Planning and production process
From the beginning I had a strong idea of what my 3D environment would look like. I knew what I wanted to include, and what I wanted the environment to feel like, however the layout and the exact content of the level remained a mystery. To help me discover the basic structure I experimented with a few different layouts in Cinema 4D, eventually going with this:
A basic indoor environment with enough room to manoeuvre the character, but compact enough to facilitate elements of platforming. I knew I wanted an indoor industrial facility, and from this basic layout I developed it into a loading-bay/warehouse. Every large new addition to the environment was saved as a separate file so that I had access to a history of development stages, named Upgrade 1, Upgrade 2, Upgrade 3 etc.
Adding more detail and objects layer by layer the environment began to look more fleshed-out The production process continued like this right up until I started to focus on gameplay elements. This is when my focus shifted onto level design.
I wanted my environment to be beliveable as a game environment, and the addition of items and objects such as explosive barrels and health chargers really brings the game feel forward, as for gamers these are all concepts were are familiar with. Unfortunately as far as level design, I didn’t manage to create the look and feel of movement through the environment that I wanted.
The later stages of the environment revolved around creating a harmony between colours. The biggest problem I faced here was not letting everything blend into a dull grey mess. One of the disadvantages of indoor environments with multiple light sources is that its very difficult for shadows to create any strong definition of geometry, the answer to this was making objects contrast each other in colour, and ultimately ambient occlusion.
With the environment almost finished it was time to finalise the lighting setup. For this environment, I utilised a global ambient light to create a soft illumination, and then added spotlights casting shadows to bring depth and believability.
The use of the virtual camera was simple and basic, and it suited my needs well enough. The camera was pointed in the right direction and then simply ran across the spline. Same process with the Drone.
The final rendition of the environment adds extra details and elements, but also reworks some of the textures to reflect light and objects giving the look of a polished floor. The spotlights illuminating the floor and glowing LEDs dotted around brings the environment to life.
These are the render settings I ended up going with. As you can see, there isn’t anything particularly demanding enabled, so a single frame render only takes around 20-30 seconds. The object glow is necessary for the glowing materials, and the colour correction helps add a little something extra. I added some saturation and contrast to the colours to help achieve that blueish light look.
The output settings for my animations are a series of .tif files rendered at 1920 x 1080.
Creative ability and technical ability
I feel that my game expresses creative flair through it’s visual style and design. I was able to envision my enviroment well enough and put it into production with the confidence I knew that the final product would look like.
However, it’s not to the standard I would have liked. When I started my environment I was in no way as skilled with C4D as I am currently, and to keep a consistent style everything I’ve done since has to be to the same poorer quality standard.
This environment was created using a number of extremely simply techniques, mostly extrude, move and bevel. As the environment and style was so simple, I couldn’t find an opportunity to exercise any advanced techniques, so I didn’t have any trouble creating the environment on a technical level. The hardest part was probably creating the pipes using splines and the bezier tool.
I had run into numerous problems regarding time management, mainly due to rendering time. I had to render my environment up until the very last week due to myself not anticipating how long it would take, and because I was without an external hardrive for most of the time, using Google Drive meant long and slow upload/download times when switching to different machines.
Opportunities and Limitations
The greatest opportunity from this brief was of course, the freedom of choice in what we were able to create. Having that sort of freedom means I was able to pick an idea and just run with it, slowly building it up as I progressed through the course.
Limitations came in the form of deadlines. Were it not for the deadline, I think I would have been able to expand my environment far more, and included particle effects, more animations and sound effects.
The greatest limitation however was the rendering time, and as a I had to reduce the quality of the final renders. I had achieved my goal of rendering at 30fps at 1080p, but given the opportunity I would have liked to utilise more rendering settings and shaders.
The finished product is satisfactory. I feel the environment represents my original intentions and concepts well, as the environment maintains a strong and unique style throughout. The objects and scenery are low-polygon as to boost rendering time, and to practice modelling techniques that are required to render objects in real-time.
The environment is suitable for my target audience, as it contains no blood, gore, discrimination of violence.
Design Document for:
Version # 1.00
Date: 10th November 2015
A colossal war between continental superpowers has left planet Earth in a desperate state. The widespread use of chemical and nuclear weaponry has all but obliterated life on the surface, and any human life that remains resides hundreds of miles beneath the surface in sprawling underground complexes.
Even in the face of its own extinction, humans continue to fight one-another for the dwindling natural resources beneath the earth, however with humans in such short supply, the war must be fought by other means.
The marvels of technology provide these means.
Upgrade is game that combines various elements from other titles in an attempt to create something unique, and more importantly fun to play. I wanted to create something that defies genre, as Upgrade combines platforming, action, puzzle and strategy.
Overall, Upgrade is a game that creates incentive and context for the player to perform actions. The enemies aren’t just an obstacle blocking your path, but are critical to your progression, favored play style and eventual victory. Upgrade creates situations that demand player choice on how they approach obstacles based on the resources available to them.
