Role: Level Artist and Level Designer
Link: Stranded: Final Cut (Steam)
Stranded is a survival horror adventure created for Techland’s 2015 game Dying Light. It supports up to 4 player co-op or can alternatively be played alone. Players fill the shoes of a private investigator tasked to explore the confines of a decrepit mental asylum. Throughout the journey, players will discover and try to escape the dark secrets hidden within. Stranded is greatly inspired by the Outlast series, emulating it’s many styles and ideas.
I joined the team half way along the production pipeline, collaboratively designing various locations. My job was to work along side the level architect, breathing life and character into the level. I will break down key locations, identifying my work and concepts.
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Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a kind-of-whatever, any and all comments are welcome. This project does not highlight all the areas of my level design skill. Future content will showcase gameplay designs and scripting skills.
After players involuntarily fall lower beneath the asylum, they uncover the unfortunate suffering patients endured. The solitary block was initially only to showcase the holding cells without the addition of its gruesome history. Keeping the location disturbingly untouched juxtaposes other discoveries made throughout the adventure, suggesting someone actively covered up any misdoings. Sometimes, what you don’t reveal can tell a better story. Withholding exposition isolates the player and doesn’t feed their curiosity; much like solitary rooms would do patients. However, I later favoured a different concept.
The solitary block, being situated beneath the asylums initial construction, would rationally be the oldest area. Players will uncover the solitary block mid-adventure after exploring modern and presentable locations like the offices. At this moment, there is an unfolding theme that this asylum has always had two faces – openly professional and secretly malevolent. Consequently, the hook within the game is to discover what created these nightmarish scenes. The psychotic patients or those caring for them.
After escaping the solitary block, players will discover a medical ward residing beneath the asylum. It is evident the asylum was not built for common purpose, yet no clear story is being revealed. Most important whilst expanding the Stranded world was to avoid using blatant exposition. Therefore, the player should perceive this environment with open ended ideas, engaging their curiosities. Keeping the purpose of this ward unclear indicates a lack of proficiency and malpractice.
Sporadic pipework seeming unusual for any medical facility hangs loosely from the decaying walls. The floor showcases a bloody mess without the certainty of any official, work related causes. Mutilated corpses scattered along the corridors are no longer identifiable under the weak, dimming lights. Navigating the ward and passing its many various routes conjures a constant feeling that you have truly stumbled upon the wrong place at the wrong time. Players will notice plenty wrong with the workings of this asylum but will be clueless to the reasoning. Something horrific clearly occurred within the ward, but who, what, why and when is down to the players understanding.
Players will access the restricted staff grounds once resurfacing through refurbishment work taking place above the ward. It is here where the asylum’s workforce resides and cruel intentions are finally uncovered. To continue blurring the line between the patients and workforce’s psychosis, I exaggerated any destruction and violence within their homes. Matching the staff quarters to the chaotic environments bellow will leave lingering thoughts that perhaps patients have resurfaced also. Or potentially, the workforce is more demented than their patients. As a result, there’s everything to be afraid of and many details to fixate on throughout this adventure.
Within the staff quarters, I also wanted to establish an occurrent disconnection from the outside world. Never will you find any modern electrical tools or digital devices. There is nothing to entertain or fulfil the workforce and not a sign of outsider influence. Discovering this simple, primitive environment after exploring the colossal asylum filled with such sinister character should evidence where the staff felt most creative and at home.
Across the courtyard and into what seems to be another simple home; players will unveil the true, sick nature of the twisted workforce.
Severed heads decorate the Shelving. Human remains colourfully curate the wooden floorboards. Furniture organised into a claustrophobic, labyrinth design without obvious cause. At this moment, players will understand that the torture inflicted within the asylum was cherished, revered and forever proudly exhibited here.
Once reaching the archives, the asylum’s history has fully unfolded. After this crucial discovery, players will arrive at the climatic finale of abduction, amputation and death. A fulfilled investigation and an audience with the head doctor is the final reward of this long journey. Players will experience the special attention patients have been suffering for decades. Ouch.
Problems with Stranded
The lack of office space and direct communication with other team members introduced a new challenge. My work was once overwritten when someone updated the shared project files, disregarding my comments in the change log. Thereafter, We strictly enforced that everyone logged and checked for changes when preparing and completing their contributions. Since the change and emphasis on bulletproof origination and communication, the issue desisted and everyone’s hard work was protected.