PlayStation Vita game Gravity Rush plays with gravity, letting main character Kat manipulate it to walk on walls or float through the air. A game with this kind of freedom requires a different design approach, and from what art director Yoshiaki Yamaguchi revealed in a Game Developers Conference session today, they went about it with an approach that is the opposite of typical action game design.
Yamaguchi said that Gravity Rush is an open-world action adventure setting was created with one phrase in mind: Living Background. He said that they worked every design angle to create the sense that the character exists in this world, and that the setting is a living world, and not just a pretty backdrop. The goal was to continually engage the player so that they are always considering the world around the main character. He warned that missing the mark on this goal would have the player ignoring the surroundings, and said it would be a shame for the world to serve only as background art.
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While they pushed for an open world from the beginning of the development process, they weren't sure they could reach the level of freedom they desired. Yamaguchi says that his art team continually worked with the tech departments to ensure that their gravity-defying vision held.
Ultimately, Gravity Rush's level design ended up being quite different from the standard, guided path where everything is calculated to maximize player experience. Given that Kat is free to move freely to any surface and stand on just about anything in her environment, from floors to ceilings, their design approach centered around the absence of a set path for player progression.
"This approach that we took is almost the opposite of level designing, where everything is calculated and the player is left to follow the path that was created in the creator's head," said Yamaguchi.
Gravity Rush will be released for the PlayStation Vita this summer.