Cokora SNES

A slow-paced and relaxing puzzle platformer, where you make your way through a beautiful and intriguing forest.

VISION & PLAYER EXPERIENCE GOALS


The focus of the gameplay is on emergence and letting the player use the character's abilities in her own way to traverse the environment.


We wanted the player to have a very calm and almost meditative experience in the game. The main focus of the game is to make the player feel calm and curious about exploring the game world and the different abilities, with no rush to get through the level.


In order to achieve this, the art style and environment had to be intriguing yet calming and be supported by movement, sound design and music in the same vein.


We also decided to underpin the calm experience by having no lose condition and no threats in the environment.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT


The development of this game was heavily focused on the art style, from the environment to the UI. As Project Manager, my main focus was on making sure the art style established in the Art Bible, established and maintained by the 2D art lead, informed all the other parts of the game and was taken into account and followed by all artists and designers.

As Project Manager I made decisions on what features to keep and what to cut, while steering team members' work to make sure the game was always fulfilling our Player Experience Goals. Team input was welcome in order to evolve the game idea and to help us play to our strengths.


One big mistake on my part was that I didn't launch a backup plan immediately when our animator fell ill. Instead I overestimated the time animation would take and waited for him to return. We then had to settle with the character moving around like a ball instead of having actual quadrupedal animation.

SOUND DESIGN


The sound design in Cokora had to serve multiple purposes:

  • Create a feeling of a populated world, using a lot of bird noises etc.
  • Establish the ambiance and "feeling" of the world.
  • Give the player character physical weight in the world
  • Support the impression that the character interacts with the environment
  • Feedback to the player that she is using the character's abilities.


To achieve all this I used soft but distinct organic sounds. In some cases it was more obvious, like the sound of a rock breaking, but more supernatural sounds like the dash had to be iterated on, in order to achieve a distinct but smooth sound effect.


I also chose to override the default Audio Listener on the camera. The effect of this was mot clearly heard when the character is near one of the game's air vents, which emits a constant white noise. By listening "through" the character instead of through the camera, the player is further immersed into the game.

SCRIPTING - TREE FELLING PUZZLE


We needed a way for the player to fell trees using the dash ability, in order to overcome canyons and climb ledges. At first, I tried using physics to have the tree fall over when the player entered a hitbox, and steering it using a corridor of invisible volumes. However, this turned out to be too unpredictable, as we need to be able to control the exact direction and position for the tree to fall towards, in order to design cohesive and interesting levels.


Instead, I used a timeline to control the pitch of the tree, activated by the player dashing into the hitbox. The model has a somewhat oversized hitbox, allowing the player to dash into the tree from within a 180 degree radius, but resulting in the tree always falling in the direction dictated by the blueprint scripting.

The tree also had to be able to stop at different angles, depending on where in the level the tree was being felled. If the tree hit an invisible blueprint called a "stopper" (placed on top of whatever mesh the tree was supposed to stop at), it would abandon its original timeline and instead play a short "bouncing" timeline, before freezing in place.

The blueprint also triggers different sound effects, depending on the situation:

  • When the player hits the tree, an impact and creaking sound is played.
  • While the tree is falling, a falling sound is played.
  • If the fall is interrupted, the falling sound is stopped, and an impact sound is played.
  • ...otherwise the impact sound is played when the tree hits the ground.

UI - END GAME CINEMATIC


When the player reaches the end of the level, a simple cutscene plays.

As the game takes control of the player character, the camera slowly pans back out towards the start of the level by slowly blending towards a new View Target, as black bars are animated in and the credits begin to roll.

MUSIC


The music was a big part of the calm experience we wanted to give the player. The inspiration for it came from music specifically made for meditation. The tempo of all pieces is extremely slow, to a level where no beat or pulse is discernible, and all that is left is a slow flow of notes and chords.


We divided the level into three narrative acts, with different moods associated with them.

  1. The first act is the tutorial stage, a safe and enclosed area where the player can start exploring what she is capable of.
  2. In the second act, the player is introduced to a larger world with a feeling of expanding possibilities.
  3. The third act is the end of the journey and is meant to invoke a feeling of coming home and coming full circle.

Each one of these narrative acts had a musical theme as well as a specific ambience audio to accompany them and help set the particular moods for each.

The game slowly fades between these pieces of music as the player triggers specific hitboxes throughout the level.

When the player plays from a checkpoint (chapter) within the level, the game selects the appropriate piece of music and ambience.

FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS - LESSONS LEARNED


  • When playing the game in reverse (going downhill instead of uphill) the player is treated to some amazing vistas, something that is sorely lacking in the game because of travelling uphill. This game would benefit greatly from a level design utilizing a downward sloping level.
  • Reward players who explore the environment beside the main path. This could be in the shape of small paths, short-cuts, collectibles etc. just to encourage and make room for more playstyles.
  • Less visible separation of individual puzzles in the level. By placing small obstacles and/or interactables between main puzzles, as well as by having a more consistently lush and dense environment.
  • Quadrupedal animation for the player character.
  • Populate world with other characters to help create a lived-in environment.

Platform

WINDOWS PC

Engine

UNREAL ENGINE 4

Development time

4 WEEKS

Team size

12

RESPONSIBILITIES:


  • Project Manager
  • Gameplay scripting
  • UI implementation
  • Music composition & implementation
  • Sound design & implementation