10/12/15

Original design for Fingerbones

I don't know if this will be interesting to anyone, but I thought it would be fun to post regardless.  It at least gives you a bit of an example of how much my game ideas usually end up changing as I work on them.

The final incarnation of Fingerbones is actually quite different than what was originally planned.  Here are some of the ideas that didn't end up being used.

The post-apocalyptic setting was always part of the design.  At one point, I considered having someone else in the house with you, looking for food.  They would have been the only enemy.  The player would end the game by finding an unopened can of beans, after learning about the events that occurred there.  This idea was scrapped very early on, as it didn't really fit in with what I wanted the game to be.  Also, as I got further into development, I realized that I simply didn't have the knowledge to model and code a convincing NPC.

Originally the game was much more focused on tricking the player into expecting an overt, traditional threat of some sort.  The player was going to have a weapon (that would never actually be needed), and notes were going to make it sound more like there was some hideous experiment or occult monster in the basement.  I still think the gun idea would have been interesting, but it also would have probably resulted in a lot of disappointed players.

Likewise, when the player entered the cellar for the first time, I was going to have them fall and lose consciousness.  When they re-awaken and explore the cellar, it's filled with empty cages.  When the player doesn't find anything, they turn around to leave and see the silhouette of a creature blocking the exit behind them.  Then they wake up, finding themselves on the floor where they originally fell.  That sequence was just a dream.  Then they enter the cellar and experience the real ending, contrasting the game's philosophical horror with "fake" traditional horror.  I don't remember why I didn't end up doing this, but I did re-use the basic idea for the "silhouette scare" at the end of The Moon Sliver.

Originally you would have found Katie's skeleton along with the final note.  I cut this out because I couldn't model a convincing skeleton.

The ending was also originally much more graphic, with the final note detailing exactly what was done to Katie in matter-of-fact detail.  I changed it at the last minute, and I'm very glad I did.  The original version would have been more hard-hitting, but I think a lot of people would have justifiably accused the game of being exploitive just for the sake of shocking.

I developed Fingerbones as I was learning to use Unity, and I ended up cutting a lot of corners simply because I didn't know enough about the engine (or 3d development in general).  For instance, the game was originally going to be about 3 or 4 times the size of the final version.  I actually finished modeling a bigger version of the first area, but ultimately cut it down to one room.  Part of the reason was that there were significant issues with the model itself, due to me not really knowing how to use Blender properly (I still don't, really :P).

Another reason for cutting it down to one room was the I wasn't happy with the original puzzle design, which would have seen the bunker as a sort of Myst-esque series of strange devices and puzzles.  When I actually started implementing the puzzles, they just felt too silly for what the game was trying to convey.  The player was also originally going to be able to explore outside, although I ended up cutting this idea fairly early in development.  I don't remember exactly why.  It probably just had to do with simplifying the project into something that would be more manageable.

The original artstlye was also going to be significantly different.  The lighting was going to be similar to what I did in The Music Machine, and all textures were going to be pixel art.  However, I didn't really understand UV maps in Blender, and my attempts at texturing the environment didn't work out.  Instead, I ended up using one "blanket" texture for everything (mostly to cover up some of the messy edges of the lightmapped shadows).  I ended up scrapping the lighting idea as well, since I couldn't make Unity's lightmapper render the shadows as hard-edged as I wanted, and once again I didn't know enough about the engine to work my way around that.

Here are a few in-development pictures of the game, that show me developing the artstyle, and some of the original bunker layout:





11 comments:

  1. The two last pictures actually remind me of A Wolf In Autumn, huh. An interesting read BTW! ^^

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    1. Now that you mention it, I suppose I could see that!

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  2. It's interesting to see how much Fingerbones evolved. I much prefer the aesthetic in the finished product, as it lends itself to a more damning sense of hopelessness. Larger spaces with nothing to fill the in between places tend to exert a sense of loneliness. The smaller space made me feel as if I wasn't alone, like the ghosts of the past remained.

    All that said, I feel a certain morbid curiosity regarding the note dictating the details of Katie's fate. Wondering if the reality is as grim as the picture I have painted in my head.

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    1. The idea was still basically the same: he cut her fingers off. But he did so over a period of days, and the notes explained the effect on her over time. It was a lot more grim, but ultimately I think it was actually just as powerful to leave things to the player's imagination.

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  6. Do you think you'll ever re-visit or remake this as a side project? Now that you are more experienced, I feel like you could do most - if not all - of the things you cut. Not that there's anything wrong with the Fingerbones you released, but I think it would be interesting to see this version too -- especially with the slightly expanded story and world.

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    1. I dunno. I won't rule it out as a possibility, but it's definitely not on the top of the list right now :P

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