A side-scrolling creature-upkeep game about bringing life back to a dead world
October 2019 – December 2019 || Lead Designer/Lead Programmer
Hollow Reef was a game developed over the course of a 3 month period by a 4 person team. For this project, I worked as the Lead Systems and Narrative Designer as well as the Lead Programmer.
Calming, casual ‘creature-upkeep’ gameplay; the Player inhabits a recently deceased soul who finds themselves in the expansive, barren plains of Hollow Reef. In these vast wastes, you encounter and care for a giant Golem made of bone: a benevolent beast that with the right amount of nurture will grow an extraordinary, expansive garden on its back. A new twist on the gardening and town-creation genres, Hollow Reef seeks to provide an interactive creature experience where the ‘pet-surrogate’ is both a lovable NPC and an expandable home-base. Explore the land of the dead astride your Golem companion, chasing off gnawing scavengers with your Lantern, and tending to its luscious garden to create a wondrous, living, breathing-town for other lost souls.
Skill Development Overview
– Further expanded technical proficiency in Unity and C# as the Lead Programmer
– Gained experience in leadership roles as both the Lead Designer and Lead Programmer
– Further developed narrative design skills through world-building, lore, and character design
– Continuously worked to improve time management skills while under a very heavy workload
– Gained further experience in creating game documentation
Giving Life to a Dead World
I held many roles while working on Hollow Reef. Not only did I design and implement the systems of Hollow Reef, but I also worked to create the narrative that fleshed out the game’s world. I had a lot on my plate during the short development time and I did my best to ensure that every piece fit into the overall game of Hollow Reef.
The World of Hollow Reef
Most of my narrative work on Hollow Reef was condensed into building the world as well as populating that world with unique and interesting characters that made the world feel lived in, even if the world itself was dying.
This posed an interesting challenge, how does one create a dying world that feels alive?
I approached this in a few different ways. I set the world of Hollow Reef in what was essentially a dried up ocean. Sand covered the whole world with massive chunks of bleached coral strewn about. Not only does this visually look dried up and dead, it also provides a solid foundation for the narrative of Hollow Reef to build on. Building on top of that setting, I weaved in the concept of the Bone Golem, which the core gameplay of Hollow Reef was built around. As a team, we wanted these Golems to represent life within the world, this led to their inclusion as living, breathing towns.
While the Player’s Golem was healthy enough to survive in the world, there are plenty of Golem ruins scattered around the world that a Player would be able to explore. This would then give them pieces of both the world’s history, and the history of a specific Golem town.
The last main narrative component I worked on for Hollow Reef was the NPCs that would appear in the world. I wanted the NPCs of this world to feel like they belonged. I felt that the world should be populated with strange characters, some helpful and some that have completely lost their minds.
Building Hollow Reef’s Systems
When designing the systems of Hollow Reef, I had to keep the overall theme of the game in mind. As a team, we wanted the game to have a slower pace so that players could spend their time exploring their environments. I worked this into our systems by having most of the management systems in the game be set to idly output resources. This would allow the player to explore the world around them without needing to worry about needing to be stuck farming manually.
Plans were in the works to have up-gradable technologies that would be discovered by exploring the surrounding wasteland. This would also lead to an evolving world as the player would begin to bring life back to their Golem. As they did so, the Golem would start to revive the world around it, returning life back to the area and causing the setting to shift as the player progressed.
Other Team Members
Jae Ettinger (Sound Designer) || Louis Klarfeld (Producer) || Kenneth Taylor (Artist/Programmer)