Escort Quest

2022

Project Summary

I'm looking to do an inversion on the typical, and fairly infamous, escort quests - the quests in which the player navigates an NPC to a designated location.  I first started by flipping it around, making the player the one following the NPC and attempting to not die as the "hero" and you are ambushed by enemies.  The main gameplay loop I chose for the game is that of a bullet hell, in which the player must dodge an onslaught of projectiles and attacks to stay alive.  In the context of the game, the player will be dodging the large area-of-effect attacks created by both the enemies and your not-so-careful "hero."

Gameplay Summary

Making the player the follower in this game already takes away some of the player agency, and so I wanted to ensure that much of the rest of the game provides the player with some agency.  At the same time, though, I want to ensure that they continue to feel like the follower, keeping this inversion in-tact.  As such, I opted to not allow the player to directly fight back and instead made their main gameplay loop that of dodging.  However, I am looking and prototyping other ideas moving forward to slowly give them more and more things to do, which I will detail further below.

For now, here are the main mechanics present in the game.

Enemy Mechanics

Each enemy will have an array of attacks they will randomly choose from to shoot at either the hero or you.  Of course, getting hit by the resulting attacks will damage you, depleting your health bar.  Below are three attacks performed by enemies.  These attacks are simply prototypes and do not reflect the finalized attack patterns of the enemies.  

EscortQuestFight1.gif
Enemy Mechanics Moving Forward

I will be taking inspiration from Returnal, a great representation of bringing bullet-hell-like mechanics into a 3D environment. The attacks in Returnal communicate to the player when they need to dodge and where they need to dodge through while instilling a constant state of panic onto the player, and I hope to replicate this same thing within my game.

 

I want the combat between the enemy and the hero you are following to be more dynamic, moving more around the area so the player has to dodge projectiles coming from multiple direction. 

Lastly, I want the hero to also have large attacks that cause huge AOEs.  I want them to look powerful enough, like a hero that should be able to take on all these enemies, while also being scary to the player that may just get caught in the crossfire.

Player Mechanics Moving Forward

At the moment, the player is limited to movement - jumping, walking, and running.  Through the game, I want the player to feel some sort of progression, making them feel like they have more and more options in ways they can survive.  The first thing I'm messing with is a cornerstone of many bullet-hell games - a dodge.  Creating a dodge to dash through or away from projectiles with be a great boon to the player.  

I've also drafted up ideas that give the player some more counterplay against the enemies, such as a deflecting shield that could damage the enemy to make the encounter end sooner or stun the enemy to let the player catch their breath if done successfully.  I'm still back and forth on these, as I want the player to feel progression without the them being necessarily able to just fight back and kill enemies on their own.  Finding the balance is going to be key.

Another mechanic I could introduce is some sort of collection mechanic, where the player looks to gather certain things while dodging around in the bullet hell.  In the context of this game, it could be something along the lines of artifacts that player finds and investigates while the hero defends them from the enemies.  This would give the player a goal within the game besides just trying to survive.

Level Design

For this project, I wanted to get more familiar with both Probuilder and Unity's terrain system in this project while also building a type of terrain I hadn't before.  As seen on the right, I decided on a canyon that would feature a building built into the vast walls.

When you're in a canyon in real life, you really get a sense of how large it is with the vast walls stretching upwards.  There's very few things to me that truly make you feel that sense of scale on Earth.  I wanted to replicate this same feeling of being so small to the player as they traversed this terrain.

There were a lot of drafts of trying to make the canyons feel just right. First off I wanted to ensure that they had that same layering feel of canyons, where canyons in real life are layers upon layers of rocks and sediments through many, many years.  I also wanted to make the scale feel right, while also ensuring that it still felt traversable by the player.

 

I used the Grand Canyons as a reference when building the terrain.  I replicated the multiple layers of canyon walls to sculpt the player path, using the different layers as different heights of paths for the player to move between.  I also look to paint the different layers to replicate that feel of layers of different sediments present in canyon walls.

I then wanted a centerpiece to the environment to draw the player's eye and function as an end goal.  I didn't want them to feel like they were aimlessly following a character, and having a clear destination felt like it could mitigate that.  I also wanted the centerpiece to continue to make the player feel small in this grand environment and provide some environmental storytelling right when the player smalls in.

And so, I created the large temple (or what will be created into a temple with further iteration).  It is much grander than the player with thrones inside of it fit for giants.  Furthermore, I wanted to give it a weathered look to show the time that has passed since these giants took these thrones.  

Escort Quest - Canyon

First finished draft

Grand Canyon

Inspiration for level

Escort Quest - Canyon

2nd Iteration

When continuing to build out the level, I wanted to add in some environmental storytelling.  There's a temple, so clearly this was a place that was either inhabited or close to inhabited areas.  So, I wanted to add some more evidence of that.  

First, I added stairs in two areas - one that leads up to the bridge and one besides the temple.  These give the player more of a scale of size of the beings that inhabited this canyon prior to their arrival.  The stairs are too steep for the player to climb and also have been weathered down to show that they were built a long time ago.

 

I also added some farming steppes for aquatic or water-grown plant life on the side, further painting the narrative of the past.  

Lastly, I added some buildings attached to the temple.  I'm looking to build more destroyed and weathered buildings as well to further build the narrative.

I added some minor changes and fixed some things up.  There's now more weathering on the buildings and around the canyons.  Other than that, I touched up some details like the bridge's railing and the bridge.

Farming Steppes

Inspiration for level

After, I wanted to start working on the visuals for the level. 

 

I decided I wanted some more vibrant rock layers for the canyon walls, so I decided on a washed out red/orange/yellow pallet for the rock layers.  I also changed the lighting and skybox to the level to be a dusk/dawn orange lighting to compliment the colors of the canyon.  

There is certainly more plant-life near water sources in canyons, so I wanted to reflect that.  So, I added some grass and dry brush around the edges of the river and the steppes, with green grass plants being closer and dry brush being a little further away.  

All this helps make the canyon more lively and realistic, helping immerse the player more into the level.  

Escort Quest - Canyon

3rd Iteration

Grand Canyon River

Inspiration for level