Stranger Things

This is a 3D game in Top-down view. This document focuses mainly on level design, the environment and the feel of the game. 

The game revolves around Leo (Protagonist) who works as a guard at the city Checkpoint. Other prominent characters include Leo’s little brother Sam,  the Sheriff , principal Headly, ButcherDoctor and the Priest .

The image below is a 3D representation of the Game Level.

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[  Prologue  ]

 [Cutscene] 

It’s pouring heavily, and a man is standing in front of a dark, wrecked house. He turns his flashlight on, enters the house, and walks towards the sound of heavy breathing coming from the room in front of him.  He opens the door and finds the demonic creature lying at the corner of the room. He says, “I got what you wanted” and throws the human carcass at the creature’s feet. The creature looks at the carcass for a moment, and then immediately plunges its jaws into the flesh and starts devouring the corpse. The man sits down on a chair and stares at the creature as it ignores him and continues to eat. A few minutes later, a deafening screech is heard from the house.

[Few days ago]

Leo and his little brother Sam were 18 and 10 respectively, when they lost their parents. Leo was not a bright guy, and so for the next 6 years, the brothers had to survive on the little money that Leo made by working odd jobs. A few days ago, Leo landed a job as a guard at the entrance of the city (Checkpoint). The job had decent pay and benefits, and so he and his brother decided to move to the city to build a better life for themselves but little did they know about the place they were moving into.

Everything was great for the next few weeks after they had moved in. And then it all went to hell after the night of the creature’s cry.

The forest around the city, which was once sparse and easy to get in and out of, not that anyone ever went into it, grew densely and rapidly in a span of few days.  It became impossible to go into the forest, evidenced by the few curious people who went in and never came back.

Life for the people of the city did not descent into horror in one night. In the beginning, it was only an unexplainable feeling of uneasiness that spread throughout the city. The nights were even more difficult. A foul stench would suddenly fill the air, making it difficult to see and breathe at night. People who went out at night would come back home to find injury marks on their bodies. So they confined themselves to the safety of their homes and stopped going out at night. Panic gripped the city when the doctor’s wife suddenly disappeared one night. The priest of the city church told the people that a demonic presence had made their city its home.

People who could leave the city, left. A few weeks after the doctor’s wife disappeared, less than 50 were left behind. These people were either old or sick, or had a job in the city. Schools and offices were abandoned, and the hospital was filled with patients.

The Church brought in people who were experienced in dealing with the demonic presence that haunted the city at night. To combat the presence, they inscribed holy incantations on electric lights and hanged them all over the city.

One fine evening when Leo was working, he hears sudden explosion and entire city lights goes off, Leo runs inside the city following the sound to investigate what had happened, as he crosses the street he again hears a loud scream coming from his home.

Leo runs back to his home to check on his little brother. He opens the doors and runs towards Sam’s room and he slips and falls on his back, bangs his head on the floor and loses consciousness. He wakes up after few minutes, he could feel that he slipped on some kind of slimy liquid and it was all over his back. After few seconds he realizes the situation and rushes towards Sam’s room. Its floor was filled with the slimy gooey liquid which he slipped on and Sam was missing!

                                               

From here onwards the player takes control of Leo. Player’s first objective is to reach police station. Top left corner of the screen will have three red bars representing the player’s health. He loses one bar every time he stays inside a dark place for more than a second.  

Player will be safe inside his home and buildings during night time because a holy incense is circulated inside every building to keep it safe.

It is a non linear game, there are some places outside city and are only accessible at the later part of the game. Player can move from one place to another by walk. First half of the game takes place inside the city and player has to revisit the same places again and again, talk to people to extract information, find clues and solve puzzles to progress through the game.

During daytime player can travel freely within the city, he can visit all the buildings inside the city. Some places outside the city (points of interest inside forest) are not reachable at start because the player won’t be able to travel through the dense forest.

Whenever the player enters a building a new scene is loaded, every building has its own different interiors, you meet different people and there will be many unexplored place inside each building. There will be locked rooms inside, which could contain important information or resources. You meet new people and have conversation with them, find items which can be stored in your inventory.

Some of the buildings inside the city are accessible from start and to get access to some buildings you need keys from the respective person who owns the building or works in the building or there could be other ways to enter inside the building. Most buildings use generator to power itself and some buildings doesn’t have generator. Player can use lantern to explore buildings without light. The Doors that are accessible are marked in Green and the Doors that require key are marked in red. Once you obtain the key and unlock the door, it will turn into green color.

[Night Time]

To walk outside during night without light is dangerous and it will get you killed in no time. Player can use hand held light(Lantern) to travel in dark streets but it has one drawback. The lantern’s fuel kerosene, needs to be burned along with holy incense and one pack of holy incense lasts up to 5 steps (Steps are used to measure the lifetime of incense instead of time because it would be more convenient to strategize while playing).

The lantern illuminates surrounding with yellow light and when incense is added the light will turn slightly greenish. The green color fades out as you take steps, this helps player to determine how long it will last. After its effects wear down a reload is required and it takes time to reload (1 second). If the player is in the Dark area while reloading he will lose half bar of health during reload. Holy incense are rare to find, you can have limited amount of it from the priest every morning hence it is not wise to reload before completing 5 steps.

Dark area: To completely protect yourself from demonic energy, you need light and holy incense surrounding you. All the buildings inside the city are circulated with holy incense and if it is lit by generator you don’t need light source to protect yourself.

