ONE WILD DAY IN OUTSET
One Wild Day in Outset is the first level of a longer campaign, introducing the world and tone on the far side of the rift. Arriving initially to take on a simple job, players find themselves drawn into a conspiracy that threatens the symbiotic relationship between the two worlds. In trying to find out what is going on and how to leave the city, players engage in complex conversations across the entire central city in a variety of evocative settings. This level presents the unique conditions of the new world and the optimism and frantic energy that suffuses life on the other side.
Introduce the city of Outset and the new frontier
Convey the intense, frantic, and optimistic character of the world
Establish the player's relationship with the Manifest Destiny Trading Company
The player takes control right as the character comes through the rift as a fresh-faced adventurer. They discover the person they were supposed to meet - their employer - has gone missing. As a part of this introduction, they recieve a package they have been instructed not to open and a hard deadline. In just a few hours, the player's train leaves the city, and if they aren't on it with an entry permit they'll be trapped and likely arrested.
The player must simultaneously investigate the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of their employer, decide on what to do with the package, and track down a way to get out of the city before their train ticket expires and they are trapped in the slums.
AND THE STORY
After learning their plans of steady employment have been interrupted, the player is left alone and lost in Outset with a deadline. They will have to get their bearings quickly as they travel through the districts, seeking a way to obtain an entry permit on the cheap. Various possibilities arise, such as gambling what little money they have, dealing with shady recruiters, or getting involved in some gray market activity.
As time passes and the deadline draws nearer, they come to realize that all the options they are presented with are unpleasant in their own unique way, and they are going to have to choose one and stick with it.
Throughout this process, more information about the conspiracy gradually becomes apparent before the disaster strikes the city at the predetermined time. Players have no time to investigate, however rushing to wrap up their business, get on their train, and try to make sense of what has happened on their way to the frontier and the next level.
With a loose narrative in tow, I started to design the physical city. I speculated and researched how the buildup surrounding a stable portal might appear - massive infrastructure and boom town commerce.
The rift is a chokepoint on all commerce through and from the two sides, and so everything warps to prioritize efficiency. The limited two-dimensional area of the rift will be utilized to the maximum possible extent.
Then, the rest of life including commerce, habitation, and entertainment would have to fill in the gaps. Outset is a city that happens to be inside and intersecting a massive shipping port.
For this level, I focused on the area immediately around the rift. This region contains the trans-dimensional shipping port, the densest buildup of urban mass, and the first place the character experiences on coming through the rift, highlighting what makes this world unique.
Central Outset is divided into zones of attitude and control. At its heart, the Manifest Destiny Trading Company and a variety of massive corporations demonstrate their power and influence. The terrain in line with the rift is dominated by a sprawling rail network composing the trans-dimensional shipping network. In the gaps, entrepreneurs and con-men take that they can.
The playable area of Outset is a spectrum from enthusiasm to desperation, showcasing the breadth of lives on this side of the rift. Outset is the one central meeting point of those who have overwhelming profited from the rabid expansion into the new frontier, those who hope to make something new of themselves, and those who have been exploited and left behind.
Different paths through the narrative, and thus through the city, reveal the intersections between these different stories and give a glimpse into the frontier at large.
The world through the rift draws heavily from pulp novels, early 20th century propaganda, and travel advertisements.
In designing the visual language of Outset, the desired feeling is that having stepped into a poster. Bold, punchy graphics with a limited color palette and clean shapes.
To realize this in Unreal, I used low-poly meshes and simple geometry to create large smooth surfaces. Over top this, a shader highlights edges and clamps the displayed colors to a reference image, restricting the palette to a carefully designed set of colors.