Level Design - Updated


Where we are so far:
------------------------------for newcomers (welcome!): Please read----------------------------------

The previous Level Design Thread regards the previous game story that has been changed which made it outdated, but it’s a useful link for the initial Beach level discussions. Its posts were closely tied with the Narrative Thread and the Cooking/Gameplay Thread which seem to have closed their circles of discussions for the time being as well.
From here on, we will continue discussions based on the updates that you can find here:
Miro Game Map
Game Design Wiki
You can find a summary of what has been discussed by the community regarding the gameplay here: Cooking/Gameplay summary document but keep in mind this is NON-OFFICIAL. Meaning that these are just community concerns and not Unity’s decisions, but might be useful to go through our approach.

This thread should now work closely with the Concept Art Thread and the Whiteboxing Thread in the following manner (unless recommended otherwise):
Level Design -> discussions + map drawings (2d) that could get inspired from Concept Art
Concept Art-> environment sketches that should come out of the Level Design discussions

Whiteboxing-> the outcome of the previous two, translated into 3d inside Unity+whiteboxing tools discussions

So lets talk about…the Town.

////////////////Bringing in discussions that have already started in the Concept Art thread:
[mention|EWwvlO8d6a9manLmnXleDw==] imagined some uniform - lightweight houses, including observation towers, guards and proposing a more “community”, “primitive” approach (regarding the era) that’s protecting itself from..critters? (see the concept art here )
@cirocontinisio imagines a more modern structure referencing the initial concept art that was made as a rough idea
[mention|U7td8qjISibth6KRlEEjXg==] tried to combine the two approaches in a more dense layout with an ourskirts-town center differentiation that clearly had a social class hierarchy, something that has also been brought up in the Narrative thread discussions before. This reasonably led to more building variations while introducing authority buildings like a Townhall as well. (here )
And lastly I posted a “world map” proposal to get a sense of the broader universe, for the different characters and settings our islands could have ( here ). //////////////////////////////

Now we could imagine all kinds of structures and materials but I think everything falls under one main umbrella question:
What kind of society (and land) do we want our Towsfolk to live in?

Not to get (too) political (there is no right or wrong and we won’t be able to solve real world problems here) but we could think of what kind of history could that place have, what “people” do we get the impression they are, are they open/closed, is this a utopia? Do we want social class, authority, or do we prefer them to be a community of equals? How do we imagine labor distributed? How are goods distributed? Do they have money? How is the cooking festival taking place?
It would be helpful:
1. If you could pose questions and answers clearly to be easier for the rest to follow your line of thought and make posts more readable.
2. If you could explain “why” you propose what you propose instead of going with “I just like it”.

itsLevi0sa asked some really good questions that will be of good reference when we build our island. So I'm going to (try to) answer some of them, as well as adding new ones to the mix. Starting with:

Because he's a part of the community too, right? Well... hares certainly don't look like this, so maybe he has different origins that the others. But why does he live alone on the beach? It is his own choice, or did the townsfolk banned hom from the city (for whatever reason)? Does he LIKE to live alone on the beach, or is he trying to find a way to get back in the community? From this may depend how he talks to us. He could see us as a mean to be allowed into the village again, or maybe he doesn't mind us going there, or he warns us that it could be dangerous.
Oh, and how did he get on the island? Was there a purpose, or a shipwreck? Or was he a part of another faction that lived on the island, and he is the last one remaining?

If they have money or not largely depends on what the cooking/gameplay thread decides about gathering ingredients. If the player is able to buy/sell items to the townsfolk then yes, they have money.
Also, I see them having some kind of social hierarchy, but not a strict form of government, with written rules and all that stuff. Maybe there are some people that are just more trusted that others, like Fry King.
If they are a closed society, it could be difficult for us to even join the cooking party, but it could also explain why they decided (if they did) to exile BH. They were here before him, so he can go and live somewhere else. And since he is a bard, and not a cook like most of them, they didn't even let him have a chance. But we are a cook, so they could be a little more open to us. Still alert to our presence, but a little less hostile. And maybe - just maybe - they could let us in they famous cooking competition.

We have to decide if it is something they do regularly (every month, every year, every 100 years?) or it is something they organized just for us - to prove if we're worthy. They could have done the same when BH arrived, but since he can't cook, he obviously failed and got segregated on the beach. I personally would like the option "They do it every once in a while as a village tradition, but this time it's also an opportunity to test us". It would make sense, and it would not diverge too much from what has already been done in the other threads, making it easy to implement. Which brings us back to...

