A Journey of Two Bonding Hearts
Cor Domus is Co-Op Puzzle game from Bunch of Witches, that explores the highs and lows of a newly-formed relationship. With several puzzles and enemy encounters exploring the different stages of a relationship, Cor Domus is sure to bring back memories or create new ones with anyone who plays it.
- A special someone fills you with life, recharges you. But when you’re apart… all you want to do is come back together! In Cor Domus the same holds true, as both player’s health replenishes when they’re close and drain when they’re distanced.
- Like in the best relationships, one player complements the other. You can’t barrel through the mountain on your own. Discovering what each of you can do, and how you can combine your skills to solve puzzles slowly builds and strengthen your relationship.
- The environment is not the only thing in your way. In addition to the puzzles, you and your partner must also thwart the advances of other creatures trying to pull you apart. These creatures are so desperate to have someone near and you can help show them that the ones they need may also be nearby...
The game began as a project for the 2019 Global Game Jam event by a group of SCAD game development seniors. After the game jam, Cor Domus went on to win "Best in Show" at the Savannah GGJ location beating out over 20 other games. From that win, the team decided to take the Cor Domus into full production.
Cor Domus went to compete in the top three of the Georgia Game Developer's Association "Best in Georgia." Picked from all of the games created during the 2019 GGJ event in the state of Georgia.
The product you see today is the culmination of approximately 17 weeks from a small team of 6 game-design students and external help of students from animation and sound design.
The first image is a screenshot from our 48H GGJ project, followed by our first alpha, 6 weeks later, of when we decided to take it into full production. The last screenshot is of our finished project, 9 weeks after alpha.
COR DOMUS DEVELOPMENT
Following Global Game Jam 2019 of "What Home mean to you" we arrived at the idea that - even though Home is where the Heart is - the heart isn't necessarily in a place, but sometimes people or memories. That, allied to the concept that your home is where you go to heal, rest and recharge, while the outside world drains you of energy, led to our core gameplay concept: Two characters that found their home in one another, which meant staying together recharged their life, but going apart - to solve puzzles and engage in combat - meant their life slowly drained.
The 48 hour limit of the Jam made sure we worked lean, tight and smart. With a big team skilled in drawing and low poly modelers, we whipped versatile modular assets that could easily be tinted in-engine to create a sense of progression while all characters and enemies were symmetric and hand-drawn on an isometric-ish perspective, allowing us to simply flip sprites and reduce workload in half
The first trailer of Cor Domus, based on our 48 hours jam
Going into Full Production
Unbridled by the GGJ timeframe and theme, we decided to shift a little from the concept of Home to an allegory of relationships - and how being apart from the one you love drains you and dulls your world just the same.
We also went into modelling more complex environmental assets and textures to go along with them, as well as fully 3D characters, with propper rig and animation since, unlike our GGJ scope, would save us time in terms of actions and animations when compared to hand-drawn animations
The images above showcase the early moodboarding, concept arts and models done for the project. Our goal was to simply do the same game from GGJ, just "bigger and better"
5 weeks into the development we had reached alpha - just in time for our submission to GGDA's Best in Georgia - and cut a trailer. After several play-test sessions (internal and external) one thing became clear:
Despite the higher production value and ticking all of the boxes that made the GGJ so appealing, something got lost in translation from the jam to this full project. It was missing its heart.
Finding the fun and the heart
Before moving forward we realized we had to rethink a lot of things to bring back the "Cor" of Cor Domus. That meant a lot of mechanics, level design, puzzle design and art direction had to change.
-We drastically changed - and reduced - character actions. Now, instead of both being able to perform puzzle actions (of hitting switches and moving crates), they are split between them, making each character more unique, meaningful and pushing more cooperation
-We removed combat entirely. Action verbs such as "kill", "Shoot", "kick" did not feel like the right choice for a game about love and relationships. Instead, enemies now lure the players, with a gravitational pull that they can only escape with their loved one by their sides. Conversely, they have the ability to lure one enemy into another, leaving them happy with someone else and out of your way.
-Puzzle design was overhauled, with less one-off mechanics that needed introductory puzzles that were too easy only to be never used after the following one. We centered on few mechanics, that were used in several different unique ways.
-Level design felt long, drawn-out and out of scale, which often led to huge down times of traversal
-Original mechanic of also turning the world black an white when characters are apart was also scrapped, due to being too intrusive and making things hard to see.
-Characters and enemies received a toon shader, to better stand-out from the HDRP Lit environment.
Images above showcase the iterative process of the level design and general improvements to the game. We also focused on constant play-test (internal and external) to ensure puzzles weren't obtuse but neither too easy. Paper prototypes saved a lot of time in that regard. Lighting, shaders, post processing and optimization finally received their due attention and, thanks to better blockouts of the level and its puzzles, we were able to set dress more interesting locations while also creating puzzle-specific assets to make them feel more unique. Things on a better track allowed us to afford having 3d in-engine animated cutscenes (over our previously hand-drawn still images) and even a climatic boss fight that served as a physical representation of the inner struggle the two characters are having at that point.
And after 14 weeks of hard work, we finally had created something that captured the original spirit of our 48H jam and that we could say that not only we were proud of, but also was genuinely heartwarming and fun.
If you'd like to try out Cor Domus for yourself, follow the download link bellow (for both Controller and Keyboard versions, as well as an extensive art bible for you to peruse)