Monumentalis is a small game of riddles and sculptures. The player has to work through snippets of poems to uncover their true meanings. It was made in 2 weeks as a university project in the first unit of my second year.
Monumentalis is a game prototype made for a Year 2 university project. As the brief specified that its focus was on high polish, I decided to make the core gameplay as simple as possible in order to focus on producing assets that are as polished and visually appealing as possible.
The player is presented with sculptures that represent some concepts. In the game, these are Death, Love, Justice, and Power. The sculptures are surrounded by lines of text that form a 3-line riddle. However, each of these lines has 4 variants with only one matching the concept of the sculpture. The player must find which combination of the lines forms a poem correctly representing the sculpture, after which the answer is revealed. The player effectively has to work through a riddle backwards, starting from a rough idea, finding out which lines fit it through elimination, to finally arrive at a reconstructed poem and the true answer.
In the creation process of the sculpture models, I went through several production stages. First, I researched real-life sculptures, identifying the principles of the art style I was aiming for. Then, I created concept art for four sculptures. They went through a series of iterations, from silhouette idea generation, through elimination and combination, to detail iteration and final designs. I have then used those finished concepts to create and texture the sculpture models in Blender, which I then imported into Unreal.
Alongside working on the sculptures, I created code to handle the poems and detect when the player selects their correct order in the engine. Alongside this, I wrote all of the poems, with both their correct and incorrect lines. I wrote four 3-line poems with four variants per line, counting 48 lines in total.
I created a game prototype with 4 puzzles in form of riddles that the player has to solve based on the ideas represented by sculptures. I have accomplished a good level of polish through aesthetically pleasing assets combined with lighting and particles to both highlight them and add some visual ambience.
This project helped me refresh my knowledge and skills in concept art and 3D asset creation. Additionally, it challenged me to create a gameplay loop that is the simplest it can be, yet still offers interesting and stimulating experiences to the player. While the prototype's idea might not be engaging enough for a standalone game, it would work perfectly as a minigame within a larger one, thanks to its gameplay loop being both easy to understand and program.
Mechanic Insights & Highlights
The gameplay is extremely simple on a technical level, only including buttons that switch between lines of riddles and a system that checks if a correct combination was selected. Most of the true gameplay happens in the player's mind through recognition of themes, logical analysis, and elimination of lines. It was a deliberate design choice to keep the gameplay as simple as possible to divert time to asset production while making clever use of the player's imagination by including it in the gameplay loop itself.
The sculptures exist in a room of complete darkness with lights focusing all attention on the sculptures. The intention was that it would give an appearance of an art exhibition situated in complete isolation. This artistic choice dramatically cut down the number of assets required for the scene to just the sculptures, greatly reducing production time. The echoing sound effects further add to the feeling of the sculptures being situated in some empty space.
The sculptures were inspired by various modern figurative sculptures and artworks, as I find the abstract expressions they portray fascinating and aesthetically pleasing. The artists that had the most impact on the style and were used as reference and inspiration were Philip Jackson, Carl Payne, and Peter Mohrbacher. At the beginning of the concepting process, I have studied their works, as well as that of other artists, to find what common traits they possess and what makes them impact the viewer the way they do. These findings - namely simplified form, altered detail levels of faces and body parts, and use of metallic surfaces to accentuate depth and shading - were then used to design and model the sculpture assets used in the prototype.