Pier Solar and the Great Architects

 

Description

Pier Solar and the Great Architects started as a simple homebrew game on an internet forum for a retro system, and slowly grew into a commercial release for many modern platforms, including PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam and Wii U. What was amazing about this project is that almost all team members came from different countries. This taught a lot on the subjects of communication and cultural differences. The company which made Pier Solar is called Watermelon.

The game is a classical JRPG with a fantasy setting. We aimed to maximize the use of its original hardware, Mega Drive and to give an immersive experience reminiscent of other games in the genre from the 90s.

Reflections

Pier Solar was the project where I learned the most. I had my fingers in many jars. Level design, NPC script, game design, QA and customer support. Working on so many different things sure was hectic, but also an opportunity to make sure the design felt genuine and true to a single vision. It also made it possible to unite different fields, something which naturally was harder to do when other team members lived in other time zones. While Pier Solar was my entry into game design and brought a lot of knowledge about the industry with it, it also taught me a lot about life as well, and brought me friends for life.

 

Level design

As the game had over 100 levels (or maps, as they are better called in RPGs), I was one of three level designers. I focused mostly on towns, which was natural as I also was the NPC script writer, as most NPCs were located in towns. But since I also was the item designer, my skill was also needed for placing treasure chests in the dungeons of the game. Those are two example of cross-field tasks I did.  I also made some puzzles in the dungeons.

 

Pine Forest

Probably the most beautiful map I did, with a varied use of tiles, many spots of the highlight mode of the Mega Drive and just right amount of arting. I was directed to make it feel like you go down, though you go from the bottom right to the top left of the map, because of how the world map was structured. It was a bit tricky, but I think I managed to do it well.

Looping maze

Man, this level was a big mess! Two level designers, the scripter and the story writer were all involved. The story writer asked for a map which looped until the player figured out why, and then solve a puzzle. So I drew a map with three routes, and all of them lead to the same end. The player needs to take every route to hit all trigger boxes, which makes the characters notice something is wrong and the puzzle can start. Since the player is trapped in here, I basically filled the place with strong healing items in case it would take a lot of time to get out, since the random encounters still happen.

Secret Society

I made this map with directions from the… director! He asked for a village split in half, where the player had to search for the secret route between them. I put a lot of effort in making each house as different as possible, and also in having them at different elevations to give a more natural feel. I took the chance to combine my NPC writing field into it, and made an mini sidequest where an old man in the village asked you to count the carved stone faces of the village. If you counted them all and told him that number, he would give you a special item.