Mobile Game (IOS/Android) by Coconut Island Studio
[ Level Designer, Level Enhancement ]
Rolling Pictures of Jiangnan Landscape (江南百景图) is a highly stylized simulation game, developed by Coconut Island Studio, that allows the players to build ancient Chinese cities, while also experience stories through adventure missions.
The two different gameplays intertwine with each other because by developing one city, the user is able to unlock new regions. The adventure missions in each region will help unlock resources for the cities developments.
Assigned Tasks & Requirement:
I was assigned to mainly work on the Adventure Mission mode, which puts the player into a specific story where he/she helps a main character of the game to achieve certain goals. During the adventures, the players have to perform several tasks such as gathering resources or crafting items. All these activities will drain their energy meter.
In the first month, I was mainly going back to the previous Adventure Missions to enhance player experience: adding more cut scenes, as well as smoothing the character movement. Then I was assigned to work on an individual chapter: Changmen in the new Suzhou region. The lead writer handed me a general script of the story, as well as two requirements for the level:
1. To build a level that connects to the next chapters of the story (Shangtang Street).
2. To create an interesting narrative experience that is different from previous missions.
Mind map for requirements
Requirement 1: To connect with other chapters
1. Field trip to the actual location:
Since the story all takes place in historical locations, I first decided to travel to Suzhou city to experience the environment myself and get a sense of what it feels like to be there.
2. Geographical feature study:
Then I studied the location of the two regions to create a general sketch of what my level/map may look like. I also imagined how the characters would travel throughout the map. Because they are authentic locations, I want my map to be geographically accurate.
After all the research, I went into Unity and created this map and marked down how all the characters would travel.
Requirement 2: To create interesting narrative experience
Mind map for narrative experience
1. Past & Now
Because the script tells a story between the past and now, I felt that it would be better if our characters can travel between timelines. Having this idea in mind, I talked to the lead writer, and she was quite supportive of my direction. Together, we made little changes to the script to better narrate the story under this potential mechanic. But having the ability to travel between timelines means that the player must be able to teleport between two maps, which was not a technically realized feature. Therefore, I talked to the game producer and the technical director about my visions, and how I think that this would add interesting gameplay for the players. They were also quite supportive and added the portal system for the adventure mission mode, which greatly helped me complete the level design.
Left & Right comparisons for Now and Past.
2. Interesting Side Characters:
I also added interesting side characters along the way to demonstrate their struggled life due to the big fire, so that there are more emotions to be felt in the world of Jiangnan. Some of the characters include the sad fisherman down left, who was having a hard time selling his fish because of the big fire.
3. To restore the past:
Because the players travel to the past to help restore everything that was burnt, I decided to give the player the power to spread seeds and grow trees, bringing a simulation-only feature into the adventure mission. In this way, the act of growing plants symbolizes restoration, having the player to be part of the change that they later on see in the future (which is Now).
Step 1: Trading resources with characters for seeds.
Step 2: Planting down the seed for the flower/tree
Step 3: Waiting for the flower/tree to grow
Traveling to the region to see what it looks like Now, due to the player's contributions.
This chapter received a lot of praise online because it was quite different from the previous adventure missions. It has many interesting side characters, a more complicated story as well as gameplay as it requires the player to visit the same location in different time. During the visits between two timelines, the characters get to interact with those interesting characters to know their little stories. The player also gets to participate in the restoration of the past by planting seeds to grow flowers, trees, as well as bamboos. Eventually, the player will be able to see the beautiful future that they helped built.
Only thing that I feel a bit frustrated about was this chapter is the fact that I took an entire month from building to finishing it. I feel like I could have done it more efficiently, if I am more experience with level design as well as other skills. But overall, it is a very valuable experience to learn and practice.
Game videos and links: