The Natural Island:
From an early point in development we decided the world we would be building for the game would be isolated onto one island, it would match the stranded robot vibe that was proposed with the original pilgrimage of robots concept.
as a small island it also made the idea of designing the ma much easier, we (mostly) always wanted the player to be able to see the end beacon and this design ended up being the most logical way to achieve that.
This is one of the early prototype showing the beacon towering over the island and it definitely worked as a waypoint to work towards from beginning to end.
as development went on we started putting in assets and it made the environment feel much more like a rocky cove of an island therefore not breaking the immersion of the player in this environment.
The problem we had with the environment at this point was all of it was very rocky, nothing unique to push the player to explore and see anything and take in the experience of trekking across the island. So we thought some old ruins that would match the beacons design would be perfect for this, we liked the idea that an old civilisation would have leftover remnants on this island.
When making the prototypes of the level we realised after some play testing that players would need some more direction than just the end goal of the final beacon. So we made smaller structures that would match the architecture of the beacon in hopes that they would work as stepping stones like directional waypoints for the player.
Each of these structures have an emission built into them to cut through the fog of the level meaning that it will draw in the player as if it was a lighthouse for the player to get drawn to.
This was an intuitive way for the open world to become a bit less daunting to an unfamiliar player.
On top of that we wanted to add a bit more verity to the level so its not just rocks across the whole horizon so we designed a bridge to cut across the landscape making the player feel rewarded to reach (roughly) halfway through the level.
The last piece of the puzzle when designing the environment was the idea that Sanmiittai were inhabiting this island, they just felt like they were randomly walking around with no rhyme or reason. We realised it was the lack of feeling like the were occupying space on the island, they needed some small bases of operation where it show they actually are staying on this island.
This means we needed man made structures to make a believable camp for them to have come from, not only will this narratively fill the gap in where they are from but aesthetically it adds another layer of depth to the world that we have made making the enemies feel like they belong on this island and yet are not from here.