The Project

From the Project Octopus Wiki:

"Project Octopus is the code-name of the 2006 Senior Collaborative Gaming Project at the Academy of Art University. Over the course of three semesters, the students are creating assets for a full mod of Halflife 2 based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft."

 

My Contributions to the Project

Early on I was given the role of Lead Level Designer for the project. My contributions included:

  • Responsible for designing the Compound, Plantation, Slave Quarters, and Warrens areas of the first chapter as drawn layouts and as 3D blocking in the Source Engine’s Hammer Editor
  • Brainstormed primary game-play for the hero with the Project Lead
  • Worked closely with the concept and environment artists to develop and maintain the themes and visual style of the first chapter
  • Organized and did presentations and interviews to recruit members for following semesters

 

Visual Themes

Early on the Project Lead specified that he wanted the game to take place in the early 50s; however, for the first chapter the action takes place mainly in the deep South. Our main locations are an old 18th Century plantion house (The Manor), a shanty town built up by cultists who moved in during the early 1900s (The Shantytown), a series of classrooms that arose when the area briefly served as a boarding school (The Classroom), and the surrounding bayou/swampland (The Slave Quarters, Bayou, and Church). The Church then leads into a series of underground natural caverns called the Warrens.

The Manor

For the Manor we decided that most of the furniture had been replaced by the people who had used the building as a school. There are a few leftover pieces like the entry hall's chandelier, but most of the furniture reflects the Manor's use as a building for the faculty and students - there are many desks, old lounge couches, chairs, and cabinets from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Shantytown

The Shantytown reflects the haphazard and feral mental state of the cultists. Though several building cores reflect the original architecture on the plantation (tying it together with the rest of the level visually), most of the structures are ramshackle constructs made of wood and corrugated metal. We used many pictures from actual farms and shantytowns to establish the chaotic, rickety look of the buildings the cultists live in. Dominating the Shantytown is a massive watchtower which serves as a visual goal and guide around which Shantytown is built. Players should be able to use it as a landmark from nearly any location in Shantytown.

The Classroom

The Classroom is actually a series of school house rooms filled with dust, debris, and relics from the areas days as a school. Creepy visuals like abandoned desks, torn ABC wallpaper, chalkboards with strange semi-readable writing dominate this area. Natural lighting coming through long-boarded up windows and massive holes in the ceiling serve as partial illumination. There are few encounters in this area, but the ambient noises of cultists chasing the player and trying to break through the windows serve to keep the player on his/her toes.

The Slave Quarters & Bayou

The Slave Quarters area has been mostly reclaimed by the swamp. Old foundations mark where ancient slave houses used to be but the area is mostly waist-deep in swamp water. Dead and dying trees surround the playable area, and fallen trees block routes further out. Mutated crocodiles glide under the water, forcing the player to use the few wooden piers that have been set up by the cultists to traverse this area. The Bayou follows immediately after, and borrows the same look as the Slave Quarters only with cultist-constructed bridges made of wooden planks and spikes.

The Church

The Church is the final area before the Warrens. It is from before the times of the plantation and has fallen into disrepair. Bayou trees have fallen through the building's walls, and the church itself is crumbling. A large statue of an original deity is suspended in the air above the ground and is later used in a puzzle to reveal the entrance to the Warrens.

The Warrens

The Warrens are lit mainly by light coming in from holes in the roof of the cavern, but overall the area is very dark. Players are supposed to make use of the lighter in order to see in some areas. The Warrens are a series of natural caverns that have existed since the time of the deity's arrival. There is an underground stream and lake and bioluminescent fungus growing on many of the large cavern pillars. This area is meant to be gloomy and creepy; the player is exposed to the sounds of cultists that have been transformed into hybrid creatures long before meeting the creatures themselves.