On receiving the brief we decided that we would do a Whitby inspired abbey. We wanted to keep elements like its location, its weather worn appearance and the mood that was captured from the illustrations provided with the brief. Additional elements that we thought would be an interesting to add to the level included a hidden crypt beneath the abbey, slightly changing the layout of the abbey itself to be more easily traversable for the player and having the interior be completely overgrown, adding different colour palettes for each new area and to have a collapsible floor. What also appealed to us the most was playing tricks on the player. From the beginning we wanted elements in the level to change as the player progressed. Although the theme of the brief was Gothic, we still wanted it to be grounded in reality and tried to avoid cliché. To do this we made sure that the abbey was architecturally sound and made sure the abbey looked at home in the environment. To make sure the abbey was built correctly, we took a very inspirational trip to Ely Cathedral, which we'll post about later, to see how it was constructed. We wanted to make it feel like it was a real place and focusing on Gothic architecture was going to heighten that.
The team and I produced various concepts to establish what was going to be our hero asset, what time of day it was going to take place and where it was going to be set. We wanted to convey a sense of isolation to the player from the beginning.
Below are some early concepts experimenting with mood, lighting, locations as well as experimenting with some of the other brief titles:
We decided to have the time of day at around last light to give the player a feel of unease as the sun crept closer and closer to the horizon. We felt storm clouds on the horizon would also heighten the sense of unease, showing the player that something sinister is drawing closer, in a sense, signifying Dracula's arrival as a nod to the novel. We looked at games like Silent Hill, Dear Esther and Gone Home for inspiration. In Dear Esther, the player has this constant feeling of unease, that feeling that something terrible is about to happen but never does. Creating a sense of tension and unease was one of the main focal points when designing our level.