Beasts of Maravilla Island

Lead Designer

Banana Bird Studios, LLC
May 2019 - Ongoing

Beasts of Maravilla Island is a game where you play as a young explorer named Marina, who must solve puzzles using the world around her to earn the trust of the magical animals on the island of Maravilla and photograph their majesty.

 

Play the PC demo now!

Beasts of Maravilla Island began in the USC Advanced Games Projects program, and has since been further developed by the team now known as Banana Bird Studios and picked up by the publisher Whitethorn Games. It will be released early 2021 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox. Its core lies in the awe and reverence of wildlife, and our goal as a team is to capture that majesty while allowing players to have meaningful interactions with the creatures in the game. Unlike in many other games where you must damage or kill nature to progress, we focus on "shooting" through a camera, emphasizing capturing magical moments and the wonderful behaviors animals exhibit through photography.

In-Game Screenshots

Canopy_1
Canopy_2
Canopy_3
Canopy_4
Canopy_5
Canopy_6
Canopy_7
River_1
River_2
River_3
River_4
River_5
River_6
River_7
River_8
Plateau_1

My role on the team is Lead Designer, so I am in charge of leading my team of 2 designers within a larger team of 27. Our responsibility is to craft the world of Beasts Island and the meaningful interactions with the creatures that players will have on the island, all while being advocates for the player.

As Lead Designer of the indie team behind Beasts of Maravilla Island, I've delegated, guided, and worked with my team to quickly create and iterate on designs in every aspect of the game, both in-person and remotely. I made sure we all kept the player experience goals in mind and remained within the scope of the game. Furthermore, I drove my team to think in the terms of the game’s core values of conveying meaningful, non-violent interactions with animals, and of creating a low-stakes game that was still packed with the wonder of exploration and adventure. My tactile duties included creating documentation, presentations, and diagrams to effectively communicate ideas to the rest of the team, as well as designing and greyboxing levels and puzzles, and implementing technical designs using the team’s proprietary tools.

My responsibilities include:

  • Guiding the designers to quickly ideate and iterate while keeping the core pillars, player experience goals, and scope aligned with the vision of the game.

  • Designing the mechanics, levels, puzzles and animal encounters.

  • Creating documentation, presentations, and diagrams to effectively communicate our ideas to other team members and supervisors.

  • Greyboxing the world and puzzle areas using Unity and Probuilder.

  • Being able to iterate rapidly while keeping the essence of the game and the purpose of the puzzles intact.

Level Design Samples

River | Initial Sketch
This was the concept sketch of the entire river area that I proposed to the director. After getting the green light, I greyboxed the first pass of the river.
River | Iteration 1
Here is an overhead of the terrain and final puzzle. I greyboxed the necessary puzzle elements to get a sense for size and space.
River | Iteration 1 | Final Puzzle
A close-up of the initial final river puzzle greybox.
River | Beta
Here is an example of how I encourage exploration by placing interesting creatures off the beaten path. The side path is somewhat hidden by bushes to reward players who explore.
River | Beta
Here is a puzzle where the creature camouflages as logs. The player should be encouraged to explore and discover hidden nooks (such as in the top left) while understanding where the main puzzle resides.
River | Beta
The main path leading out of the log puzzle. The player is lead where to go by lily pads that act as platforms.
River | Beta | Final Puzzle
The beta version of the final river puzzle. The concept remains the same, but with some layout changes and final assets in place. The goal is for the player to be aware of the puzzle (the rocks), the purple tree, and the waterfall without getting distracted by any of them.
Plateau Extension | Sketch
This was the concept sketch of the first section of the plateau that we decided to add on later in production.
Plateau Extension | Iteration 1
This is my greybox of the added on plateau section based on my sketch. It is built to contain as many creatures as we can in the small area.
Plateau | Iteration 1
This is a ProBuilder object I made of the main bulk of the plateau. Its main feature is a winding path leading upward to the temple to create tension.
Plateau | Iteration 1
The player turns a corner and sees a carefully placed scene that emphasizes both the mysterious deer spirit for a narrative beat, and the temple, which acts as the goal and landmark of the plateau.
Plateau Temple | Iteration 1
This is the first iteration of the temple, which contains 3 small puzzles revolving around dodging the creature residing here. The vine, which has been used earlier in the game, can be seen on the second floor and acts as a focal point.
Jungle | Iteration 1 | Puzzle 1
The first greyboxed version of the first puzzle in the game. It is purposefully simple, and incorporated climbing tutorialization. Gliding monkeys in the distant trees are there to draw the player upward.
Jungle | Iteration 2 | Puzzle 1
The second version of the first puzzle in the game. The player now ascends to higher tree branches rather than remaining on the ground.
Jungle | Iteration 3 | Puzzle 1
The third iteration of the puzzle, now with some final assets. The puzzle itself has been modified to give the player more agency in the realm of controlling light.
Jungle | Iteration 4
This is an early greybox of the final puzzle in the jungle area. It involves helping a male monkey court a female. We included successful monkey couples to indicate the relationship between the crystals and beams of light.
Jungle | Iteration 4
An early version of the player's path through the jungle. We later added more branching paths to reward players who explore.
Jungle | Beta | Puzzle 1
The final beta look of the first puzzle in the jungle. We made sure to place foliage in a way that emphasizes the puzzle elements.
Jungle | Beta
A photo-worthy spot in the beta version of the jungle area. It is meant to give players a moment of delight, and several good photos for their photobook.
Jungle | Beta
The player's first look at the jungle from the treetops. The climbable leaf-covered tree is placed so that it draws attention.
Show More!

Early Systems Samples

Camera and Photobook, Version 1
Camera and Photobook, Version 2
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Early Documentation Samples

Core Pillars
Photobook Mockup
Journal Page Mockup
Camera UI Mockup
Pathing Tool Diagram
Terrain Tool Diagram
Puzzle 1 Diagram
Puzzle 2 Diagram
Puzzle 3a Diagram
Puzzle 3b Diagram
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New Objective List Document
Created September 2020, pre-beta, for the team's UI engineer.
The concept was a team effort between myself, our creative director, and our UX designer, but the document was made completely by myself. It is a new iteration of the Objective List, which previously lived in the pause menu.
Photo Feature Document
Created August 2019, pre-production, mainly for the engineering team, though it also contains the audio and art needs.
The design and documentation was a team effort between myself and my two designers. The final camera layout has changed much throughout the iterative process. 
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