If the building does not contain generator, you can just burn your lamp with kerosene to protect yourself completely but when you are walking in the streets at night you need both kerosene lamp and incense to protect yourself completely. If you are walking down the streets with just lantern burning kerosene you will lose half bar of health every second, if you are walking without any light source you will lose 1 complete bar of health every second.

Few lights on the streets were still working as they were running on generators. No need to burn incense when you are under the street light because of the holy incantations done by the priests. Your health regenerates when you are under these Special lights. Only few of these lights were on and they were placed far away from one another.

[Gameplay]

So you have to calculate the distance from your home to police station, number of incense you have, the locations of the lights and distance between these lights, you need to plan your moves, save incense as much as you can. Kerosene, incense, ammo these are some the rare resources you can find so it is wise to save them as much as possible. In case if you die in the middle, you have to replay the whole day again.

[Leo reaches the station, informs about the incident to sheriff and they both decide to investigate]

At the start of the game you will be provided with a vague unexplored sheet of city map. You can see the difference below, inside of the city is filled but the forest area is unexplored. The map will be filled out by Leo as he travels around. As he was new to the city he didn’t know many places.

UnExplored Map
Explored Map

During the Investigation Leo started talking to the people he finds that some of them were turning dark slowly, dark circles were seen under their eyes, they became less afraid to travel at night and they didn’t care about what was happening in the city.

You cannot go outside the city in the morning because of the dense forest. Your first goal Is to find out what happened to the electricity. To find the cause you need to visit the power station, there are two ways to get there, one is by finding the key to the hospital’s backdoor or to find the compounds key connecting the station and the hospital. You have to visit buildings, talk to people to find out who has the keys. To get information from them you needs to do favors (missions). The missions that people ask Leo to do usually takes place during the night. So Leo can use his home to fast forward day and night time. A watch will be on the screen to keep track of time.

Everyday you can collect a limited amount of incense from the priest. You can only hold a limited amount of holy incense in your inventory at a time, hence skipping days and nights won’t stack up. You can earn money by doing favors to people and you can use that money to buy ammo, incense and other objects which are related to the story from the pawn shop. Some people are available throughout day time some only found during particular time of day and some are available only during night time. So sometime you need to explore buildings only during night time to interact with some particular people.

Like explained before every building has its own interior and even inside buildings you can find many places that are not accessible. Either there are monsters inside, (you can’t pass until you get hold of a gun) these are the abandoned buildings like school and office or there can be rooms that are locked and you need to find key for it.

[Second Half]

During the investigation he finds more about the forest, people, the history of the place and the places he needs to visit to find out more. At some point he finds out that he has to visit an old wrecked church which is in the middle of the forest and this can be done only during the night time. Leo finds out that the forest trees become dense in the morning but they slowly shrink during night, and during these times they release some sort of chemical which was making everyone sick. Leo found out a way to travel through the forest and the only way to do it is during night time and he couldn’t travel through the forest with his normal lamp. There was a big and more efficient lantern inside the power station which could burn longer and use less incense.

After he reaches the power station he finds that the station was destroyed and there was no way to repair it to get the lights back on. He finds the big lamp.  The second half of the game is all about exploring points of interest outside city. Most of the gameplay will be during night time. The forest area has lots of monsters, you need more ammo which you can find by exploring or you can get some every morning from sheriff’s office or buy some from pawn shop. 

 Below is a map where the points of interests are marked

In the game there are many ways to access a particular place, for example to get inside butchers home you can either get the key by gaining access to butcher’s shop where you can find his home key or you can use the hammer to smash the loose wall on butchers compound.  You can enter the grave yard either through the gate by getting the gate key or through the tunnel from Butchers backyard but if you choose the tunnel you need to fight the wild creatures that live in the tunnel and you can only fight them once you have access to guns.

The game provides many ways to complete a goal.

[Points of Interest]

1 – The Hut

2 – Drowned Temple

3 – ???

1, 2 and 3 are connected, to enter 3 you need to visit Drowned temple where there is a mysterious room which will take you inside 3. 3 cannot be accessed from outside. To reach Drowned temple you need to visit The Hut, where you will find a man who can rent you a boat. You can rent it by using money or you can do him a favor (mission) to rent it freely.

Note: Favor may seem like you will get things done for free but the missions could require you to wander at night, shooting creature which will cost you ammo and incense. So sometimes it better you just pay up, but if you pay up you will skip the mission, there could also be a chance that you could find something valuable during these missions accidentally.

4 – Wrecked church.

5 – Destroyed house (inside the house you can find photos of a family) This is the place where the game starts.

6 – Train Wreckage.

7 – A key can be found here, but you need a shovel to dig up and search for it.

8 – A marked Grave indicating something.

9 –Gun and camera inside compound. Camera is inside the well, you need rope and a hook (which can attach to cameras belt) to lift it up. You can buy it in pawn shop or you could find it while exploring places.

10 – Hammer.

11 – Power Station.

12 – Cop car (you can find shotgun inside the trunk of the car) you can get the key from the sheriff during the second half.

13 – A travel bag (once you find it you can carry more stuff in your inventory).

14 – In the water supply building there is a room, once you unlock it (key can be found at 7) you can easily travel to the right side of the map through the outlet pipe (on the right side of the building). First time when you need to reach 7 you need to travel around the map through forest fighting monsters. Once you get the key you can just slide out of the pipe from water supply building.

15 – Butcher’s home – you can find important clues inside and butcher’s backyard has another way into the grave yard.

16 – Butcher shops backyard – Investigate blood stains and there is also a hole in the compound, you can use it to crawl into the grave yard (why was that hole made?)

This is just a brief overview of the game, it contains only few details about characters and the gameplay.

Early Concept Art