Devblog #5 – Level Design

As we near the October 30th release of Call of Cthulhu, we’re taking a closer look at the game’s development through a series of Devblogs, each presented by a different member of Cyanide Studio’s team. Today, we’re joining Lead Level Designer Romain Wiart as he tells us more about Call of Cthulhu’s environments and investigation mechanics.

Hi everyone! My name is Romain Wiart, and I’m Lead Level Designer on Call of Cthulhu. Level design is about using the rules and scenarios written by the Game Designer and the Narrative Designer to create the user experience.

We work on the pace and challenge of the game to make you experience various flavors and tempos through the game. With the investigation mechanics in Call of Cthulhu, we tried to offer various options for players to explore, depending on the way you develop your character and the choices you make throughout the story.

When developing the story, we laid out a series of scenes usable for the Narrative Designers and easy to read and navigate for the players.

Our main focus was on player perception. What you will see and hear, how we can subtly drive your attention to the things we want you to notice, and how we help mental awareness by building the levels in ways that facilitate navigation, thanks to landmarks and signals for example. And finally, we built the environments to offer challenges, as players shouldn’t die countless times but still feel on edge, even when there is only an illusion of challenge.

Call of Cthulhu’s investigation mechanics feature three major aspects: exploration, dialogue and skills – we tried to link them together as much as possible.

Player will gather clues and tools through exploration. These will help to resolve the mysteries that fill the story, and open new topics and lines in dialogue. By speaking with the Darkwater locals, you will collect information about the island and its inhabitants. You’ll also develop relationships with some of them, opening new paths and closing others depending on your decisions. The team really wanted each player to create their own experience, be it for impactful choices or not.

Our biggest challenge in the development of the game has been to stay as true as possible to the key ideas of Call of Cthulhu. Lovecraft has to be gloomy and oppressive, but not outwardly horrific in an on the nose manner. It has to be fantastic but not fantasy. It has to instill fear through unease, expectation and the feeling of helplessness, not through jump scares, direct confrontation and violence. The biggest challenge was to translate this vision of cosmic horror specific to Lovecraft into a game experience.

Call of Cthulhu releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on October 30. Digital and retail preorders are available on PC and consoles.

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