide the player.

  • Populated the level and applied lighting effects.

  • Collaborated with the team on the general gameplay design of the project.

Design Pillars:

 

  • Evoke in the player a feeling of trust and/or suspicion.

  • Minimal to none usage of the HUD.

  • Narrative driven experience.

Level Overview

  • Play Time: 15-20 min.

  • Setting: Ancient Fictional Ruin.

Onboarding

Starting of the game, I give to the player a set of tutorials meant to teach them the core mechanics. I wanted the player to:

 

1. Learn mechanics through pure level design.

 

2. Be introduced to the level's affordances.

 

3. Feel safe while training the mechanics.   

Curiosity was a tool that I used to keep the player as engaged as possible. In the next section, for example, I wanted the player to see the bracelet without being able to inspect it right away. "What is that?" or "How can I get it?" were questions that I wanted the player to ask themselves. 

Loop

One personal goal was to reuse as many areas as possible by adding loops to the level. By doing so, the player would return to areas previously visited, increasing their sense of familiarity with the surroundings. This would also reduce our artist's workload by diminish the amount of areas to create.    

When the player exits the "Subterranean Passage" they will find themselves inside the room that previously was locked to them. They will be back to the starting area having gone through the loop.  

The Dimension Shifting ability would make backtracking feel less daunting because the player would traverse through the same level chunk through paths that were previously inaccessible. This helped the loop feel smoothly but to get to end result some iteration needed to be done.

Playtesting would show that the early iterations of this loop needed improvement.

Players were:

 

1. Backtracking unnecessarily.

2. Navigating in a loop within the loop.

One solution was to place the tunnel connecting this area and the "Big Tower" after the small locked room with the journals and thus reward the players with progression.

I would also reduce the size of the "Dimension Shifting Room" since the player no longer needed to traverse all the way to the end.

As shown in the image, the solution would reduce the navigation time between the different points and eliminate the unnecessary loop (orange dotted line). 

Big tower

Since the next corridor's purpose is to connect the Ruins Entrance and the Big Tower, I added obstacles to:

 

1. Make this transition enjoyable for the player.

 

2. While they would test the new mechanic.

 

A journal entry and some barnacles would also help gain the player's interest.  

 

 

 

The narrow geometry of the corridors is meant to enhance the openness of the area that follows, the Big Tower. The contrast between both areas will hopefully let the player perceive the Big Tower to be taller than what it actually is, as it's gradually revealed to them. 

During production, I conceived the Big Tower as a HUB area that would lead to different locked rooms that the player would need to unlock after they had found the right keys.   

Early bubble diagram of Big Tower to see the flow between the rooms.

Early Bubble diagram that I made to pitch this idea to the team.

This idea would evolve to take a more vertical shape. The player would progress upward by obtaining keys to activate an elevator.

 

The first key would be given as a tutorial and the two others would be guarded by the monster AI.

 

Once the player had obtained the final key, the elevator would stop traversing up and move down instead towards the end area of the game. This was a good way of connecting Narrative with Level Design by using level events to convey feelings of mistrust which was one of our Game Design pillars.  

 

 

Side view-layout of "Big Tower" as it is in the game. 

First Encounter 

The first enemy encounter will take place in a narrow maze-like location with interconnected rooms. The area will seem to be empty but as the player steps into it, the enemy AI will spawn.  

The lack of a clear path and the amount of corners and turns is meant to make the player feel momentarily lost within the walls of this area. Up to this point the player had not been in a space like this.

 

The loss of orientation and the uniqueness of the geometry are intended to make this encounter more impactful.

Each room have at least two entry points, to balance the difficulty of the area and to keep the player away from having a frustrating experience. Whenever they get  cornered, there should be and exit.     

Playtesters were prone to back out of the room as soon as the AI was spawned. As the intention was to encourage them to move into the room, I rotated the door opening (first one to the right) some degrees until it was clearly visible that it was inviting the players to go through it.

Second Encounter 

We wanted to make this encounter as different to the previous one as possible by giving the player more agency and by adding an extra layer to the challenge the AI presented.

 

1. The room is more open

 

2. Most of its layout is revealed to the player.

 

3. A ladder needs to by climbed by using a box in order to exit the room (soft gate).  

One of the many iterations that this room went through, would have players being chased by the AI while trying to solve a puzzle. I wanted to push the level as much as possible and see how playtesters would react.

 

Luckily for us, their feedback was solid enough to realize that puzzles didn't suit the game that we wanted to make. It got thrown away but it was worth the try to know what not to do for the level. 

Prototype

During pre-prod, I helped the team with a very rough prototype to test our main mechanic. I used this prototype myself to start ideating the level layout and the possible challenges. Notice that the "Ghost Charges" didn't make it to the final version of the game.