Toyama Work Camp

Toyama Work Camp | Unity | 2018

This is a live document so it will change and evolve as I update, thanks for reading.

Introduction

This article will focus on my design process and responsibilities for the Toyama work camp level from the scifi horror game The Corridor on Behalf of the Dead. It will include planning, reference, design and artistic decisions.

Background, planning and reference

As the lead designer and part of a three man team on The Corridor, I was responsible for a range of aspects of the games development including level design. The Toyama work camp level was to be the third level that the player came across and up until this point in the game, the player had followed a fairly linear path with regard to progression. I suggested that it would be interesting to create a space where the player had the freedom to choose how they approached their objectives and their exploration.

The core narrative idea behind this level was that we wanted to show the player what had become of the citizens of the world after M.O.M (the ruling party/ organization) had taken control. We were influenced heavily by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 and one idea that came from that was to present a work camp type environment with its rich visual design and strong environmental storytelling themes it offered.

Additionally, a new crafting mechanic was to be introduced to the player. They would need to use this to create something that would be needed to progress, more on this later.

Goals

  • introduce new crafting mechanic to the player
  • break up linear flow of levels and support player choice to approach their objectives and exploration
  • strong environmental storytelling and visual design

Layouts & Sketches

To begin, I started sketching (fig.1) some ideas for the levels layout, keeping that idea of player freedom in mind.


While in the process of sketching, I was remined of the medical pavilion from Bioshock which was one of my favorite levels and spaces to explore from the game.

Fig.2a – Medical pavilion from Bioshock (2007) incorporating hub-and-spoke design
Fig.2b Examples of level layouts from Fundamentals of Game Design by Ernest Adams

The medical pavilion makes use of the hub and spoke level design layout which involves a central large space with pathways that emanate to smaller self contained spaces. Rewards and challenges can be provided for at the ends of these spokes. As Steve Gaynor discusses on his excellent blog, these large central spaces act as a reorienting space as players pass through this area as they explore each spoke.

I began looking into real spaces that might fit the general idea of a central orientating space with smaller self contained spaces surrounding it. I stared looking at floorplans of large creepy places like slaughterhouses or old factories for reference. These generally had large central spaces as see here in this architectural plan (fig.3):

Fig.3 – Ground plan for a slaughter house

I incorporated the slaughterhouse ground plan into some of the earlier sketches I had made and then began thinking about how this place might look and feel, a place that people worked and lived under the watchful eye of M.O.M. I drew up some mood baards

Blockout

With these ideas and inspiration in place, I began my block out (fig.5) in Maya.

Fig.5 – Blockout in Maya

Once I was happy with the general feel of the level, It was time to move over to Unity.