Climbing to the Top

August 1, 2016
Posted in 2016
August 1, 2016 Wouter

In one of our previous blogposts we explained that RITE of ILK’s ideology is to create a co-operative experience focused on exploration. Up to a certain point in development, we figured that we didn’t want the players to explore the world solely through linear level design. Subsequently, we decided to break away from our linear gameplay by going into the heights and expanding our horizontal gameplay by introducing vertical gameplay. This brought us to a conclusion: what is a better representation of exploring heights than wall climbing? Well, I can think of a lot, but let’s not go up that wall now.

After detailing the mechanic out for some time and researching how other games implemented their wallclimb mechanic, we stumbled upon a development blog by Uppercut Games and their game Submerged. Their approach to wallclimbing really appealed to us and inspired us to create a similar system. After a couple of days, we had a prototype in place that opened up a lot of new gameplay possibilities and allowed us to think of new level designs.

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(Figure 01: (left to right) RITE of ILK vs. Submerged climbing mechanics)

Using Unreal Engine’s powerful tools allowed us to quickly create grid-based wall-climb surfaces and snap them onto the many different environmental pieces that we want to climb up against. For example, you could snap it onto old ruins, large trees and roots… or even ladders. Basically, anything that’s vertical and looks climbable.

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(Figure 02: Mokh climbing on a ruin ([1]: Wallclimb surface visible, [2]: Surface invisible, [3]: Added plants to mask depth)

The wall-climb system we ultimately decided to build came with a couple of pros and cons. The biggest pro of all, in my opinion, is that we can create animations that fit the mechanic perfectly – including flawless animation blending. This is because we know the distance, direction, and end-location that the characters have to travel toward before reaching a certain piece on the grid. This allows us to read gameplay data of said grid piece before the movement has been actually handled. By computing the data and going through a lot of checks, we can easily determine how the character should act or respond, what action is allowed or forbidden to perform, and what animations to play per grid piece.

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(Figure 03: Mokh jumping over a gap from one grid to another)

Another pro, from a developer’s perspective, is the fact that gameplay becomes very predictable. We make sure that we are in control of what the players may and may not explore through using this mechanic. This way we can design cool and challenging environments full of climbing experiences for the players to discover, without having to worry that they will glitch out of the environment’s boundaries, which could ruin their immersive gameplay experience.

Since our target audience is very broad and ranges from non-gamers to experienced gamers, we have to make sure that the mechanic is easily accessible and kept interesting for all. Non-gamers should be able to enjoy the climbing experience as a whole, whereas the more experienced gamers may think of new ways to combine climbing with other mechanics to traverse and explore hidden paths and routes.

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(Figure 04: Tarh climbing while Mokh is swinging)

Right now, our climbing mechanic solely works in combination with immobile objects and actors. However, future updates will also include the possibility of climbing onto mobile objects, actors… or perhaps even large and mean creatures. I’m just saying. 😉

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