NOIR

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Received Best CAPSTN2 Award during Benilde’s Incendium X

I served as the Lead Game Designer here as well as the Lead Game Programmer. The game was developed using Unreal Engine 4 and Wwise for the Audio. This was our first foray into UE4.

Noir is a top down 3D Stealth game and was submitted as our thesis project for Benilde’s CAPSTN2. You control two characters, Edmond and Lilian, as they navigate they way around the city so that Edmond can safely return Lilian back to her parents, while avoiding guards that will not hesitate to kill you.

Inspirations for the aesthetics and music come from Film Noir and Dystopian Films (such as Blade Runner and Nineteen Eighty Four). The gameplay was inspired by The Last Of Us, Metal Gear Solid, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Level Design on the other hand was based on the principle of multiple solutions inspired by the Deus Ex series.

This game game has been 7 months in the making. I’ve started brainstorming ideas as early as August 2016, with the help of our environment artist, Juan Carlo Somera. Back then, I was watching Blade Runner (terrific film by the way) and the idea hit me. Why don’t we make a game with heavy film noir and dystopian aesthetics.

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I was always enamored with Film Noir. I just loved the chiaroscuro lighting along with the Jazz music playing in the background. It gave off a strong atmospheric vibe, which I think, allows the audience to relax as well as contemplate about the game or film. It enhances the cathartic feeling you would get from watching a movie or playing a video game.

One of the primary objectives of the project was to establish an atmosphere and a sense of style in a video game, especially for one that was going to be presented in Benilde.

We were deciding what game engine and what other tools we could use to achieve that feel in the game. We settled with Unreal Engine 4, as it allowed us more options to tweak the look and feel of the game, especially the lighting, compared to Unity.

In order to streamline the process of applying audio in the game, we used the student version of Wwise. That audio engine was a godsend. It completely allowed our sound designer, Nickey Ronas, to bypass the technical limitations of Unreal’s audio engine. It also allowed me to communicate better with Nickey in terms of applying it to the design and to the blueprints of the game.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe it either but I think we managed to reach that goal. The jazzy soundtrack made by our sound designer manages to blend in with the film noir anachronistic designs of our character and environment artists.

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Conceptualizing the thematic elements felt like I was threading on dangerous grounds. I wanted it to reflect how society would act in a Totalitarian rule. One of the game’s themes was complacency. I wanted the game to portray a society wherein they chose to remain silent about their own beliefs in fear of backlash against the majority. The objective of the game was to break this complacency from our audience. We’re not encouraging them to participate in hunger strikes or rallies, but to keep criticizing in an academic and civil way. That allows everyone to think about the issues and figure out a way to rectify them.

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In order to portray this in the game, we’ve created two classes of citizens for the game’s setting.  The Alphas and the Betas, both of which remain complacent about their state.

The Alphas are the group of citizens which are given privileges by the government, in exchange for their services and free will. They live in a civilized enclosed city, which is portrayed as high class.  The primary protagonist is a member of this class. The totalitarian rule subjugates the alphas by  imposing restrictions which will revoke their status when violated. One of this would be under-performance with regards to their jobs.

The Betas on the other hand, are considered the minority by society. The deuteragonist is part of this citizen class. They are considered a burden towards society itself. Betas consists of Alphas who have violated the restrictions of the totalitarian rule, or those who cannot contribute anything towards society. They live outside the boundaries of the city. Most of them huddle around an underground safe haven called “The Underworld”.

The protagonist and the deuteragonist are a member of each class respectively. The dynamic between this two characters forms the second theme of the game: “Would you give up your privilege to help another person?”.

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For the gameplay, the stealth genre was what I think, the perfect fit for a film noir dysopian game. It complements the atmosphere of the game. Combat was entirely omitted from the game, to give off a sense of helplessness towards the player and to emphasize stealth. The player can use tools however, to distract or temporarily incapacitate enemies.

The player controls two characters, Edmond and Lilian, who are an Alpha and a Beta respectively. The player can switch between them freely. Initially, the game was supposed to have a control scheme similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, wherein the player controls both characters simultaneously with each half of the controller. In anticipation of the Nintendo Switch, I thought this was a great way to utilize the joy con controllers, which allows local coop play by splitting the controller between two players. Unfortunately, this has issues with normal controllers as it might have confuse a single player while simultaneously controlling two characters so we decided to stick with character switching.

The two characters have skills and tools exclusive to them. Lilian can pick locks from doors, and crawl through vents, while Edmond on the other hand, can use a stun gun to incapacitate enemies, or push large objects.

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The tools available to the player are bottles (which can be used to distract enemies), first aid kits (used to heal characters),  lockpicks (used to open up locked doors to reveal hidden items or alternate pathways), and stun guns (used to incapacitate enemies temporarily).

The tools used by the player in gameplay was inspired by the system used in The Last Of Us. These items are sparsely scattered throughout the levels. The conservation of items is the key here. In a certain situation, the player has to make decision to use an item or to save it for a later time in case an encounter is giving them trouble.

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I’ve tried to based the level design based on the principle of multiple solutions inspired by Deus Ex. The levels challenges the player to find solutions based on their current items and their use of the abilities of Edmond and Lilian. In the image above, the player has two solutions here to get past the room. The first one is pretty straight forward, the player just needs to stun the enemy blocking the exit. But at this point of the game, the player has no stun gun ammo to use.

As a solution for this, in the sequences of images above, the player can go to the room on the right and push a small cabinet, which will reveal a vent where Lilian can crawl through. The vent will lead to a room where Lilian can get items, which include ammo for the stun gun. The player, as Edmond, can then use the stun gun to incapacitate the enemy blocking the exit, to clear the way.

On the other hand…

The player can get the lockpick, which is used to open the door on the left. This room will then lead to a path that safely bypasses the guards on the center room, but presents another challenge towards the player at the end.

Overall, I had a lot of fun designing the game. It allowed me to implement various ideas that I’ve been thinking for a while since I started studying as game design student. But I also feel like it was a bit limited since it catered to the resources available to us and my programming skills as well as the skills of our 3D artists at the time.

This project was a success, and big props to everyone that worked into this game. Special thanks also to our academic adviser, Doc B. Lapa, who helped lead the team till the end of our thesis.

Credits:

Academic Adviser:

  • Dr. Beatrice Lapa

Development Team:

  • Ralph Adrian Miguel
    • Game Designer
    • Lead Story Writer
    • Lead Game Programmer
  • Arnel Cedrik Castillo
    • Game Producer
    • Junior Game Programmer
    • Script Writer
  • Dwayne Austin Maico
    • 2D Artist
    • UI Artist
    • 3D Character Artist
  • Nichole Angelo Ronas
    • Music Composer
    • Wwise Audio Engine Lead
    • Sound Designer
  • Juan Carlo Somera
    • 2D Artist
    • 3D Environment Artist

Character Voices:

  • Carlos Cases – Edmond
  • Joni De Guzman – Lilian, Female Guard
  • Rad Bulut – Guard voice

If you would like to try out a copy of the game, please send me an email at ralphadrianmigueldev@gmail.com

You can watch the 1st trailer here

2nd Trailer

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