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Hearing in the Damp Grotto

Interacting closely with water, the grotto requires patience and awareness of your surroundings. 

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Sight in the Lone Canyon

Depending on sightlines, the canyon requires a good use of cover and speed. 

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Scent in the Misty Peaks

Interacting with water and dynamic wind, the Peaks require route adaptability and planning.

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InSight

Stealth | Experimental | Free

InSight - an innovative approach to stealth through sight, hearing and smell.

This project was born from an observation. So many stealth games I've played were incredibly sight-centric. Breaking line of sight, sticking to the shadows. But if you were trying to evade non-human creatures, surely they would rely more on their other senses. I set out to convey a realistic sense of smell and hearing as well as sight in this project.

It also provided a great level design exercise. As certain elements impact only certain enemies. Smelling Custodian AI is not impeded by walls, where they are critical to Seeing Sentinels AI.

The different enviorments must not get in the way of the enemies, but rather empower and showcase their differences and make them shine.

Project in development

Some sections will be less finished as content is still created

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Hearing

Detection based on a dynamic sound emission and fall-off system

Hide 'behind' loud objects and avoid loud water splashes

 
the evolution of the

Damp Grotto

With puddles, waterfalls and dripping stalactites filling the grotto and a noticeable absence of a sky overhead,  this cave is far darker and more enclosed than the areas outside. 

The cave is home to the Sentries - creatures that detect the player through sound. If the player is constantly running, or splashes around in a puddle for a bit too long, Sentries will notice. Thankfully, the water seeping into the grotto provides ample cover for those who use its dripping noise. 

Iterating Misty Peaks entrance

The entrance to an area defines expectations. This entrance abruptly takes the player from the wide open stone bridge into a tiny, tense area with a hearing enemy and no cover. This is less than ideal and needs a lot of work.

Scheduled for iteration!
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1/4

The grotto is unique in its approach to darkness and can use lights to guide the player far more than the other areas. This advantage is criminally underused as of yet.

 

Playtesting revealed the darkness was too much for most players and the deep rubble pits did not seem lethally deep.

Across the entire grotto, lights were adjusted, overall brightness raised and rubble pits lowered about thrice as deep as they were befoerehand.

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Initial
Final

Lighting and depth pass

18/06/2022

1/2

The entrance to a space establishes the viewer's expectations. 

At first, I wanted to frame each of the paths, based on their difficulty - with the easiest area on the left in a very open frame, and the hardest (on the right) partly through the rubble. 
 

That solution hinged on one critical viewing point or very exact path. Realizing this, I decided to instead reveal and conceal the various points of interest as the player travels around the entrance hall-using very simple denial and reward.

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Initial
Final

Iterating Main Entrance 

4/04/2022

1/3

The Cauldron is a short, yet intense encounter. It pushes the player the closes to the Sentries, it's also very compact and provides cover through a conveniently positioned waterfall.

The shortcut to the butterfly room was tricky, though needed to ensure multiple access points. While hidden enough to not be confused with the main path, both its exits must make it clear where the player ended up. The first shortcut was too straight- it seemed like an alternative path to the same objective, rather than than a shortcut to a different room entirely.

 

The nest was moved from the bottom of the cauldron to an elevated area on the edge of the lake

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Initial
Final

Iterating Cauldron room

3/04/2022

1/3
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Initial
Final

Iterating Butterfly room

The butterfly room is the longest encounter- with multiple safespots for pacing the tension.

At first, the player was to make their way through the middle of the butterfly, then either left or right, to arrive at the objective in the middle. This did not work well in play-testing and underused sentry's patrol area. The objective was moved to the left side- the middle path now used as a high-risk shortcut right through the enemy's patrol area.

The nests new location also links it to the smell area entrance.

30/03/2022

 
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Sight

Detection based on sight-lines and height differences

Hide behind cover or on high ground.

Sight area iteration

1/5

The entrance to an area ought to establish its gimmick in a reasonably safe and digestible manner. With sight hinging on sight-lines and height, it's critical to establish the interplay between these two clearly.

The new version allows the player to choose between height advantage with lesser cover or no height advantage with more cover - achieving a better blend between these two factors and a more open-ended gameplay.

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Initial
Final

Main entrance iteration

14-16/06/2022

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Smell

Detection based on tracks, affected by time and dynamic wind

Hide by making your path hard to follow, using wind and water to disrupt the pursuit.

 
the evolution of the

Mistery peaks

Covered in clouds, the peaks have an airy yet eerie feel. Sharp cliffs, long falls and even longer sightlines, give this area a sense of scale far larger than the other zones.

The peaks are populated by  Custodians- enemies that react to scent. Try not to run to sweat less, read the wind to use it to your advantage, or use water to make tracking you harder. Planning your escape route will be the difference between suspected and being detected.

Hallow column iteration

Scheduled for iteration!

The empty column (the small cave the player enters the area through) is rather disorienting. Though it does provide some room to evade the smelling enemy its layout is essentially a labyrinth, with very little room for strategy.

