The motivation for XXVII was to create a seemingly 2D pixel art game that had a 3rd dimension to it. Additionally, XXVII was the first project that I have worked on completely on my own. I needed to learn how to programme and make a 3d game using 3D capabilities of the engine such as lighting and VFX while retaining the 2D pixel art look.
Moreover, with this project, I wanted to significantly expand my understanding of Unity. Therefore, I strived to make it as efficient and polished as I possibly could at the time. This process involved a lot of research and trial and error but the research, design, troubleshooting and problem-solving skills that I obtained during the development of XXVII I still use almost on a daily basis. Furthermore the ability to work through challenging problems without giving up also served me well in the project that I worked on since the release of XXVII.
INSPIRATIONS and References
The Witness inspired the puzzle design and the world structure of XXVII. It was done, specifically, by having diverse, engaging and challenging environmental puzzles, active environmental storytelling, a simple story told secondary to the gameplay and condensed open world with no explicit navigational aid.
Dwarf Fortress inspired the layered nature of the world in XXVII by having z - layers that are visible if not blocked from the line of sight. Additionally, Enter the Gungeon and Dungeon of The Endless inspired the use of 3D geometry with pixel art mapped onto it to make the most of Unity's 3D Features.
Flamberge, Below, Jotun, Hyperlight Drifter, and Titan Souls inspired the modern pixel art style of the game and the open, exploration focused gameplay. These games use vivid colours and gradients to emulate detail, depth and to reduce noise. Additionally, they foreshadow future levels through beautiful vistas.
The project started as an interactive visual novel and then was remade into a puzzle adventure game using Unity. Over the course of XXVII's development, the level was made much brighter and long walking spaces were replaced with horizontal teleportation pads. This way players could more quickly traverse the level. Additionally, the lights which are activated by completing a puzzle were adjusted to loop to the next puzzle to help guide the player to the next sub-objective. The teleportation pads originally had a single pad for going up and down, which cause a lot of confusion. This issue was addressed by introducing dedicated pads for going up and down. Also, players used to be confused as to where they were when they teleported so visual aid was added to communicate that they traverse between different elevations. Moreover, allowing players to see the elevations below them also made the structure of the space much clearer. Finally, the visual style receives vertical gradients and dynamic shadow that helped players to better understand the world that has a flat orthographic perspective.
In most cases, the sketches had 3 uses during this project: to plan out puzzles, play out user stories and test art assets before assembling them in Unity.
When sketching, different types of lines were used to indicate routes for all layer below and above the ground layer. This allowed iterating the entire puzzle at once. Conversely, using transparent paper or Photoshop layers only slowed down the design process and made it difficult to manage.
The user stories were made to simulate the player’s thinking process and ideal case scenarios. Sprites were manually moved around the level layout to visually simulate how the scenarios would play out if players were to follow a specific case. Large portions of the level were blocked out in Photoshop using tile sheets before importing them into the engine. This allowed to bugfix the tilesets before going through the process of importing and cutting them up in Unity.