Play here: https://rachelpmoeller.itch.io/winchester-mystery-house
Play as a ghost haunting a Winchester Mystery House-esque level. Walk through walls to find keys and unlock chests in order to help the other ghost bound to the area. However, you are bound to the home until you send the other spirit to rest.
WASD to move, E to interact, walk over items to pick them up, and mouse to look.
Unreal 4, 2018.
I made everything except the sounds (though I mixed them), the painting images, and the following models: violin, dollhouse, teddy bear, pocket watch, books, glasses, bowl, curtains, or the piano.
After playtesting the level a few times I found that players were still having trouble finding keys and remembering what color chests they go to. I fixed this issue using several techniques:
- Keys are easily visible in the graybox due to placeholder assets. Not so after making them tiny keys.
- Fix: Pulse the lighting, color the lighting according to the key color, and change the layout to these pulsing lights are more visible:
I changed the font and added a more image based key indicator.
I’ve started filling and iterating rooms in the level to tell the story of the ghost who haunts it. The ghost was once a young singer on the verge of a prominent career who stopped to have a child – the heir to her family’s fortune. She is torn between her desire for the freedom, fulfillment, and progression her career brings her and her desire to be a good mother (while also feeling guilty that she cannot connect with her daughter.)
In this room I highlight a moment of this struggle by making the room a psychological representation of this struggle of forces. The ghost has burned away her career and turned her back to cradle her maternal obligations (symbolized by the teddy bear). The key collectable is on the chair here to force the player into this framing composition to view the “wave” of passion and desire for her career overwhelming and lingering in the background of her life.
This is an initial lighting pass to get the general vibe and conceptual structures of the level down in lighting:
This is the room where the player meets the ghost the level is centered around. I want to create a creepy vibe that’s also mysterious and inviting – I want the player to be drawn in but feel unwelcome. To do this here I’m using a blue key light on the ghost to highlight her and make her colder. I’m also using a rim light on the music box to highlight its silhouette, but also to hide enough detail from afar to make the player approach. I used red to contrast the gameplay action of the blue NPC from the music box. I’m using a bluish fill light in the left center of the room to pick out the sofa and candle details – but again it’s soft so the player needs to approach to see more detail. I’m using two orange small fill lights on the candles in the bottom (in contrast to the blue) to frame the NPC and make her the center of focus.
I’ve started making some textures in Substance Designer for the house. I also added some new models.
I made a kit to construct the Winchester Mystery House out of. After using it in Unreal, I’ve learned to keep snap angles consistent and that I should have built floors, walls and ceilings to match inside the seams instead of on the corners. This became an issue because I needed walls to have two sides (so now they have double width which messes up the grid.) Making planes instead of chunky walls might have also helped this problem.
I also modeled the gramophone I want to swap the chests with:
As prep for the Winchester Mystery House art pass, I made a mood board, asset list, and architectural study of the space. Again, I want this level to tell the story of the ghost who once lived there – an opera singer who gave up her dream to raise a child as an heir to family’s fortune. All of the reference and assets I planned revolve around this concept.
After more playtesting and critique in preparation for art passing the Winchester Mystery House level, I cut some of the areas from the house. I also changed areas to make the space feel domestic an less like an office. I gave the rooms more compound verticality by connecting them vertically to other rooms. I also changed the ciritical path of keys and chests to use sightlines to guide the player better and give them a sense of direction. I also changed some halls and doors to frame locations as way-points in the space.
I want this level to tell the story of a woman who struggled with giving up her opera career to raise a child and all the guilt she buried in the house by building walls over her feelings and the passion she abandoned. This woman is the ghostly quest giver whom the player must learn the story of before they can progress. These changes the layouts allow me to bring places in the house to the player’s attention as moments in her story.