A RAY OF HOPE
Role: Level Designer/Quest Designer
Engine: Fallout 4 Creation Kit
Genre: RPG, FPS
Development Time: 150 hours
Create compelling scenes that are memorable to the player while delivering the designated emotions;
Tell a story about race discrimination, strong wills to survive, and evil manipulation to fulfill one's selfish wish;
Build an immersive world for the player to explore.
Draft a story focusing on evil manipulation of people that would lead to the elimination of a faction while the player has a chance to sabotage the scheme and save everyone.
Plan out the NPC personality, quirks, appearance, and relations;
Write engaging dialogue lines including scenes with NPCs and environmental storytelling;
Add AI Packages to NPCs, including Sandbox AI and scene AI to create an immersive world;
Script interesting interaction with NPCs, including getting an NPC drunk before stealing his uniform, then put on them and pretend to be this NPC;
Construct level-layout and build terrain and build the quest;
Add aesthetic details and lighting to create compelling scenes;
Playtest and iterate.
A scream from a janitor broke the quietness in Hotel Rexford in Good Neighbor when a customer called Greyshaper was found dead in a chair with a dagger lying in the blood pool near him. Upon the request from the manager of Hotel Rexford, the player started the investigation, which lead the player to an island northeast of Boston. There the player has witnessed the human faction and ghoul faction at the edge of war: some ghouls mysteriously turned feral and the rest of the group believed humans poisoned them. The player has to make interesting interactions with NPCs to find out the truth while experiencing compelling scenes and cinematic sequences. The player also has to make meaningful choices that would determine the fate of residents on Longdale.
NARRATIVE FOCUSED QUEST DESIGN
Constructing A Compelling Scene
In A Ray of Hope, there were many scenes that I want the player to XXXX. Therefore I strived to create compelling scenes. What makes a scene compelling? In a quest, the scene needs to meet the following requirements to be considered compelling.
The scene is realistic in the game world and fits with a larger set in the same region;
The scene above is what the player encounters when he investigates the dead customer in Hotel Rexford in Good Neighbor. As the dead is a ghoul (a zombie-like mutant in Fallout 4) and not welcomed in Diamond City (a large human residence community), only Good Neighbor is suitable for the scene to take place. The wallpapers, carpet, and curtains also fit with the function of the room: a hotel room.
The scene delivers the intended mood and emotional feelings to the players;
The player should be intrigued to investigate after seeing the suspenseful scene. To deliver the suspenseful, cold, uncomfortable feeling, blue ambient light is used in the room. To pop out the dead in the couch, the following methods are also implemented:
The color contrast between the red curtain and blue floor;
The color contrast between the dead and the red couch;
The Three Point Lighting: a white light as key light emitted by a desk lamp on the floor lights up the majority part of the dead's right side; a warm, candlelight as fill light emitted by candles eliminates dark shadows on the left side the dead's body; the ambient light is the back light.
Directing Line: the coffee table is tilted towards the dead to direct the player's focus towards the dead.
The scene is a result of what happened previously to the owner of the scene while building up for the next phase;
As is pointed out in the image above, environmental storytelling is also applied to help. On the coffee table, the floor and the desk, there are empty wine bottles scattered around to indicate that the dead is alcoholic. The blood pool and dagger also state that the cause of death was brutal violence, hinting that the player might have a dangerous encounter in the next phase of the quest.
Cinematic sequences are being used widely in video games to give the player an overview of the map or draw the player's attention to something that is happening at the moment, creating a sense of immersion. In A Ray of Hope, cinematic sequences are used for the second purpose.
The sequence below took place after the player has found out that the dead ghoul was affiliated with Longdale Island and he should talk to the human faction leader, Bella.
00:21 Another human faction member, Mark was given order by Bella before he left.
00:54 Sounds of gunfire and scream played. Bella runs towards the sound armed.
01:09 The player sees two dead bodies on the ground. Ghoul faction members also run towards the scene. Then Bella and the ghoul factions started accusing each other.
To accomplish this cinema sequence, the following methods were applied.
Tell the story with sound: let the player's imagination fill up what has happened if he cannot see it;
Engage the player with real-time events: Bella running towards sound also raises the player's interest to follow and invest;
Set up the event before it happened: the player sees Mark leaving for the direction in which the sound was played later, then the player would be able to speculate that something has happened to Mark.
With the application of this camera sequence, the player's more invested in the quest. The current situation of the high tension between the human faction and ghoul faction is also introduced and presented to the player.
Interesting Interactions with NPCs
To avoid the dullness of typical fetch quest, multiple interesting interactions were planted in A Ray of Hope. The player would be asked to deliver two silly love letters while giving relationship advice; luring a Brahmin (cow-like mutant animal) with food. The one below takes place after the player has conjured a The plan is the assistant would get one of the guards drunk. Afterward, the player can pickpocket the guard's uniform and mask, and go to the target's room, assuming the identity of the guard. Then the assistant would show up, taking away the second guard. Now it is the player's chance to pickpocket the target.
00:00 The assistant gets the guard drunk
02:03 The player follows the drunk guard to his bedroom
02:51 The player pickpocketed the guards' uniform and mask, and put them on
03:32 The player went to the target's bedroom assuming the guard's identity
04:27 The assistant took away the second guard
04:58 The player can now pickpocket the target
00:04 Ask the coroner about the cause of death of the victim;
00:27 Investigate the crime scene
00:39 Getting information from the witness
00:49 Get the alibi of each suspect
02:09 Find out the motive of each suspect
03:05 Cross-reference evidence
03:30 Point out the right death time of the victim
03:48 Point out the right alibi of each suspect
04:13 Choose the right motive for each suspect
04:40 Recount what happened at the crime scene
What Went Well
The quest is reasonable: the victim's reason of death, the motives of the suspects, the alibis of the suspects and other elements in this detective level are valid. The player would be able to make correct deductions if he has collected enough information.
I was able to deliver a quest that the endings of the quest are totally based on the player's knowledge and effort into the quest.
There were 1000 lines of dialogue, 23 scenes, and 20 NPCs in total. Several scenes include complex dialogue choices linking to different scene phases. In other words, the workload was huge and challenging. I was able to complete the level in 150 hours by planning before construction: in the early stage of development, I created charts and tables to organize the scenes, the relationships between NPCs, and how the alibis worked, etc.
What I Learned
Instead of using the quest stage, a global variable is a good way to control the progress of a quest.
Lighting creates a significant impact on the atmosphere.