Moody story boarding
Moons of Madness is a strongly narrative driven horror game but there are additional, complementing mechanics that make up the pillars of each chapter.
These pillars consist of exploration parts and puzzles/interactive elements on top of the narrative driven elements. Naturally these are interconnected which is something we have to keep in mind and be very careful about because within those elements we want the player to also feel a range of emotions. Love, anger, fear, sadness etc.
If you want to tell the player something really important story wise he/she should not be distracted by something else. For example, we do not want the player to be in a stressful situation because it makes it easy to miss environmental storytelling or anything not dialogue related.
There are other things to take into consideration, especially in a horror game with tension and scary moments. We do not want the player to be in constant stress or tension. It can get too much, so the effect is the opposite and you lose the impact of the darker/tenser parts of the game. It is important to think of the flow of the environment and how this relates to the game-play. Where is the player at that given time. What other things are happening, what is asked of the player and what do we want her/him to focus on.
So in order to help us determine what kind of mood and state the player should and hopefully will be at any given point in the game we made what we call a “Mood Map”.
It is a visualization of the story-line and game-play, where we also visualize the mood we are trying to achieve for the player. In that way, we have a proper overview of what state of mind the player is supposed to be in and what the objective of that specific situation is.
It is a great tool to see the distribution of mechanics and variety. It helps determine issues such as too many tense events in short succession, or too many technical puzzles within a play session.
Graphs for each chapter help with the visualization of the overall gameflow. We also had a strong mood board and a folder full of references from movies and other games or concept art that would incorporate what we are going for mood, atmosphere and design wise.
Visualization in game development is a really great tool and should not be underestimated to help you design your game.