Upgrade will run on the Xbox One, and PC, it will be available for digital download through the Xbox One Arcade and Steam. The reasons for this being wanting Upgrade to be as easily accessible to as many players as possible, and both Steam and Xbox provide easy to access systems for small companies to publish their games.
The action portion of the game is generally fast-paced combat with use of verticality and platforming. The use of different upgrades obtained throughout the level change the gameplay style to the choice of the player.
Why create this game?
Upgrade is my contribution to the game community by providing something unique and original. I really wanted to create a feeling of context and incentive within players to destroy enemies, without the obligatory generic ‘kill bad guys’ objective.
I wanted to inject some originality with concepts that have yet to be fully explored in the modern mainstream industry, such as action puzzle solving with the likes of Half-Life 2, and fast paced platforming and sense of direction as Mirror’s Edge.
Where does this game take place?
With the surface of the world scorched and irradiated, Upgrade takes place (mostly) in the labyrinthine underground human colonies. Players will be exploring industrial facilities and complexes, using the slightly abstract environments to push your way to the surface and achieve your freedom.
What do I control?
You take control of a robotic hybrid designed for war, simply known as Unit-07. 07 is a heavy machine built to destroy most anything in its path. The design of this particular unit takes on a similar appearance to a large gorilla. 07 is tank enough to upturn a bus, and maneuverable enough to swing from rafters for a vertical take down.
What is the main focus?
The main focus in upgrade is to (unsurprisingly) upgrade your character through destroying enemies, and thus changing the way the game plays and reacts.
What’s the unique selling point?
The unique selling point about Upgrade is its uniqueness as a whole. Its appeal is also that of playing the game however the player chooses, but it’s also that the choice of play is directly influenced by what enemies are present. Combinations of platforming, action, puzzle and strategy I’m hoping will appeal to a wide range of audiences.
Game style choice/customisation
3D, 3rd person gameplay
Upgrades and Unlocks
3rd Person Shooting
Movement Pace and speed.
The Game World
World Feature .1
The main world feature in Upgrade is how the player moves through it. Upgrade creates situations in which the player is required to think about how to traverse an environment depending on their currently equipped upgrade. Movement throughout some of the environments often includes puzzle elements.
World Feature .2
Another large portion of Upgrades’ world is its adaptability. Based on your current level and equipped upgrade, the game may spawn certain enemies specifically to counter it. This creates an interesting player-enemy relationship in which the player decides what foes he/she is to face, while at the same time providing freedom of choice.
The Physical World
The physical world of Upgrade mostly consists of industrial facilities and platforms; with large action sections broken up by smaller puzzle-based environments and tall vertical climb sections in your effort to reach the surface.
There is no real key location in Upgrade apart from the final surface portion of the game.
The player moves through Upgrade mostly via platforming and swift movement enabled by various environment pieces or upgrades.
As far as gameplay, Upgrade doesn’t present any truly large scale, as the game is built around fast paced action contained in smaller more densely populated environments. Huge scale is used purely visually however, especially in the later portions of the game as you reach the surface. The player will be able to observe large open landscapes and portions of the facility, but may not have physical access to these parts.
There are many, many different objects and pieces that make up Upgrade, most of them are purely cosmetic, (crates, barrels, canisters, pipes etc.) but a lot of objects can be used to the players’ advantage and disadvantage.
There are the main objects that are almost essential to the player, such as health charger stations, energy capsules, and of course Upgrades, and certain objects may also be used by the player to interact with the environment or solve puzzles.
The World Layout
The current rendition of the environment in Upgrade is based on an industrial loading warehouse, with small and compact areas designed for fast-paced action and movement.
The environment is constructed in a way that provides a clear picture of what is, and what is not accessible to players to interact with. The red bars provide indications of movement over platforms and obstacles.
The World Layout Detail
Color coordination is important in Upgrade, and this render of the environment provides the insight onto how it works.
Unit 00 – Unit 00 is an antagonist/become protagonist and the mainframe artificial intelligence that maintains the human facility. With a shortage of human workers, humans create a powerful A.I to run tasks normally assigned to a living workforce. 00 is almost omnipresent within the facility, and can take control of most mechanical objects remotely.
Unit 07 – Unit 07 is the main protagonist of the game and the character you play as. Unit is a robotic/biological hybrid created from a Gorilla. 07 is very adaptable to its environment, and can take advantage of other technologies in order to upgrade itself. 07 was recently used for testing a new self-awareness augmentation, and upon learning of itself and its purpose 07 has a gone rogue in its attempt to escape the facility.
Creating a Character
The player cannot alter Unit 07’s appearance in the customization sense, but certain upgrades and perks will change how 07 looks.
Enemies and obstacles
Drone – Drones are small airborne units that the player will encounter early on in the game. They are fairly weak and slow moving, but have the advantage of flight and always being able to peruse the player. Some Drones are equipped with light machine guns, and some even carry shields, which makes them a diverse enemy to face. A Drone is required to obtain the Boost Pack, or the ‘Repeater’ Machine Gun upgrade.
