PADMA Who dunnit?
Tranzfuser Games Competition, UK Games Fund
Concept Artist and Illustrator
In a decadent, socially networked, future society, a murder takes place aboard a space cruise ship. The player takes on the role of the AI controlling the ship: ICMS Padma.
By interacting with a cast of eccentric characters through a deep tactical dialogue system, and scanning the scene with a collection of instruments, the player must follow leads, discover clues and utilise a range of upgrades to find out whodunit.
The project was completed by the newly formed Ludic Gulls who were selected among seventeen other teams from across the UK. Whodunit Padma was designed and developed for the Tranzfuser competition with the UK Games Fund. Within three months a demo needed to be created to be showcased at the UK's largest gaming event, EGX 2016. All assets were handcrafted by myself using all sorts of mixed media. The world, characters and dialogue were designed by our creative writer Giovanni Rubino and designers Tim Phillips/Roman Ohlendorf. Finally the programming and development was split between the Greedy Gull team; Joseph Loe, Marcus Brooks and Matej Navara.
I was able to persuade the team that due to out lack of an animator we could use a 'Monty Python' style of animation that would both overcome this issue and allow me to produce a visually interesting design. This meant for a lot of extra work for myself creating every asset traditionally ,but saved a great deal of time for other members of the team. Unfortunately we didn't have time to include the animations in the trailer above.
This design led to many of the visual elements that make up the whole style of the game, from the stars created with Quink and Bleach, to the rift between old and young amongst the passengers, the young making use of 3D printing for everything, including their cloths, while the old (those still alive from our own generation), prefer to be more retro and make their own clothing.
The airlock was to be the site of the stories first murder and needed to both impress upon the player the visual identity of the hedonistic society to which they interact with, give them plenty of opportunities to use the initial mechanics that they would have access too. This airlock is technically off limits to human passengers and crew, but they have taken it over as their own party room. They have grown plants inside the space suits that no one uses, stolen the 'CuttleDrinks' from the bar and attached them to the walls, and the Virtual LARPing group have brought down some of their foam weapons to practice with.
Players would need to be able to pan left to right and the assets would need to both be capable of being animated and be large enough that they could zoom in. The airlock opens and closes and the lamps move as the room looses pressure. Everything on the walls is its own full size painting.
An interesting problem with this room was that the shape of the ship meant that is was not possible for the access hatch to be placed on the outside wall if part of the murder was to succeed, hence the unusual positioning of the room.
Early in design the team settled on playing a murder mystery taking place on a luxury cruise ship. Set in a future where 3D printing is in common use, and social media is all encompassing. Players were to take control of the 'Who Dunnit 3000' who was specially printed to investigate the murder due to no one else on board having the specialist skills and benefiting from 3D printed technology in that his body was fully customisable.
Due to games design decisions the final game has you in control of the ship herself. You can still see the history of the designs illustrated in their images..
PADMA herself is a giant Solar Sail ship that rotates around the central hub in order to generate artificial gravity for the outside ring. Her form resembles her namesake Padma, the Lotus.The outer ring contains all of the living quarters and entertainment. The Central hub is a scientific research center with a crew of only four. In the distant future getting funding for research is hard, so persuading people they get to go on a cruise, while looking like they support science, perhaps while gaining precious Followers is the way to go, is easier than getting funding for a purely science mission.
The rest of the ship is full automated and any crew hold their position purely for bragging rights.
Robots & the Ship
The Swimming Pool
As the second location that the player encounters and by far the largest room in the entire ship it needed to feel truly grand. I experimented with multiple ideas including a true infinity pool, where the bottom of the pool would be open glass looking out into space. The Indian design refferences due to PADMAs name were the most clearly referenced here. The base of each wooden pylon bares the image of a Naga which are often used to guard areas of water.
And yes, that is a man sat in a hotub full of custard.
The Bar & Resturont
The Bar and Restaurant are two very important location for player to investigate the passengers of PADMA. The Dining area features a giant viewing window on the floor, not for those faint of heart.
The bar has your drinks several by mechanical drink robots known as CuttleDrinks.
Dialog & Scanning
The two key mechanics of PADMA Who dunnit? are the player ability to scan rooms and object in order to discover clues, and the Diolog system which will allow them to interview characters.
PADMA has had her memory banks wiped at the start of the game which means she needs to learn from scratch who everyone is and importantly what things look like. We experimented with multiple way of representing PADMA being unable like a child to process the visual information she is receaving. In the end we opted for a more traditional approach that is in keeping the the style of the rest of the game. This means that every object, and the background itself, has a 'Messy' scrambeled version of themselves which will be present until the player has scanned them.
Unscanned objects apear as more abstractly painted versions of their normal selves.