NEWSLETTER # 3 – MAPS!
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This month I’d like to chat about a new feature we’ve added.
During the production of BONE TOTEM – and based on player feedback – we’ve concluded that we need to illustrate the relationship between characters in the physical space, as well as convey the scale of the environments in which the characters exist.
On DEEPSEA 15, where our intrepid heroes start their journey, the spatial relationship is simple, but as they progress and move further apart, it becomes more complex.
We have multiple characters – each with their own obstacles to overcome so locality can easily become overwhelming. From our perspective, it’s become important to visually represent each character’s journey. When designing each area, we try to make sure that the spaces are interconnected in a way that makes sense.
One of the best and simplest maps that were used to show progression, world scale, and looked awesome was the one used in Doom. Much like the maps from Mario, these top-down 2D maps made you want to know what was around the corner. They were extremely good at conveying information and progression plus they fitted into their game world.
Another map worthy of mention is that of Star Control 2. The star map was actually a gameplay device and it illustrated more than just player location and destination – it also conveyed story elements. When the Urquan started their death march, their sphere of influence would move around the map and consume other space-faring races.
Our early map prototype focused on using a 3D map (a similar concept as the one used in Dead Space 1, for example). This map, once we implemented it, looked cool but it was confusing, and considering the rest of the game is from a locked isometric view, we felt it wasn’t ideal.
There were a few hair-pulling moments and much prototyping! We then settled on a pre-rendered map, with internal layers that would slowly be revealed as the characters explored the world. The map is more graphically and production resource-intensive but it fits right into the graphical style that we have established.
The map gives us another gameplay tool to use – much like Hudson finding the PDTs in ALIENS, we can use the map as a way to solve puzzles, and give other information to our intrepid trio.
Getting these newer gameplay elements in early on in production is always helpful, as it gives us more and more tools to tell the story of STASIS: BONE TOTEM.