Seeker – A Seeker is a humanoid unit with extremely advanced optics. Seekers are more than often deployed with long-range rifles, and use their superior vision and perception to destroy targets. Seekers have the advantage of ranged attacks and slim profile, but all those fancy optics and sensors come with a bright lens flare, so they are easy to spot. A seeker is required to obtain the ‘Long Lance’ Rifle upgrade.
Phalanx – A Phalanx is a heavy-duty unit that was deployed en mass during human riots. Phalanxes carry with them impenetrable shields they use to ward off attacks, and use heavy machine guns to engage enemies with. While being nearly invincible from the front using their shields, Phalanxes are surprisingly weak from their back more unarmored parts. A Phalanx is required to obtain the Heavy Shield upgrade.
Spider Tank – Spider Tanks are among the biggest, most challenging enemies you will face in Upgrade. Spider Tanks are 8-legged units that carry upon them a giant long-range cannon that is capable of destroying the player in a single shot. Spider tanks are also surprisingly maneuverable for their size, using their legs to easily traverse any environment and even cling to walls and ceilings. Spider Tanks employ the shields of the Phalanxes to cover certain areas, so the player must work on out-maneuvering the tank to hit its weakspots, as outgunning it is rather out of the question.
The GUI in upgrade is designed with simplicity in mind. All the interfaces, including the main menu, HUD and inventory screens will reflect the artistic style of game, providing minimalistic and clean visuals, only displaying the most vital information as to not draw the player away from the actual game.
User Interface Detail .1
An example of what the HUD will look like, I want it to just sit quietly on the screen while you play. The white bar at the bottom represents your hitpoints, the blue represents your energy, and the white box displays your currently equipped upgrade.
Musical Scores and Sound Effects
The game will sound raw and industrial. I want sounds to echo around the metallic environments, and objects to feel weighty and physical when impacted. The game will be populated with 100s of unique sounds, with all enemies and objects having their own individual sound profile. Many sound effects will be used to inform the player of events happening around him/her, such as health or energy indicators.
In Upgrade, I want almost everything to produce some sort of sound or ambient noise. The player will be able to hear the whirring mechanics of Unit 07 as it moves, and feel the heavy steps of its hands and feet as it walks across the metallic surfaces. The sounds need to feel physical to give the objects in the game a real sense of space in the environment. The sounds for the enemies will be varies depending on what they are. In the lore most of the enemies you will encounter are biomechanical, so the sounds they produce will have to be a mixture of digital, animal, and mechanical noises.
Dialogue or Voiceover
The game won’t feature many human characters, so any specific lines to voice won’t be present. However when human enemies are introduced, they need to have human voices for simple actions such as shouts and screams.
The music in Upgrade will be most all digital, most of them providing more of an atmosphere to the game rather than being too pronounced. The soundtracks that do pronounce themselves however will be strongly centered on a beat that reflects the pace of the environment. Strong, heavy and industrial scores will narrate the experience when it comes to the most frantic parts of the game.
Overall Sound Design
The overall feel of the music will be mechanical and cold, while the music score reflects the fast pace and industrial environments of the game. Anything too organic and sweet will be absent in this game. It’s a cold, hard calculated world and it will have to sound like one.
The single-player portion of Upgrade revolves around you, Unit 07, trying to escape the underground facility and break for the surface. Throughout the single-player campaign you will be taken through the many aspects of the underground human facility, and in doing so take advantage of your ability to adapt to your environment through different upgrades.
Hours of Gameplay
The first play through of the game should satisfy the player for around 15 hours if they decide to 100% complete it, and around 12 hours for a casual playthrough. However, due to the diverse nature of the game, the player may want to replay certain stages using different upgrades that will ultimately provide a new gameplay experience. The replay value of the game is strong, and I hope that will provide more hours of play.
The main victory conditions are rather simple; destroy all the enemies and reach the exit of the stage.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is surprisingly complex. Multiplayer takes the original concepts and gameplay of singleplayer, and twisting them into a competitive gamemode.
The teams will be 5 a team, and compete in an environment populated with the AI enemies from the single player game the. The teams will ultimately end up compete over the AI in an effort to gain upgrades, and prevent the enemy team from gaining access to those upgrades at the same time, whilst the AI continue to grow stronger in an effort to compete against the players. The victory is then awarded to the team who scores the most points by destroying enemies and other players. This should create an interesting dynamic.
Extra Miscellaneous Stuff
Idea 1: More controllable Units
I named Unit 07, 07 for a reason; it is the 7th of something, so it leaves an open opportunity to fill in the gap with other units; Unit 02, Unit 03 etc.
I initially wanted different parts of the game to be experienced with different Units that have different play styles, like a flying Unit or a shooting-focused Unit, but I felt that the player wouldn’t be able to settle into one specific play style well enough if it was too varied. So I devised the idea of one single Unit having a varied playstyle that could give the player choice.
I don’t want these ideas for new Units to be wasted though; I am considering how they could be incorporated into a multiplayer setting as powerups of some sort.
The presentation regarding Upgrade can be viewed and downloaded here.