Post by icyhotspartin on Apr 16, 2019 17:39:34 GMT
Read this article at our new site HERE:
In this lecture from GDC 2013, Robert Briscoe details his experience developing the environment of Dear Esther. The inspiration for the project, a Mod for the original Half-Life, featured artfully crafted narration, narrative immersion, and unique thematic direction, but was lacking in the visual department - to the point where it detracted from the overall experience. Disappointed that such an interesting gameplay setting had such a bland look, Briscoe took it upon himself to provide a stronger set of visuals for the project, originally opting to use a realistic art style to aid with the player's immersion.
However, due to limitations with the Source engine, he decided to take it in a more stylized direction; the inability to throw the kitchen sink at the project led to the heavy reliance on scarce, ambient lighting, and the limited, though highly detailed art assets. Even the limited color palette helped to keep things simple at a technical level, avoiding conflicting lighting and oversaturating the landscape - extremely useful for gameplay application, to make sure that players stayed focused, through what Briscoe calls 'subliminal signposting'; the low light and sparse, but well-crafted detail serve to guide players throughout the abandoned island without the use of overlaid waypoints, or literal signposts. It effectively serves as a new way of formulating 'environmental storytelling', or 'diegetic narration'.
Judging by the results, facing and solving these challenges helped not only mask the technical limitations, but also provided the perfect vehicle to present the bleak, stagnant island, in contrast to the damp, fluorescent viscosity of the caves. Indeed, being forced to draw heavily from the atmospheric, mysterious cloudiness of impressionism, the engine's limitations were perhaps "the best thing that could have happened" for the project - give it a watch, and keep an eye out for useful design principles! And an ear - the talk was conceived by a disconnect between audio and visuals, after all.