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Greenery pass

Scheduled for iteration!

The area has a good shape but severely lacks visual variety, colour. It resembles more the dry deserts of Utah than misty mountains. Taking inspiration from the Chineese Yellow mountains, I hope to add some real visual variety through modular plants.

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1/7


The alternative entrance to the grotto was very underwhelming. It was not a clear edge between the grotto and peaks.

It ought to be a middle-ground between a very open space and a de-facto interior,  have prominent water elements as they are common for both areas and have a calm ambiance to fit well within two fairly intense enemy encounters.

I'm particularly pleased with the curved incline, as it combines beautifully with the waterfalls to guide the players eyes to the upper floor.

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Initial
Final

Grotto entrance

26/08 - 04 /09/2022

1/6


Despite the individual areas having decent verticality, the layout of the entire zone was completely flat  (it was planned out in 2D). Similarly individual columns offer multiple paths, the entire area is painfully linear.

I've added multiple access points for more player freedom, as well as open-able paths.

 

I really liked the bridges around the cave column for their visual guidance, and how they emphesise height. I decided to expand them and I'm very pleased with the results.

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Initial
Final

Layout pass #2

25 - 28 /08/2022

1/4

 

The entrance to an area defines expectations- it must establish height, long sightlines and clouds. No wind nor water yet, as they are more advanced tracking evasion tools, that deserve their own introduction at a proper time. 

With the pathway curving in the opposite way, visibility is far better. By breaking up the sightlines by the nest and under it, reveals are made more impactful and dramatic. By adding a tiny cave before the path, another reveal moment is created- this one focused on establishing the direction through very purposeful framing.

The inverted path curve, along with adjusted clouds makes the height noticeably more oppressing.

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Initial
Final

Main entrance iteration

07 - 12 /04/2022

1/7


The dead-end area had poor pacing. After the intense snake pass, there was no place to rest before being thrown into another intense section- the dead end.

Through making the player travel up the mountain instead, not only is the pacing less jarring, but the arrival at the nest is more rewarding as well. The player first sees the nest from the snake pass, but can't get directly to it. They then see the nest again from the top of the mountain and the tunnel, as they get closer, but it is still out of reach.

By obscuring the destination throughout the path and extending the journey, I make use of denial and reward to make the arrival that much more impactful. Second pass added alternative paths and more smart sightline denial.

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Initial
Final

Dead end iteration

06-08/04/2022

& 22-24/06/2022

1/4


The initial design of creating the area around 3 monolithic octagonal columns was good enough for developing the scent mechanics, but blocked wind far too much for.

By moving the columns further apart and connecting them through small, winding paths, the Mistery Peaks took on a uniquely open plan with long sightlines broken up by huge rocks and mist.

Objectives are no longer placed immediately after an encounter, rather shown before an encounter, to attract the player and make them move. This, combined with a shortcut to the hearing grotto create a far more engaging and interconnected space.

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Initial
Final

Expanding and reworking anchors

09 - 19/03/2022

A closer look at the enemies

But how do they hear?

Sight

The simplest of the 3 senses.
A sentinel has a large conical trigger attached.
If the player enters said trigger, it will try to raycast at the player. If the raycast is succesful, the player is directly in sight. The player will then build up detection every tick until the raycast is blocked by some obstacle.

Height advantage is created by angling the conical trigger, making its range far shorter at the top, than at the bottom- making sentinels far more dangerous if they have height advantage, and far easier to dodge if the player has said advantage.

Hearing

Each sentry holds a list of AudioSource components in their vicinity along with their volume and distance to them. These 2 values are used to calculate weighted noise though a layered logarithmic falloff curve. AudioSources are sorted by their weighted noise, resulting in a list where the loudest, closest objects are at the top and subtler noise at the bottom.

The players steps are at different volume depending on whether they are running/walking/sneaking and whether they are in water. If this volume creates a weighed noise higher then the enviornment noise, player builds up detection on every step
(interval depends on sneaking/walking/running)

Smell

The grotto is unique in its approach to darkness and can use lights to guide the player far more than the other areas. This advantage is criminally underused as of yet.

 

Playtesting revealed the darkness was too much for most players and the deep rubble pits did not seem lethally deep.

Every creature locates scent nodes in its proximity - said nodes are generated regularly by the player, forming a chain. The creature follows the chain to the player, by path-finding to the most recent track in its range. This range is offset by dynamic wind to add more variety.  

They will naturally take shortcuts if the player crosses the same place twice. If the player moves  intelligntly, and uses water which doubles the dissapearing speed, the tracks will dissipate before the creature reaches them- letting the player escape.

 

Play Now

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Absolutely tremendous. It may just be the greatest thing to ever grace this cursed land. Be sure to give it a shot.
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-Mick

No official reviews yet! Contact me to become a part of the beta testing!

-Mick

The sheer impact of this project has made me reconsider my entire future, opting to pursue a career in level design. Would play again.
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-Mick