The BrainIdle Training SIMS Project
I was tasked with finding a way to share and monetize the ephemera of our creativity -- our unusual level design explorations.
I designed and built the BrainIdle Training SIMS project as a repository for these vignettes.
Contributors Stuart Templeton, Thomas Hurtt
Created At Open Form Games
Role Creative Director, Lead Designer, 3d Artist, Developer
The chief challenge for this project was the disparate nature of the items. For the most part, the exploratory levels and scenes were not tied together through any particular narrative and contained a wide assortment of visuals.
I worked to meet these challenges by pulling the scenes together through an abstract narrative, reminiscent of Star Trek's Holodeck. Vegas Prime Retrograde uses a technology called BrainIdle, simulation programs that run while a person is in stasis, which was perfect.
Using this narrative component to tie the disparate environments together allowed me to leverage existing assets and creative output in a way that generates interest in the core project, Vegas Prime Retrograde.
The Hole SIM is an exploration in ludonarrative dissonance. The area itself is a naturally enclosed area to explore, featuring two separate watering holes and towering canyon walls. The physical design is intended to communicate mild claustrophobia and a sense of being trapped.
The narrative that drives the area is found in "pick-up" items that each offer bits of story. The story is a high-tech story about long lost lovers communicating to each other through time.
The Red Pond SIM is an exploration of color. I wanted an ambient feel similar to fairy tales, existing somewhere between surreal and mysterious.
I took inspiration from misty woodland scenes and manipulated color to drive the sense of surreality. The setting of a pond, a recurring theme, helped pull the disparate ideas together while adding a reflective surface to play with.
The Villa at Risa is another hat tip my Star Trek inspiration. In our narrative, BrainIdle technology is used to train people, but we believed it would also provide a "leisure simulation."
The Villa itself, rapidly prototyped in Sketchup, is inspired by the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, which is in turn inspired by Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, Italy.
Transmission Alpha is a "Gathering SIM" which sees the player searching the surface of an unknown planet for various resources -- minerals, biological, archaeological, etc...
The environmental design was created to play opposite The Hole. Instead of an enclosed area, the exploration is relatively open. There are very few non-geological structures. I use atmospherics and distance to create a sense of meditative isolation.
The only interaction you have with other parties in this SIM are the on-board AI that runs your expedition and the rare artifacts you find that serve to communicate the last moments of an ancient civilization.
I was heavily inspired by literature about Pompeii, the remaining structures housing a tragedy frozen in time.