Through their eyes

Project Brief

  • Client Project (The Chinese Room): The brief required us to create a short game, from the perspective of stray animal(s). 

Roles: Narrative / Level Designer & Animator

  • Developed the Mechanics Guide for the project and collaborated with the team to document various tools used in the creation of the game.
  • Instrumental in developing the overall narrative of the game, from pitching and consolidating ideas, clarifying direction and inclusion of any additional narrative story elements.
  • Developed the Level Design Document (LDD) for the final arc in the game.
  • Rapidly prototyped, grey boxed and managed the final arc in the game from pre-production through production and coordinated with the art, audio, programming, and design teams to develop the level as an emotional experience.
  • Solely responsible for the animation of Heather the cat (main character) and developed the base mesh for same.
  • Collaborated with the programming team to develop the movement, look, and feel of Heather the cat from the players perspective.
level design breakdown

This was the starting point for the level design – a very quickly and briefly drawn out map to understand where objects, puzzles, and interactions could be, which would therefore determine the players path through the level. As the final area was meant to be an open plan area, the level was designed keeping in mind player freedom and giving them the option to explore the area.

As the project progressed, the level went through a second iteration based on the time, available resources and expectations.

On the right is a roughly drawn map for the new proposed level. In this case, the level focused on using rubbish in the space to hide collectibles and items that the player could search for. 

However, due to the limited availability of the space, the map didn’t have a plausible explanation to block the player from the end location without solving a puzzle. Making the map very straightforward.

After more discussions and some compromises, the final act was redesigned to use half the overall space initially proposed. The reason being to add a barrier that the player must pass in order to reach the final end game area. This was to prevent players from simply bypassing the area on a whole to go to the end game area. The new design encourages the player to search through and explore the space to find the end game area.

Above on the left, you will find the initial map briefly drawn to ensure clarity on the team. Following which on the right, a clearly drafted level detail map was developed. I chose to include possible areas of flower beds, and trees, for the former to act as points of interest and therefore act as guides, while the latter were used mostly to block off players immediate line of sight.

After the map design was finalized, I worked on detailing the hero areas. As these were small spaces and meant to be piles of rubbish, I used the cardboard boxes and stacked them to create a fun space for players to explore. In some cases, I used these boxes to create a puzzle, where players could push the boxes aside to reveal a path / item. 

Below is what the cardboard piles look like in the engine, with small changes made to avoid clutter, thereby allowing players to very easily navigate in and out of the areas without clipping through objects. In order to make the ‘hero’ areas a playful place to investigate, small gaps were created in the cardboard piles so players could peer into it and hop in out of curiosity. 

The most important part of the level was to make sure the player felt the stark difference between the cityscape and the garden area.

This became a collaborative challenge between the design and art team. Part of the challenge was re-using art assets developed for the city scape that wouldn’t look out of place in the garden, in order to reduce the load on the art team.

On the design side however, finding a way to create an almost magical entrance was the real challenge, which is the reason why Heather the cat enters the garden area by crawling through a wall.

For the other areas in the level, the most important aspect in design was considering how the player would navigate the area and therefore their line of sight. Placement of trees, boxes and dividing the garden were important considerations towards creating negative and positive spaces, to encourage players to explore areas more densely packed.

One of the fun areas finally developed in the level was the garden shed’s rooftop area. This part of the level I created after drawing parallels between players and cats who often enjoy finding ways to get to places they shouldn’t be.

Hiding one of the cat collars out of sight for such players allowed me to create a space to tell a story. I imagined it was a place where a cat and their person who enjoyed their time on this rooftop a little too much.

Through their eyes game trailer & screenshots

Here is a link to the team’s project page on itch, where you can download and play the final build of the game! Below you can find the trailer video and screenshots of other areas in the final game.