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Apr 28

Apr 28

Hob: Designing a Transforming World on PS4

Patrick Blank's Avatar Posted by Lead Level Designer and Game Director, Runic Games

When we started talking about ideas for Hob, the biggest aspect that kept coming up was that the world itself needed to be center stage for both gameplay and story. The main goal was for it to be something unique and engaging, allowing the player to interact with the world in interesting ways.

Those core goals are what drove the idea of a world disheveled like a Rubik’s cube; it’s not complete, and the player needs to help fix it. It was proposed that we not only build the world around the player being able to move and transform large areas, but also to make those transformations a major part of the narrative. What that narrative is, however, is a secret for the player to discover.

After we had a grasp on the world, we then needed to build tools for the player to interact and fix the broken world. That’s when the utility glove was born. Early on in the game, the player acquires a glove that can be upgraded to be multi-functional. The glove has several multi-purpose tools, serving the player for navigation, puzzles, and combat. Once we decided what glove abilities we wanted, we shifted focus over to supporting it in the world space.

We delved deeper into what that meant gameplay wise, development wise, and tech wise. It started to sound like a crazy man’s fever dreams. Speaking as a level designer, the amount of work to design and build a space that transforms — sometimes multiple times into different configurations — each of which need to be fun and support various gameplay, was crazy and terrifying. I kept thinking, “What are we getting ourselves into?” It was nuts. If we could pull it off though, it could be amazing.

HobHob

As we started building toward that vision, I began to see the big picture possibilities. That is when things really got exciting. This was still a crazy plan, but now we were committed to making something crazy and very special!

I’ve always enjoyed games that encourage the player to explore and to venture off the main path and reward them for it. My rule when playing games is that if I know a certain direction is the main path, I instantly go explore elsewhere first in hopes of being rewarded for it; it’s extremely satisfying when you are.

In Hob, we do not put you on the yellow brick road and lead you by the hand. In fact, we try to get you off that yellow brick road so you can find the non-obvious back door that’s half-hidden by overgrown weeds, leading you in a roundabout way to your goal. Then we take it a step further and allow you to unlock the front door from the inside, creating a shortcut back out. That type of rewarding exploration is our goal with Hob.

Puzzles big and small are scattered across the world. The world is broken and the player has several tools to navigate and fix it. For instance, the player acquires an ability that allows him or her to use their glove as a grappling hook between points to get to areas he or she could not reach otherwise. The same ability lets the player grab and pull objects to and from points that they might not be able to reach.

Another ability allows the player to punch through walls, creating shortcuts and breaking apart tall pillars to create shortcut ladders. Each interactable object has a telltale visual cue so that the player will learn them and be able to identify them elsewhere. The player will often reach areas before they have all the abilities needed to find everything, so previously explored areas will gain new surprises as the player acquires abilities later on.

The most challenging aspect of building the levels has been the world shifting. Each space requires more thought and consideration. We have to plan around the powers the player will have for that area, the new ideas we are introducing, and the new abilities the player will have when they return to the area later in the game.

Hob

Some spaces rearrange once to solve a particular problem. In other spaces, the player can toggle levels back and forth as part of a greater puzzle, with each variation offering something different. Imagine being able to run freely across a large land mass while it is in the middle of transforming. Those moments are a special, memorable part of Hob’s gameplay.

Designing for Hob has been a great experience so far. In the beginning of the project, I thought we were crazy to be so ambitious with so many unique gameplay elements and compound level design. Looking at the game today, it is all falling into place. It is clear that Hob is something unique, and really, really fun. All of the hard work will be worth it.

Add Your Own

paulogy said:

April 28th, 10:28 am

Hob continues to look great, and it’s no wonder it appears on many people’s most-anticipated-games lists :-)

I know when I’m exploring worlds and they lack interaction they feel so barren. By taking the time to not only build in such integration, but make it a centerpiece of your game, it will hopefully draw the player in that much more into what you’ve crafted :-)

Seluhir said:

April 28th, 10:32 am

So a Metroid-vania with a changing world? Interesting. Colour me intrigued.

KillerColtKito said:

April 28th, 10:43 am

I’ve never heard about this game until now, but this idea is very interesting and looks like my kind of game. I’m especially intrigued having read “My rule when playing games is that if I know a certain direction is the main path, I instantly go explore elsewhere first in hopes of being rewarded for it”. That’s the same philosophy I follow when playing games. It must be difficult to have your game centered around levels that shift as well as the mechanics that work with it. This is a definite buy from me. Keep up the good work team!

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    Patrick Blank said:

    April 28th, 10:51 am

    KillerColtKito, It is very challenging! Also very rewarding when to see something in front of you transform in a cool way and create a new space. We’ll be showing more examples in the future. Glad you’re excited for the game now!

