Games Development – Week 7

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Major/Minor Synopsis

Major

The major focus of this GDD is mechanics. It will give potential future designers an idea of what some core elements of A Starless Sky should be like, as well as a rough idea of how they should play. The main mechanic of the game is the interactive environment, which the player utilises to navigate the game’s open world. It is showcased in a rough form in Prototype Three. This prototype showcases the important elements of the interactive environment and how they should basically function, as well as the torchlight mechanic and giving an idea of how that should be incorporated as well.
The first prototype showcases the torch mechanic, as well as basic movement and environment design (utilising placeholder sounds and graphics). The second one shows off the Unseen enemy and how the player might go about evading them with the Hiding mechanic.
The three prototypes give a rough idea of how the game should look and feel, as well as insight into the main mechanics of A Starless Sky and how they should be incorporated into the open world environment.

The full outline of the game’s mechanics can be found here.

 

Minor

The minor focus of this GDD is the narrative of the game. The story is one of the most important elements of this game so it was important that it be written in its entirety in order to give designers a good idea of what the game revolves around as well as what directions some parts of the environmental design will need to take. A Starless Sky is largely a mystery game, and many of said mysteries will be unraveled in the story so it is a core element of the gameplay.
The story focuses on the player and their struggle to escape the alien planet that they have crashed upon. They will need to utilise mechanics in the game to reach pieces of their ship and repair it successfully, as well as then explore and discover the mystery of the Unseen.

The full narrative of the game can be found here.

 

Design Goals

Addictive Exploration

The primary design goal of A Starless Sky is exploration. The player is provided with a large open world to explore that has ancient ruins and crashed starships that are hundreds of years old. Each location contains story/lore (Lore Logs) about the place as well as a special item that the player can use to aid them on their journey. They can also find collectable Mini Statues in ruins as well as in certain story based places (the Maze & Sinkhole), encouraging the player to go back after they complete the narrative. The experience of exploration in the game combined with using the interactive environment to navigate the open world should be what the player enjoys doing the most, and should be an exciting and engaging experience.

 

An Intriguing Mystery

One of the largest elements of the game is the mystery surrounding the alien world that the player has crashed on. The planet is in near complete darkness, so there will be a great deal in terms of the environment that will be a mystery to the player. The ruins and crashed starships that can be found add to this by providing lore, and the Unseen antagonists are a mystery of their own. The unknown should intrigue the player and inspire them to pursue the story of the game, as well as continue exploring for more clues to unravel the mystery.

 

An Engaging Storyline

The narrative of the game is there to provide the player with a loose line to follow in the open world experience ( so that they do not get too lost in exploring), as well as being satisfying upon completion. The story is secondary to exploration, but is very important as it adds to the gameplay and provides answers to some of the biggest mysteries in the game.

 

Difficult Yet Satisfying Gameplay

The antagonists of the game are difficult to see and even more difficult to combat, making some encounters surprising and problematic, and some elements of the exploration and story scary and tough to beat. The game is difficult to make the gameplay more interesting as well as satisfying, for example when the player successfully hides or escapes from an enemy.

Game Overview

A Starless Sky is a singleplayer 2D open world exploratory mystery game, where the player has crashed their ship on a dark alien planet, and must navigate the interactive environment to find the three lost pieces of their ship and repair it successfully to escape. Along the way they will encounter hostile beings called the Unseen, who will do whatever it takes to stop the player.

 

Story Overview

The main story of the game involves finding the three missing pieces of the player’s crashed spaceship (entitled the Aeoniflyer) and then what happens afterwards; a fairly detailed narrative that intertwines the mystery of the planet and the player as they try to uncover it. They must track down the source of the signal that brought down their ship in the first place, and investigate a massive ancient vessel that contains the secrets of the Unseen. Throughout the narrative they will be pursued by a colossal horror that will stop at nothing to prevent the player escaping, and they must transverse the darkest and most dangerous areas of the planet in order to defeat it.

The full narrative of the game can be found here.

 

Core Mechanics/Gameplay

The main mechanic of A Starless Sky is the interactive environment; interacting with certain plants or trees can trigger their defense mechanisms, and can cause the environment around the player to change. They must choose their movements carefully, as touching or even getting close to certain trees and plants could set the world around them on fire, or flood it with water. Some elements of the interactive environment will help the player (one plant can grow a giant stalk that can help the player reach new heights) and some will hinder them (upon sighting them, another plant will trap the player and call nearby Unseen to it). These are present throughout the large planetary landscape, and the player must choose how they utilize them wisely.

In addition to this, the alien planet the player is on is in near-darkness. They must use the provided torch in order to see, although they can just about make out silhouettes around them without the light. There is also a day/night cycle, where the day is near-darkness and the night is pitch-blackness. The player can choose to brave the night or head back to their ship to sleep through it.

Throughout the game the player can encounter several alien creatures. The main creature and antagonist of the game are the Unseen; a semi-visible shadow monster that will kill the player on sight. Due to the darkness of the planet, it is very difficult to see them so the player will have to rely heavily on sound in order to detect the Unseen and other creatures and successfully avoid them. They can do this by hiding or running in the early game, and using special items later on. They can also encounter small passive creatures called Critters that sometimes follows them around, or larger passive creatures called Runners that move fast and can trample the player if they are not careful.

Exploration is also a core mechanic of A Starless Sky. In addition to the main story, the player can explore the open world. They can find ruins of old civilisations which contain certain special items, Mini Statue collectables and Lore Logs about the civilisation. They can also come across crashed starships that contain Lore Logs about the ships and other special items that the player can use to aid them in their travels. The special items can be used in a limited capacity to combat the Unseen, as well as track down mysterious signals and aid the player in transversing the treacherous planetary terrain and completing the story,
Some of the story based locations also contain Mini Statue collectables and Lore Logs, encouraging the player to return after the story and explore more.

The full list of interactive environment elements and other mechanics can be found here.

 

UI Design

The UI of the game will be fairly simple, as the majority of the screen will be taken up by the environment around the player. The UI will consist of:

  • A health bar.
  • A toggle-able simple inventory bar – detailing which of the special items the player has and if applicable how long they have until recharged.
  • A toggle-able ship interaction window, where the player can:
    • See how many of the pieces they have found.
    • Translate alien languages found in ruins/crashed ships.
    • Track the time of day and current location.

UI Designs2

 

Target Audience

The target audience of A Starless Sky will be people that play 2D platformer games, as well as those who enjoy open world exploration and mystery genres. The game will have a certain level of scariness to it (due to the dark setting and the shadow monsters) as well as a certain amount of challenge so the target audience will be those who are 13 and over. The ESRB rating will be Teen as the game contains some violence and suggestive themes.

teen

 

Platforms (controller mapping)

The main platforms for the game will ideally be PC and PlayStation 4. The game controls are fairly simple so mapping them to both keyboard/mouse and controller should be fairly easy. For demonstration purposes the ideal key bindings are here:

keybind2

keybind1