Above are a few of the best images taken to present the project. My responsibilities for what you are seeing included creating the level layouts, lighting the spaces, creating a majority of the props, and placing many of the gameplay features such as objects on the puzzle and enemy locations.
RADIANT DARK BETA
The BETA version of Radiant Dark acted as a proof of concept. It had a different art style but was a complete game start-to-finish containing roughly 5 hours of gameplay to new players with a massive facility to explore and 27 puzzles to solve.
We decided later to scrap this and go for a less experimental artstyle. We also removed the energy feature. Though it was more unique than what we ended with, and I think it has more potential to be interesting and fun, it was causing a technical challenge with all lighting needing to be dynamic and a gameplay problem with the ability being confusing; the team could not step up to that challenge and make it work. Nonetheless, the BETA version represents the gameplay we wanted more faithfully, while the version above represents the AAA quality art we were aiming for.
In addition to combining all the puzzles and buildings into one large interior space, we also made the intro very short, so the player only has a few moments in the exterior before they are placed into the game; previously, it took nearly five minutes to get into the first building and really begin playing.
This new layout was not without its numerous issues, however. Many players still felt lost in the, still quite large, facility. Over the following weeks, I would make many cuts to the scale; this generally involved removing extra rooms and hallways, blocking areas that weren't needed from the player, compacting some of the larger spaces, and making a big decision to make the game completely linear whereas before the path the player took through the game was determined mainly by which puzzles they could understand and solve at the time.
Among those changes, I also made a few changes that allowed the player to navigate and know where to go more easily. I blocked off sections of the map with colored key cards and doors, I created puzzle chains for more linear progression, which helped the puzzles give a better feeling of accomplishment, I placed in emergency doors and lights which opened or lit up to guide the player to the next set of puzzles once they completed a chain, I created aurora arrows which pointed to the next puzzle to make sure the player at least knew the general direction they had to take to make progress. I opened up sections of the map with windows and balconies to allow for foreshadowing.
LEVEL DESIGN - CONCEPTION
Radiant Dark is a project with two distinct versions. The first, as seen above, is an environment art piece that experiments with detailed, realistic visuals and the idea of the player using a tool to interact with enemies and the world. The second version acts more as a proof of concept and can be seen below.
Since our goal of this version was to create amazing art, we decided to skip the sketches and go straight to blocking out exciting spaces. Most of these areas were either cut or heavily modified by the team's lead artist to create more stunning artwork.
While our lead artist built the architecture according to the greybox, I set off to create the props that would populate those spaces. I created a kit for the labs, offices, caves, and lobby.
ART-M - FINAL RENDERS
According to feedback, many people found the pushing and pulling of energy with their hands in the Beta version confusing or unintuitive. For this version, we decided to create a tool that allowed thge player to interact with the world
I created many concept models for the ART-M, most of which played with the concept of moving plates to help the device vent heat under use. These concepts were scrapped in favor of a concept made by another member of the team, which I adapted into the final product.
After twenty weeks of development, a huge amount of art had been created. This art was well-documented and compiled together into an art book by our 2D artists.
After ten weeks, about halfway through the development cycle for Radiant Dark, we've come a long way. We set out to make a game that could be sold, and we got very close to that goal. It takes an experienced player about ninety minutes to complete the game, and it can take a new player upwards of four hours, making it a complete experience. The game has a beginning and end, a fleshed-out story, AI, music, few bugs, and has gorgeous art direction.
This version lacked polish to an extent. The environments were huge, and without version control, only one person could work on the environment, me, making it challenging to address issues like stretched textures or misplaced objects. I believe with just a few more weeks, these issues will be ironed out.
LEVEL DESIGN - SKETCHES PART ONE
The initial plan for the world was to have a building, each dedicated to a different puzzle mechanic, and the player would travel between these buildings in the exterior world. Once each installation was complete, a central structure would open for the player to complete the game.
Later, this concept was reworked into a singular but massive lab structure. This was for a few reasons, most prominently because the travel downtime was too slow and long, and players struggled knowing where to go.
LEVEL DESIGN - GREYBOX
Before scrapping the hub world design plan, I created a greybox of each structure. Right before I began implementing the artwork created at this time, we changed the design. I don't have images of a greybox of the following design because it didn't exist - the modular environment kit was ready to go, versatile, and easy to use. I built the new level using final assets. While not ideal, we had already blown through over half our time budget before the redesign, and some corners were cut.