Winchester Mystery House Level
Play as a ghost haunting a Winchester Mystery House-esque level. Walk through walls to find keys and unlock chests in order to help the other ghost bound to the area. However, you are bound to the home until you send the other spirit to rest.
Unreal 4, 5 - 10 minute play time
I made everything except: the sounds (though I mixed them), the painting images, or the following models: ghost, violin, dollhouse, teddy bear, pocket watch, books, glasses, bowl, curtains, or the piano.
Download and play here on itch.io
Check out a detailed progression of the game here on my blog.
Initial Layout and Graybox
My design experience goal for this level was to give the player a sense of searching and investigating and to have the flavor of the real world Winchester Mystery House. To achieve the mechanically, I chose to build the level with key and chest mechanics and to include traversal through walls to subvert traditional traversal in level design and create interesting, puzzle-like spaces that feel as though they continuously unfold. Emotionally, I was going for creepy, but mysterious and intriguing. I achieved this with layout techniques, particularly hidden sections and sightlines.
My graybox was huge and used highly visible temp art to represent the keys and chests. The rooms were very similar, short and wide, with a lot of samey connections between rooms and halls. I played with several issues like: Is there enough space to make the player put forth an effort to search? What’s the relationship of keys to the critical path? The balance of hiding keys on or off the critical path. In playtesting the graybox players generally found all the keys, but needed several trips around the space to find them.
Modular Architecture Kit
I created a modular kit using principles from Fallout 4's Modular Level Design GDC Talk by Joel Burgess and Nathan Purkeypile. This helped me focus on using highly repeatable segments of architecture to create varied spaces and get rid of the samey-ness of the graybox. My major lessons from the modular kit included focusing on ways to make a grid based system not feel like a grid (I used a lot of subtle elevation and room adjacent to room since players could traverse that way.)
Iterations Between Graybox and Art Pass
When I switched from big, highly visible temp art to the actual keys and chests, I ran into problems. Players could not find the keys due to their size. Players forgot what walls they could pass through and the general goal of the level. I addressed these using several level design techniques.
•Issue: Keys are easily visible in the graybox, but not so after the art pass.
•Fix: Lighting (pulsing in the key rooms and color) and room layout, opened windows to show more of the exterior
Consistency in Affordances
•Issue: How to communicate to the player what walls they can walk through?
•Fix: Player can walk through any wall without a window.
•Subsequent Issue: One key is hidden behind a bookcase at a 45 degree angle from the wall. Players never found this key because they learned to walk through blank walls, not walls with objects on them.
•Fix: Angled bookcase to be flush with wall + sightlines fix + introduction