HAVE A SUPER FREAKING AWESOME DAY
This project is a little out there. It's kind of like my personal Stanley Parable, or rather The Beginners Guide if you've played that (it's ok if you haven't, but you might like it if you clicked on this).
It's a personal story about finding your place in the world and realising how little control you really have. And finding peace in that.
Pretentious I know but I managed to squeeze in a lot of level design and gamification in here.
What I did:
Took the project from Pre-Production to Whitebox Playable
5 weeks of work half time
Level streaming and gameplay scripting
Whitebox meshes created in Blender
What I had help with:
Some meshes borrowed off sketchfab.
This is a linear story following a man in his early twenties struggling with finding his way in the world, always second guessing his actions.
My focus was to make a complete game structured like a pilot episode of a series. It has a five act composition that takes the player on a quest to find meaning in their life and in their days.
Act 1: The Shitty Apartment
The player wakes in a room lit only by the static of a TV. Nothing about the place sparks joy. Not anymore.
It's time to go to work. And in fact, you're late.
Act 2: The Store
Once you get there it feels like you're not yourself. It's like you're watching someone else do menial tasks in a retail store.
That's when a white rabbit appears. It makes a hole in the floor and disappears down it.
Act 3: The Forest
Upon entering, you fall into a forest scene. There’s sunlight sifting through a canopy of green, red, and gold. Your dad is there and you're picking mushrooms together like you used to.
But something is wrong. Dad's acting weird. You get lost as the sun sets and start wandering the thick forest as the dark settles.
Act 4: Foggy
You come upon a cabin with the lights on.
Looking for shelter you walk in through the open door in the patio into the dark house.
Act 5: The Cabin in Space
As you do the lights come on, you realize it's the sun coming in through the blinds. There are labeled cardboard boxes everywhere. It doesn't look like the inside of a cabin. Rather it looks like your apartment but different.
You can hear the shower running. After a few moments a woman appears. She says: "I gotta go to work, good luck unpacking. Have a super freaking awesome day, ok?", and as she leaves the sun goes back down.
The walls start to come apart and they float away, revealing open space behind them. You can look down on earth as you drift further and further away.
Credits roll. I thank the player and wish them a super freaking awesome day.
I knew the risk I was taking with this project: It's hard to explain, gamifying the events of the story needed a lot of designing to give the player agency and I didn't know how interested other people might be in playing it. I had a good gut feeling. I wanted to explore game and level design on a smaller, more experimental scale.
The idea of this experience was born during my time studying game design on Gotland, an island in the middle of the baltic sea that hosts a university inside the medieval city of Visby. When the time arrived for me to plan my portfolio I knew in the back of my head that it was time. I wanted it to showcase my indie side and interest in narrative structure.
Before pre-prod even started and I was working on my other pieces I locked in what my five acts needed and I wrote the story down in a notebook and I read it to some trusted friends, as well as Tommy Norberg, my level design teacher at TGA.
It was important to quickly set up a proof of concept. Once production started I set up clear goals for what I wanted to accomplish over the 5 weeks I had given myself to make this thing, and I prototyped the whole experience during the first week, making one act per day.
Alpha to Gold
I ripped the prototype apart and started again, making it right. The most drastic change I made was switching camera perspective from third to mainly first person.
Me testing features during alpha, still in third person.
One of my main focus points was making the transitions between different scenes feel fluid and smooth but I think I came up a bit short in that respect. I wanted to polish and I had plenty of ideas of how to do them but time ran short.
Dealing with AI
Using behavior trees, I scripted three AI characters that would move the story forwards, as well as subvert expectations.
A rude customer, a helpful, strange, mushroom-picking dad and a past girlfriend.
I'm proud of what I accomplished. There's a lot about it I want to iterate on, first and foremost the transitions between scenes. In their current state they are a bit too fast and jarring. I want them to be slower and more deliberate. I want more spotlights going on and off, directing focus.
I want to add gameplay in the forest, including a scene where you find the rabbit stuck in a trap and injured where the dad mercifully kills it while you watch.
Ultimately I think it's time to move on and take these lessons with me on my future projects.
Have a super freaking awesome day,