COLD NIGHT

A first-person survival game where the player must collect firewood in the cold Alaskan wilderness to make their campfire last the night. My focus in this project was to convey the experience of bitter cold through immersive aural and visual feedback. This was a solo project, made in Unity.

Game Feel

Most of my time on Cold Night was spent creating feedback for when the player is getting cold. I made a lot of small components that are individually pretty simple, but that make a major impact on the game's feel when they all come together.

‚Äč

The most obvious effects are the visuals. I have an ice texture that fades in from the sides of the screen, creating a vignette effect as the player gets colder. The ice actually covers up the HUD once it gets thick enough, because at that point nothing on the HUD is more important than getting back to your fire so you don't die. I also make the colors in the environment more blue and desaturated, so there's a visual change even if you're tunnel-visioned on the center of the screen. And finally, the camera shakes as the player shivers. The camera shaking logic is implemented in a simple way that doesn't interfere with the standard Unity player controller.

UI

Early in development, Cold Night didn't have a HUD at all. The only information the player ever needed to know was how cold they were, and that info was conveyed without needing a HUD. However, once I added the firewood collection mechanic and timer, the need for a HUD became apparent. Still, I wanted it to be minimalist in design. Here's the wireframe of what I came up with:

I wanted to theme the HUD after an old digital watch, and I made the firewood counter on the left themed to match the actual watch on the right. After showing this image around, though, I was told that the firewood counter looked more like a speedometer. So I ended up changing the firewood counter to look more like a brown satchel, and testers were able to read it better.

Environment

My original idea for Cold Night's map was to make it circular and divide it into "zones" based on distance from the center. There would be two pieces of gear that spawn a set distance from the center, and that would let the player stay warm longer. These would be needed to safely go to the farther reaches of the map. I ended up scrapping the gear idea, but the map layout remained the same.

I started with a big valley with a ring of trees surrounding the center. The trees were distributed basically evenly, the firewood spawns were also distributed evenly, and the only other distinguishing feature in the area was a frozen pond with a stream leading away from it. Testers had a hard time navigating the level, so I took a screenshot of the level from a top-down view and started plotting where to add landmarks:

With this layout, it was much easier for players to navigate because they couldn't wander as far through the woods without finding a recognizable landmark. The "bonus clearings" are areas where I removed trees and hand-placed extra firewood spawns, so players are rewarded for exploring near interesting landmarks. Also, I later added an extra-large tree near the center, and a tall smoke column rising from the campfire itself, making it easier to navigate back to the center of the map. The biggest change I made to the above map was replacing the igloo with a stilted shack, because an actual Alaskan told me the igloo was silly.