CrusaderForever said:

April 28th, 11:38 am

Very impressive world shift! I like the fact that you like looking off the beaten path. This is a D1P for me.

KeefRiffards said:

April 28th, 12:01 pm

Always great to see more Hob related content. I visited Runic’s booth at PAX East this last weekend, and grabbed the Hob pin you guys had there. Very cool. Always more than happy to support one of my favorite developers in the industry. So glad you guys are releasing on Playstation 4…. I absolutely cannot wait for this game!

P.S. I would love to see a port (or remaster) of Torchlight/Torchlight 2 for PS4. I loved what I played of those games, however, being a Playstation fan I never was able to play them through to completion. My computer was garbage, and I gave up on the XB360 after about my fifth one crapped out. I got tired of fixing them/sending them in, and went PS after that. It would be great to be able to finally play that series on my PS4. Better yet, a Vita version would be absolutely amazing – though I don’t know if that would be technically possible. I know you guys have your hands full at the moment….just a suggestion for future possibilities. :)

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    Patrick Blank said:

    April 28th, 12:31 pm

    Thanks for the support KeefRiffards! Glad you got to see the game in motion at the show. You’re right, we are a small studio and we do have our hands full at the moment with Hob. That is where all of our effort is focused until it ships. :)

D-Squad3 said:

April 28th, 12:22 pm

release date?

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    Patrick Blank said:

    April 28th, 12:31 pm

    No release date just yet. Stay tuned!

anberlin44 said:

April 28th, 1:55 pm

I played this game at PSX and LOVED it! Plus you guys were very gracious and awesome to chat with!

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    Patrick Blank said:

    April 28th, 2:39 pm

    Thanks anberlin44! Glad you liked it!

Trendy_Kid said:

April 28th, 2:40 pm

Oh man, this looks incredible. For some reason it makes me think of Prince of Persia (the cel-shaded one). The freedom of exploration is one of the best things about a 3D Platformer.

marlyt said:

April 28th, 2:41 pm

This looks really cool. But please tell me the theme of this disheveled world isn’t the product of evil men causing global warming. I prefer not to be preached leftist propaganda while I have fun. This has happened before with games I was really looking forward to and we’re immediately shut off forever. Please?!

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    Patrick Blank said:

    April 28th, 3:12 pm

    You have nothing to worry about marlyt. :)

sealum01 said:

April 28th, 3:20 pm

HoB looks really great! This one is on my list of games to buy as someone who loves puzzle games with story, and an enticing world.

If I had one wish? PSVR please!!! :)

kingfoot said:

April 28th, 10:19 pm

Are you guys hiring? I would love to see if there are any opportunities available.

AizawaYuuichi said:

April 28th, 11:43 pm

I enjoyed Torchlight 2 on PC so much that I gifted it to several friends so I had people to play with.

When I saw Hob (I think it was E3 ’15) announced as your new game coming to PS4, I knew it was going to be something to keep my eyes on. Glad to see it’s coming along nicely.
Looking forward to more info as you get closer to launching.

    Patrick Blank's Avatar

    Patrick Blank said:

    April 29th, 10:37 am

    Thanks! We can’t wait to show more about Hob very soon. There is a lot of really cool parts of the game we can’t wait to see how people respond to.

Hakumen__ said:

April 29th, 1:18 pm

Any plans for a PS Vita version?

    Patrick Blank's Avatar

    Patrick Blank said:

    April 29th, 1:57 pm

    No current plans to Hakumen_. But you never know!

VinsanityV21 said:

April 29th, 4:30 pm

I’m a fan of anything described as a, “Crazy Man’s fever dream” :) Torchlight was pretty rad, even though I hate those kind of isometric hack-n-slashers usually (except for Gauntlet Legends; LOVED that one), so I’m already a fan of your art. Everything about HOB seems insanely exciting to me. There aren’t enough games with really interesting settings that interact with the player; all I can think of is DmC’s amazing setting of Limbo, and that didn’t put the player in charge of manipulating it. I’m definitely keeping an eye on this!

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    Patrick Blank said:

    April 29th, 5:05 pm

    Our art team is amazing, and I think it shows from TL to Hob. Screenshots can’t do the game justice compared to seeing it on the screen right in front of you with everything in motion. Even just standing still, the ambient life and moment is really fantastic. LImbo is fantastic, and a huge inspiration. Another game with great ambiance.

SureBigBuster said:

May 1st, 7:59 am

I can’t wait to get my mitts on this. The game is looking fantastic. Keep up the great work!

AimeePowell said:

May 3rd, 2:46 am

My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do…

Go to tech tab for work detail.. w­­­­­w­­­­­w.­­­­e­­­­a­­­­r­­­­­n­­­­m­­­­­o­­­­r­­­e­­­9­­­­­­­.c­o­m

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