Symphonia is my end of studies game, made in Master at ISART Digital. It’s a 2D platforming experience, combining both tight gameplay and poetic, musical elements, in a world combining 2D and 3D assets.
Symphonia was made in under eight months, with Unity 3D, by a team of thirteen students, between October 2019 and May 2020.
In spite of the quarantine imposed during the COVID-19 crisis, I am proud to say that the game is perfectly fitted for Nintendo Switch and for PC.
In Symphonia, we invite you to play as a mysterious violinist, a bird-like figure exploring a gigantic slumbering realm, filled with giant musical instruments and wondrous creatures.
The violinist, wielding a violin and its bow, must progress through the realm of Symphonia and awaken the world in specific rooms by playing his music. To do so, the player must cross various platforming obstacles, by jumping or using his instrument.
By using his violin bow to bounce on the ground, the character is able to reach new heights. By using the violin bow on softer surfaces, the character can stick to them and propel himself, flying easily across gaps and hazards like a bird.
Finally, the player can choose to play the violin at any given moment, to activate mechanisms, to open doors, to awaken the world, or just to relax and enjoy the music.
The original pitch that assembled our team was centered around a character with a spear that could be used to stab giant enemies and bounce on the ground. We gradually decided to let go of the spear and center our mechanic around another object instead. When the character design went from a soldier to a potential violinist, I suddenly clicked on the concept.
As a Game Designer passionate with the indie game scene, and the artsy side of video games, I saw in Symphonia the opportunity to create a wonderful, creative world. In this world, the game art, the game music, and sound design, and the game mechanics, would be tightly linked and create a coherent and indissociable whole. I could already project myself in a smooth and aerial gameplay, in a poetic world.
I made this my personal guideline for the whole development. As a game designer, I wanted to make sure that the different aspects that compose the game were coherent with one another, for our universe to be believable.
For this to occur, working very closely with every member of the team was mandatory, and including everyone in the creative process, including design, has been one of our biggest strengths.
As a Game Designer, I worked on the creation of all the game mechanics, that stemmed from the original pitch.
The programmers created prototypes very early on in the development, so I was able to test the physics of the character in the engine and to make decisions quickly with the other designers. The tweaking and the balancing of the character abilities in the engine have been ongoing tasks for me for the whole development.
As a decent English writer, I also wrote a lot in the Game Design Document (which is in English too), defining the game structure, designing the camera, doing the UI design, and the controls.
Finally, I tried to put a real emphasis on game feel, with special design rules, considered as exceptions: the kind of rules that reduces the unnecessary frustration of players, using input buffering for example.
I also worked on the Level Design of the game, which has been another ongoing task for this project. I started by designing interesting gameplay bricks for a 2D platformer, thinking in particular of music-related bricks like bumper drums, strings of a guitar that are zip lines, and microphones.
I tried to find interesting game situations to create by combining those instruments and our core gameplay, then when we validated some of those bricks with the other designers and the game artists.
I then built rooms and game situations in the engine, including the camera movement, which is very contextual in Symphonia. When we decided to cut a main feature after the Alpha to make the gameplay more precise, the Level Design was entirely rethought to fit the gameplay better, and I rebuilt new game situations in the engine.
Finally, I was also in charge of the design, the integration and the tweaking of our tutorial, and our more narrative non-playable character: the Shadow. As the Shadow is included in cutscenes, I learned how to make cutscenes, working closely with the game programmers.
Of course, I also have been QA Testing Symphonia for the whole duration of the project. As I have an internship experience in QA testing, I have had no trouble with this task. I was reporting bugs in a pretty exhaustive sheet, including reproduction steps, expected behavior, version number, assigned team member, priority, severity, and more, to each bug.
After each bug was fixed, I verified it, and then closed and archived it to not lose track of what we fixed. I personally reported around a hundred bugs in the sheet.
The last third of the development, starting early March, was entirely made working remotely, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This was a huge challenge for us because we could not regroup and work together anywhere anymore, and school was closed, which means we did not have access to the Nintendo Switch Development Kit anymore.
The group and I have reacted to this situation by putting the emphasis on a crystal clear intern communication on Slack, and by integrating daily audio and video calls to our working routine. We also had regular meetings outside of working days, and we made sure to be reachable as easily as possible on any given day.
Most of our Nintendo Switch set up had been done prior to the crisis, but we also put the emphasis on very strong code and assets optimization, to be absolutely sure our game would be absolutely smooth on Switch when building on the dev kit would be possible again.
As the development was going great, and we were already proud of our game, I took the initiative, with the approval of the rest of the team and ISART Digital, to start creating social media accounts for Symphonia.
With our producer Guillaume, we also worked on a communication and marketing plan, that allowed us to start communicating online on the game very early in the production, in January 2020.
As the social media manager of the game, I made a publication planning, to ensure we always had great content to share; and created assets to post, with the help of other members of the team.
To this day, I am still managing our content on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.