Who for all this time living alone in his hut he tried again and again to gain the acceptance of the townsfolk.
He spent all his free time trying to learn to cook - not to achieve great things, but to make something just decent, that would grant him the benevolence of the natives. And this time, during the very instance of the festival that is about to happen, he thinks he has a chance of winning, and so he is setting off to the village, trying to join a second time.

That is why he has all of his stuff dropped on the road, blocking our path to the village, and is anxious about anything bad that could happen (like, for example, a random pig breaking one of his crates):

I'm sorry, I didn't want to turn this into a placement for my own idea :roll_eyes:, but as you can see it makes even more sense now (at least in THIS version of the story)

Of course I didn't say all that could be said (for example, I didn't say anything about the island itself) and I encourage other people from the community to continue from here (or rewrite this entirely from scratch, if you don't like it :) )

Oh, and I'm also sorry that I wrote this entire thing just two hours before the update livestream but now is when I have free time :p

[quote=“NicknEmart”, post:2, topic: 815616]
Oh, and I’m also sorry that I wrote this entire thing just two hours before the update livestream but now is when I have free time :stuck_out_tongue:
Wait wait wait, what’s this thing called free time? I’ve never heard of it. :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, yeah, wanted to get my interpretation going up in the dialogue and narrative thread last night, but didn’t have the time. Would do it now, but since my idea varies from this one a fair bit and the live stream may take us in a third direction, especially since the latest Miro board shows bard hare in many places including the town itself, will hold off for now.


One thing I would like to address regardless of the stream, however, is what kind of environmental puzzles are we thinking about? There’s a section called “forest maze,” in particular, that I’d be interested to see what we can think of, and if I have time myself later tonight or tomorrow, will try to draw something up. :slight_smile:

EDIT: Also forgot to mention that I don’t see the slime critters anywhere in the Miro board, just plant and rock now. Maybe these can be scattered in all areas?

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For puzzles when I was contemplating suggesting boss critters I had come up with lair being a puzzle rather than 1 on 1 combat.
So to defeat a boss I have to solve the lair puzzle while dodging the boss's attack and once the puzzle is solved the lair collapses on to the boss and we get the loot.

For maze puzzles we can do is have silly potions like turn into an animal who always smashes the maze with its instincts for a brief duration.
For example hedgehogs and ferret potions make hamlet immune to mazes.

Mmh... ugh... I don't know how to explain it... it... doesn't happen that often...

Hell, are we really sure that we're going to fit all this stuff into 14-15 minutes of gameplay? It feels to me that the game is asking for more... like, a lot more. But it might just be my inexperience, so we'll see

When there’s so many cooks in the kitchen, there will always be more ideas than time to execute them. While gameplay discussions mentioned exploration and puzzle solving, I’m starting to think that the false entrance/exit in the forest maze area is really the only “puzzle” per se. Probably for the best.

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What I am noticing is that we are kind of ignoring each other's input - not only the ones from other threads, sometimes even inside of the same discussion (I am guilty of this too). Unfortunately, a lot of things depend on other things, and we always have to think that what we're working on will have to fit into the rest. Here I am writing a list by priority (which again, as always, is my peronal opinion, which you can disagree with):

-What is the shape of the island? Having a map could help us design around views and vistas to create a more interesting and memorable scenery, and (more importantly) will always make sure that we're all on the same page. It doesn't have to be MY map, but designning an area with a clear outline makes for faster concept art and more overall cohesion and consistency.
For example, on the map that follows, there's a clear straight line from the village to the player's boat: the player can see the village up the mountain in the opening shot, immediately receiving a clear goal and landmark, and he can see his boat when up in the village, getting reminded of where he came from.


The rock formations on the other side of the beach, BH's house and the player's boad followed by the blue ocean are smaller yet still useful landmarks, preventing the player from getting lost on the beach.


I feel kind of beggy doing this, but please can we decide on the map? Are we using one, and if so, which one?
-As described in the first post of this thread, we can't make the city if we don't know anything about the city. We have to keep in mind the kind of terrain, surroundings, house height, those machineries discussed in the concept art thread that help the townsfolk collaborate, the kind of festival that will be hosted...
-The structure of the tutorial and the story events. Always have in mind the game flow chart (can't link the new one cause it hasn't been added to the miro board yet) and what's the player supposed to be doing in that area.

-Whitebox the beach area. That first iteration made by itsLevi0sa is great, but in can be improved (for example, I already expressed my perplexities about the canes being the main obstacle blocking our path). These days I will try to make my own version of it (so I'll shut up for a while, making all you people happy :smile:). This area is quite important because it defines what the player can and can't to when accessing the new area, and how well they can do it. It also need to hook the player both story-wise and gameplay-wise, and possibily even landscape-wise (wait, there's a village up there? do I get to visit it? - see why map and vistas have a high priority?)


