OPEN WORLD ACTION ADVENTURE
This project was born when I thought to myself: "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a game set in the world of Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind?". Being from 1984 the film still feels like a fresh take on the a post apocalypse with a world full of incredible, mysterious, environments, beasts larger than life and political intrigue. A perfect setting for an open world action adventure.
The experience became centered around story progression featuring hourglass design where gameplay beats we're deliberately staged.
I also deviced a train system that connected the world and that I utilized to tie gameplay together and help the player traverse the vast world.
What I did:
Took the project from Pre-Production to Whitebox Playable
5 weeks of work half time
Train functionality prototyping
Enemy spawning and other events
Whitebox meshes created in Blender
What I had help with:
UE 4.27 Advanced Locomotion project by JakubW (https://www.patreon.com/JakubW)
World and characters inspired by the 1984 film Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind directed by Hayao Miyazaki
A thousand years ago civilization was ruined by giant warriors.
The main character of the 1984 film has a flying speeder that she uses to travel around vast wastes of desert and while that would have been a great main mechanic but would require a lot of game design around the speeder, and I did prototype it but wasn't satisfied with the results. I wanted to focus on the world design and I wanted to feature a large expansive world. The player was going to need to traverse it somehow, and that's when the idea of a train system was hatched.
I spent the first day or so gathering images from the movie (I also re-watched it), and scowered the internet to see what other designers out there had done with the concept.
Blockout: Finding scale and Points of Interest
I set about creating points of interest and connecting them to the train network all the while considering a variety of gameplay beats for pacing.
Early iteration of onboarding, testing windmills.
Blockout of the old trainyard in the toxic village.
Framing the church quest.
Blockout of inside the toxic jungle.
Prototyping the train.
Prototyping the train ambush.
I toyed around with slightly different concepts for the valley of the wind area, arriving at one that more closely worked better with the train network.
Enemies & Combat
The AI-characters came with the project by Jakub W. I used them to tell the story and vary the gameplay. The bandits are smart and shoot from range while zombies run at the player in great numbers. They can be set on each other.
I had to be wary of the navmesh, making sure they were compatible with their environment.
Bandits preparing for war.
Zombies can overrun the bandits.
In the final showdown you'll face both.
The character controller givs a lot of variety in types of traversal what I combined and used to give the player choice of how to move around the world and to approach areas in different ways.
Climbing in from a vantage point.
Gliding down slopes at high speeds.
Gameplay beats, points of interest and biomes
The Valley of the Wind
A safe haven protected by the winds from the sea.
Introduces the player to the world
First encounter with the train
A infestation is threatening the safety of the village.
Introduces combat with zombies
The sun is glaring as the train emerges from the darkness of the tunnel.
Introduces the larger world
First view of the giant warrior
Your train ride is rudely interrupted by bandits.
Introduces combat with human bandits
The Last Village Before the Desert
A small rugged outpost keeping tabs on the outside world.
A hub for the player to return to in the desert
The Village Taken by the Jungle
Once a prosperous industrial town, but that was long ago.
To progress, the player must brave this inhospitable infested place
The Pit of the Hero's Journey
The city is running out of resources and are preparing to go to war.
Fight both Pejite soldiers and zombies
Ends with an action packed train fight.
This was a huge and sprawling project. It's my first open world and I spent a lot of time philosophizing about open world design, adapting an existing IP and making it my own, as well as adjusting to player metrics. Honestly it felt like two different projects that were difficult to mesh. The further I developed the world the further I went from Nausicaa.
Omitting the speeder from the film and opting for trains had deep repercussions to the worldbuilding and I don’t think I dealt with it fully. In any case it was a great learning experience and I feel I have a deeper understanding of open world vs linear level design.
Enjoy the rest of your day,