Out of Your Depth

A puzzle simulation where you play a hapless submarine commander.

Role: Mechanics and UX Designer

Team size: 7

Tools used: Unity, Adobe Illustrator, XD and Premiere Pro

‘Out of Your Depth’ showcase

Click here to download the project from itch.io.

Out of Your Depth was a project I worked on in second year of University with a team of seven people for 14 weeks. My work as a mechanics and UX designer earnt me an A grade in the module this project was part of.

The player is put in the role of a submarine SONAR operator and is required to perform increasingly complex procedures to identify what’s going on outside the sub and identify potential threats. The game’s design is influenced by Papers, Please 2014 and Not for Broadcast 2020.

Screenshot of the player’s workstation

Getting Started

My first responsibility was to collate and merge my original idea for the game with the ideas the group came up with in our brain storming sessions into a game design document. I enjoy working with teams in an iterative and collaborative way, so this was a living document that I constantly kept up to date as we built on the idea. I also worked with our teams producer to turn this into a project backlog as we were using the the agile SCRUM method of team management.

Mechanics Design

From the start we knew the player would use multiple mechanics to identify targets outside the submarine. I designed 7 mechanics that would form a simple primary loop. I worked closely with the team’s programmers to ensure implemented mechanics were interesting and satisfying to perform.

Outline of Primary Loop

Environment Design

Since each mechanic is represented by a 3D piece of equipment on the player’s desk this provided an interesting challenge for our artists, since adjustments made to a mechanic and how it was programmed would require adjustments to the already engine implemented 3D models. This had the potential to be a big backstop in our pipeline. Clear, concise and punctual communication of my design decisions was necessary in keeping things moving.

When designing layouts for the environment and the players desk I had to make sure documentation was clear to both programmers and artists. Where possible I used Adobe Illustrator to make diagrams.

Early design of desk layout

Level Design

Since the game takes place in a single room level design was all about creating a series of events that would be relayed to the player through their equipment. I designed several levels made up of events that represent a gradual escalation between enemy forces, similar to the Cuban Missile crisis.

Flowchart of tutorial mission

UI and Graphic Design

During production I designed and then implemented the UI on the screens of the equipment on the player’s desk. I also created logos for different fictional companies to go on pieces of equipment to provide some depth to the world building.

Company logos

Opening Cutscene

The game was to contain cutscenes similar in style and tone to those found in the Red Alert series. “I’m going to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by capitalism…space”. I voiced, animated and edited the first of these cutscenes. The one I made mimics a military briefing that would play at the start of the game to set up story and act as a tutorial, it can be seen at the start of the game showcase.