-Whitebox the city BUT doing so while keeping an eye on the map and the concept art thread. Whiteboxing from scratch is great and gives you freedom, but if you get too far you could get attached to it, and it won't feel good if it gets scrapped because it clashes with the story and the environment.
-Start thinking about environmental puzzles and combat areas.

-Design the path through the forest and combat encounters, the glade, where are the ingredients located, balancing difficulty.

NOTE: The point of this wasn't to tell people what to do and what not to do - while I lie in my boss chair doing nothing but talk - but to get people to listen to one another, give feedback and express opinions, instead of just sharing great yet unrelated ideas


Yes, probabily for the best, agreed. Maybe with some indications from one of the townsfolk, but I wouldn't put too much focus on this aspect of the game, otherwise the player won't have a chance to appreciate the other bits of gameplay

I am not attached to it yet. I rather see the other problem that if we don't start somewhere, we will never start... So if we say we would like the village up on a cliff to be seen from below, I guess I can accomodate it, just making the lake a bay of the see, the upper part of the stream can still flow into it (I would like to have an excuse for a nice waterfall).
So if we say we go for the over all map proposed by @NicknEmart , I could modify the town's whiteboxing to sit on top of the cliff. Question to @itsLevi0sa : Do you think you have or could have a section on the road from which the village could be seen if was located on a cliff like in @NicknEmart map?
Assuming we all see this feasible, do we need to ask @cirocontinisio to give us a go?

Yes, that's another thing, which is really important too. Thank you for pointing it out.

From the background of how the map was created (e.g. with the cooking items), I know it wasn’t intentional, but I just can’t get over the fact that the island looks like the USA with a bit of Newfoundland where the beach is. :p

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@NicknEmart thank you for kicking off the discussion! You really put a lot of thought in this and you made some really good points, I deeply appreciate that. I'll add my thoughts as well:
Regarding the Bard Hare: I remember @michaelgrilo and others having similar concerns at the start of the Narrative thread with some cool ideas too. Some voices back then even wanted to link Bard Hare to our Phoenix Chick. Truth is, we never got any more information other than it is a friendly character and that we are going to meet him occasionally throughout the game in different places, giving us tips. So I guess Bard Hare is not really banned from Town since he can wander around there freely. But I do agree we need some more background on why he is here. Whatever that is though, I think it should not affect the gameplay in any way to not complicate stuff.
Regarding the competition: It’s stated in the story card that this is a yearly cooking festival so they would do it regardless of our arrival. It’s also stated that the people from town are celebrating and showing off their cooking prowess. So I get the impression that they are happy, open creatures that want to share with the world their love for cooking and showcase what they made. (Just like what we do with our little game we are making). Maybe Bard Hare is on the island to take part as well - as a traveller, like us? And maybe his goal is to have fun and make friends, that’s why he is friendly and not competitive? Maybe it’s not his first time, and that's why he knows so much.
Regarding the Map: I actually like that map and it does indeed help, starting from the general to the more specifics is a good way to go I think! Nice remark on the sea rocks as navigation helpers didn’t think of that. The only thing is, to my understanding, that the beach, town, forest etc will be different scenes that are going to be loaded separately with our character sort of exiting one-entering another one. Would that mean that we will not be able to show distant places in the horizon then because they will be on a different scene? Would this be because of optimization reasons? I don’t know.
Regarding the environmental puzzles: seems we go for the Forest maze for now, but maybe we could introduce something for the Rock Path or the Glade in the future as well (maybe we could fit in @aby_gamemaker 's idea with that little lair!I liked the idea of making something collapse to solve a puzzle that you proposed)
Regarding the Town: One concern I would like to discuss is the Entrance, our first experience of it. It could either be from below or from above I guess. I imagine Hamlet approaching Town from a higher point actually, so he can have a better overview of how it’s laid out and where the points of interest are.
Another concern is that “This cooking festival consists of different small events”, which are going to give our side missions I guess. Would these events need separate spaces? What could these events be? I think of it like a music festival where you have a main stage (main Festival square) but you could wander around the smaller ones (alleys?smaller squares?) and see what else is there before the big event starts.
@Smurjo yes, we should totally have a waterfall I think it's a great idea! And perhaps some water streams. That’s a good way to show some town structure actually around it. Maybe we could think of water mills and ways the water gets distributed to different parts-aiding the cooking?
Regarding your question, not sure I understood, you mean to work further on the road on the Beach Whiteboxing to show the town in the distance as shown on the map?

