Every level for Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon starts as a collection of source materials, including notes about the characters, their props, insects and new features to be introduced, exploration of the environment, secrets, achievements and so forth, culled from larger lists and spreadsheets that track the story, puzzles, and gameplay requirements for the entire game.
- introduce dragonfly
- trail of muddy bootprints goes through here? check the estate map
- headstones w/ initials and secret society engraving
- T Bryce has been playing with toys here, hid one of them
- one of the clues for the big puzzle
- swampy terrain on the periphery, lake/ship in background
A hefty portion of my job as a game designer is collating requirements like these and exploring to find what I hope is a great solution. There’s lots of fuzziness and creativity involved, since there are few mandatory, inflexible requirements and certainly no objectively best answer.
Source material also includes reference photos which are often the soul of a Spider level, from which we draw detail and texture. It’s sort of the opposite art style of cartoons which create abstraction and omit detail for the sake of strong simplicity. Spider levels have energy and substance that comes from real life nuance and richness.
In this case, we’re building a graveyard, the Family Plot level, and I’m getting most attached to these beautiful old headstones I photographed in Vermont, nicely complimented by some decaying fall nature.
(Click for larger versions)
I especially like the faded epitaphs on these old tombstones, somber sentiments from a past culture about life’s last stop. Fertile material for a clue or just extra character.
To get a more clear vision for how these things will come together to meet all the requirements, I start to sketch them out, making subtle additions and changes and contemplating how it will be to explore this environment as a spider. I try to imagine this level before it exists and play it in my mind, making the most obvious corrections before the real work starts.
Lastly, I check a list of this game’s cool, new features to make sure this level showcases them well. In some cases, this prompts me to brainstorm up new ways to leverage them, but this level is looking pretty good already.
- animating environment – falling leaves, swaying plants
- moving surfaces – cattails and bell blowing in wind
- strong webs – large space between graves
- hidden insets – crickets in grass, rare moth?
- multiple planes – possible top-down view to be added later if needed
- parallax - plants and landscape, sides of some monuments
The most important new feature is what we call “conditions,” which refers to the fact that Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon uses custom locational magic to learn where you are in real life and match in the game what you see outside your window. So if it’s a clear day in real life, you’ll see a clear day in the game. If it’s a rainy night, you’ll find yourself exploring a dark graveyard in the rain, under the moonlight.
- conditions – rain and wind fx, droplets from the tree, mosquitoes and dragonflies when it rains, fireflies and crickets (hidden) at night, put the one special thing that only shows up on a certain day here?
Each possible condition comes with its own population of insects, making for a very different gameplay experience set in the same location. It’s a lot like getting four Spider games in one!
.. To Be Continued ..