Thank you guys! I'm glad you like what you see! :D
This is our latest screenshot:https://twitter.com/TeamRuah/status/485320097578643456
Here the second part of our story:How Ruah came to be (Part 2)
Another thing that we decided to do was trying to create a world that feels like a character. It made sense aesthetically and from a gameplay perspective. As we weren't able to build a big world you would have to visit the same places over and over again in order to get all the pictures, so the places should feel different each time while still being recognizable. With a dynamically changing world we could have achieved a strong relationship between the creatures you encounter and their environment. Some creatures would only appear in winter, some only at night, others only if you already took a picture of another creature and so on.
We even thought of implementing a terra-forming mechanic that enables the player to plant different trees in order to attract certain creatures. I was looking at the terra-forming aspect of the safari zone in Pokémon Heartgold and Soulsilver for reference. But that feature was one of many ideas we considered impossible for the projects scope.
The biggest inspiration for the feel of the world was Proteus. With its focus on changing seasons and the daytime/nighttime feature it truly feels like the world of Proteus is alive. The stylized visuals further amplify that aesthetic.
But what kind of gameplay was Ruah going to have? Tristan always envisioned it as a third person game. You would switch to first person perspective to take pictures after performing platforming to get close to the creature. The biggest issue with that concept was that the act of taking pictures and the platforming are essentialy two different games. They don't offer any conclusive connection gameplay wise. My suggestions was to completely focus on the camera, on observing the world and on getting closer to the creature without of scaring it away instead of platforming. I was thinking of a mixture between Africa aka Hakuna Matata for PS3 and Pokémon Snap. By making Ruah first person the player can become one with the camera. "Be the camera" was one of the key aesthetics I kept talking about. Additionally implementing stealth gameplay would help us to create an attractive core loop:Wonder around -> See a creature -> Get as close to the creature as possible -> Take Photo -> Repeat
If you had failed to take a picture because you scared the creature away it would have come back after a while. We considered sound, cover, angle and more factors for the stealth gameplay:
I also did some research on our main references' reviews to evaluate how they worked and succeeded. Here's an excerpt from the research on Pokémon Snap aka "Poekmon Snap":
And so we basically went with the photo rating system of Pokémon Snap adding a few factors on our own:
All of that combined became the gameplay we pitched to other students. We were planning to have about three types of animals (deer, monkey, bird) that we would rescale/recolor/alter to create a big variety of species. The players main goal would be to 'snap em all' and fill a bestiary just like a Pokédex. Three godlike creatures would have provided a story, functioning as boss encounters.
After some back and forth we were successful and programmer and technical artist Stefano, creature artist and animator Antje and producer Christian joined our team. We had all the manpower and skills we needed and were ready to go.
The creature design was getting closer to actual animals. We were confident that our artstyle would transport enough of the magical atmosphere on its own. The look alone made the animals feel special and we decided to not tackle the same problem with two solutions in order to keep the game as pure as possible by . Striking the balance of cubistic art and an organic appearance was a challenge we took up.
Prototype model by Tristan:
Final model by Antje:
The following is a screenshot from the very first prototype Stefano did. The lighting was standard Unreal Engine 4 lighting (Stefano convinced use to use that engine for aesthetical reasons, otherwise we would have went with Unity) which still was way to realistic and far from our concept art. The deer already had some functioning AI and you were able to take pictures.
And from there on a lot changed.
After receiving very valuable feedback from Bernd Diemer (game director at Yager) and doing some game feel evaluation, it became clear that there was a conflict between the aesthetics we were trying to express and the gameplay we conceptualized.
The first issue was using a cross hair. Most players would think they have to kill everything that moves instead of peacefully taking pictures. Teaching the peacefulness of the game to the player without of using text would have been hard. The intended atmosphere would also suffer from that non-diegetic interface element. And if we created stealth gameplay, which is extremly difficult to do in a first person view to begin with, we would have to use many non-diegetic interface elements in order to visualize level of sound, being covered, different animal states and so on. Otherwise scaring away animals would never feel justified to the player.
The biggest issue was that the camera itself didn't fit at all. It was way too technical. An everyday object from our world taken to that magical world as a tool to interact felt like looking through a window into a place we created to look at. But we wanted the player to actually be in that world, to become a part of it.
The intended feeling and atmosphere was definitely more important to us than the gameplay we had designed. It was the vision we were rearing for so long while the gameplay was just a means to transport that feel. So as a conclusion we decided to change the gameplay in favor of the aesthetics and not the other way around.
Now the whole team did some brainstorming. We thought of alternate ways of taking pictures. Maybe you don't need a camera to take pictures, maybe you don't have to take pictures at all. What if you give something instead of taking something? What about a simple interaction with your environment, like the call in Journey. The title of our game came into play. We had that title before, mainly as a working title for pitching the game, but now it meant a lot more to us: Ruah
(rûaḥ, רוח) is hebrew and stands for spirit, the weather, the wind of god. It captures something special that no english word can express. We liked the ring to it, the mystical feel and that everyone was curious and unsure how to pronounce it.
In the photo game concept Ruah stood for the godlike creatures who are watching over the world. But now that we wanted to get the player closer to the world we thought of switching roles.
The player should control the wind instead of a human character, similar to Flower. They should be able to use that magical wind Ruah. We liked the idea and started the gameplay from scratch. This time also trying to keep the gameplay as pure as possible. The player can move and use Ruah to interact with their environment while the world is dynamically changing. That's it. We were planning to include seasons before, now we could use the seasons to linearly depict the year cycle and give everything meaning.
Another reference came to mind: The student project Yours Truly, https://www.facebook.com/yourstrulydev?fref=ts
You can download it for free so there is no excuse to not check it out.
That game has been made by students from our school under similar conditions and within a similiar time frame. They decided to go for a short and linear experience that feels complete, harmonious and polished. That's what we felt was fitting for Ruah so we wanted to achieve that as well.
We then defined these core user stories:
This was our new gameplay overview:
And here is how using Ruah works:
And finally, this is the level procedure we created. We thought of which environment would represent which season best and how the player should be transited from one environment to another:End of Part 2
All of that combined roughly equates to the game we are developing right now.
Thank you for reading and don't worry, future updates will be shorter.