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It's actually far easier to show distant places than places close by. You simply have a 2D picture with a transparent sky facing the right direction. When approaching the player shortly looses sight of it (some cleverly placed rocks or trees? Or a cutscene when the player meets someone?) - this is when the real scene will be loaded and the 2D deactivated (you don't want it standing around in the city). It's difficult to replace the 2D with the 3D in full sight, because then the 2D really has to match the 3D perfectly, size, position and all at the moment the 3D is loaded - when the loading might take slightly different time depending on the device and the player might be more left or right or might or might not walk during the loading.

You got my question right. The point of placing the town on top of the cliff is that it can be seen on the way from the beach as in @NicknEmart 's picture. I said I can place the town on the cliff, but why should I bother if there isn't a sensible way to see it. Here of cause the player also has to look upwards (Any smart ideas to make the player look upwards?) - the beach can't be above the cliff in 3D space.

"Maybe we could think of water mills and ways the water gets distributed to different parts-aiding the cooking?" I guess a water mill is comparably easy, I already have a house in just the right spot (mostly a concept art and 3D modeling thing). Distributing the water ... So far I have provided a well, which is comparably low effort to make in 3D. Alternatively the water could be running through the town in channels as well as the waste water (if there are visibly huge quantities of water flowing in it would feel weird if they just disappear). The player would have to navigate carefully, so he doesn't accidentally fall into the channels all the time and we need to provide bridges (of cause we could have the player crossing the channels without anything happening but that wouldn't feel natural). Aqueducts? They certainly could look spectacular. A single aqueduct, leading to the towncenter and a waste water channel from the town center to the cliff might be feasibly without affecting the player's movement too much or blocking his view too much (if we had aqueducts along all the streets there might be nothing to see but aqueducts). I think it needs to be optional though, depending whether the 3D art can be made.

Ok I will give it a try.

I guess we can always figure out a solution now that we can orbit the camera. However, given the map, between the Beach and the Town there is a Glade area, which is actually where we are going to meet the Bard Hare ( @NicknEmart since you are going through the Whiteboxing maybe you should take that update into consideration?Looking forward to see what you'll make). So if we have an ascending path from the beach to a Glade high above the sea level maybe we could be able to see the Town from above later on, if we were to place it on a cliff edge and not on top of the cliff and descend to it from the Glade. @Smurjo maybe I should try both approaches actually one from below, and one from above to test how it feels.
For some reason, I got the intro from Myst IV playing in my mind, where after a short coaster ride you get introduced to an overview of the town of Tomahna in such a beautiful way.

It's funny actually, I just saw on the wiki that "it was built near a running river and a waterfall powered the structures by the means of a waterwheel." Not to copy it of course, just wanted to share a reference.

quote="Johanna Zschocke, post:13, topic:815616, username:Smurjo"
The original story card had the game automatically pan up to see stuff in the distance when Hamlet first arrives on the island. Can't seem to find that wording now, but I think it'd make sense to keep this in as a mechanism to show the player what's to come, especially since the island and town card mentions a mountain in the center of the island.

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One thing I don't understand form the new game design board: is the tutorial made up of two dishes? The first dish is cooked for ourselves, and the second one is "commissioned" from a character?

I'm a bit confused about that as well, I've been envisioning the Bard Hare being the one that asks Hamlet to cook him something, triggering the cooking tutorial. The only way I could see Hamlet cooking himself a dish first is if he already has one basic known recipe and just happens to come upon the ingredients on the beach and decides to make himself something because he's hungry.

Actually I had an idea about how the player could cook their first dish all on their own, but it'll take a while to explain with just words, so I'll just make the whiteboxing and show it from there

Yes @Smurjo nailed it.
Example of that is the mmo adventure quest 3d. They have full world map as well as you see key structures from neighbouring maps in the distance. You get a loading screen if you cross over into the next map.

They have even divided their main town into districts. And yes you get a loading screen crossing into the the town's seperate districts as well.

We can use this district concept to make a mario like structure where a single stage has 4 worlds or challeges.
But then to fit in 4 different challenges in the scope of the demo, the challenges will have to be very simple like rune matching or match 3 puzzles.
Even the snowball bowling minigame from the BOTW is great idea we can strain and derive.

I am a bit confused about that part too. I think the second dish is to demonstrate an "unlocked" way of cooking after you obtained a new utensil/reward to get used to the fact that side characters can give hints to side missions that might bring something new to your cooking! I was wondering if that initial character is going to be Bard Hare, and if the two locations that are mentioned in the "tutorial" are going to be the Beach and the Glade.