Sarepta studio concept art

Concept: The Industrial area

When creating a story set in a fictional world you have an obligation to craft a world that players can get immersed in. It doesn’t need to resemble anything in reality, but you need to create an illusion of a unified universe through coherent and consistent design.
Today we will share how we worked when creating the Industrial area of Shadow Puppeteer.

Although it’s not necessary, we recommend reading the blogs about how we designed the previous three areas of the game.

We wanted the areas in Shadow Puppeteer to unfold in a way that mirrored the players’ story. They start out in small, safe environments, and move on towards the unknown. The areas become more complex just like the gameplay challenges, and the unfamiliar creates a sense of danger.

shadow puppeteer, concept art, level design, island village, industral area

The safe village you start out in in contrast to the more complex and indtimidating Industral area you travel to.

We wrote earlier about how the caves/mines were a contrast to the two civilized areas before it. The Industrial area was our way of re-introducing civilization and ramping it up, just like the stakes for characters is as they approach the climax of the story.

We wanted the industrial area to be big and scary, with machines and steam and full of dangers.

Obvious sources of inspiration we of course England during the industrial revolution. It fitted with our overall framing of the game as being technologically less advanced than us. So we collected reference materials and began to analyze materials and shapes.

Industrial_reference

Reference images: Tall, thin chimneys, facotories, wheels and machinery.

We noted the use of bricks, wood and metals like brass and copper. We loved the idea of also having pipes and cogwheels as centrals motifs, running throughout the area.

shadow puppeteer pipes

Sketches of details for the Industrial area. Cogwheels and pipes in different shapes and sizes.

Sarepta studio concept art

Concept art from the Industrial area, showing shapes and materials.

In order to further emphasize an environment which is intimidating we propped up most of the levels on scaffolds, exaggerating the shape and height to make it daunting to move on them . To give a more chaotic and mad expression to the world we made the overall shapes either distorted or patched, like metal surfaces being a patchwork of smaller pieces rather than one large, smooth surface. We wanted things to feel old, and somewhat broken.

shadow puppeteer, portal

Comparison: An old, patched machine from Shadow Puppeteer on the left. On the right, the smooth robot turrets from Portal.

Throughout the worlds of Shadow Puppeteer we have tried to convey a culture and communicate indirectly what the people are like. Because the nature of a people will shape their surroundings, and even when the people are gone we can get an idea of what they were like.

The Island villagers built simple houses, but were so stubborn they built them into the very rock walls of their small island. The people of the fishing town are more industrious, having created common areas for fishing and trade. The engineering skills and materials are still very simple, and never that well crafted. The industrial area workers are much like that, but on a bigger scale. The buildings, their interior and the machines are all functioning, but are all very much “thrown together”. If these people had had duct tape you can bet they would use that to make even more ridiculous constructions or temporary-become-permanent repairs. It is clear that the people inhabiting make due with what they have, and don’t really plan ahead and create things that will last. We always speculated that all the decent builders or engineers would slowly have migrated from the Island Village and Fishing Town and into the Industrial area.

Shadow puppeteer concept art, island village, finshing town, industrial area

On the top: A house from the Island village. In the middle: A dock building from the Fishing Town. On the bottom: A gate from the Industrial area.The skills of the builders and engineers increase as you progress throughout Shadow Puppeteer.

One of the challenges with making an area full of machines is to be able to give it character and bring it to “life”. But adding “life” has to do with movement, so here the animations were key. We needed machines that could serve at platforms, that would have repeating movement patterns that the players could learn and use. But just because something is a machine doesn’t mean that it has to be like a realistic assembly line robot with boring, linear movements, like you can see in this video:

So we imbued our machinery with dynamic quirky animations, and added lights and steam in the levels as effects to add that sense of life that we needed for the world.

Shadow puppeteer animated platform concept

Quirky moving platfrom expressing a bit of life and personlity.

The final levels in the industrial area take place inside a clock tower. This tower is the home of the Shadow Puppeteer, and so the design needed to reflect that. While still keeping the industrial elements from previous levels, we tweaked this area. Being a clock tower it would feature cogwheels, pendulums and chains. Gone are the big smoke-spewing machines. While most levels in Shadow Puppeteer focus on traversing in a horizontal manner (from left to right), we made deliberate attempts to make the clock tower (and the chimney leading up to it) be a section about ascending. Climbing ever higher is exhilarating while at the same time the danger if you should fall is made all the clearer. But the players have come this far, and it is the path they must take if they want to catch the Shadow Puppeteer.

shadow puppeteer, level design

In most levels players move horisontally, like in the level shown on the left. The others are all about moving upwards.

The industrial area is the final location in Shadow Puppeteer. The environment and its challenges really test the players and characters, and give them both a sense of dread and of mastery. The visual design has build off of what we introduced in earlier areas, but are nevertheless distinct.

Want to share your thoughts on how to develop environments for games? Why not share in a comment?

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