When talking about Little Nightmares, we’ve talked a lot about Six and The Maw, and reconnecting with that feeling of being a child in a big, scary world. This isn’t just marketing bluster, it’s something that has informed our thinking throughout the development. For us, a massive part of achieving this is through the character herself; how you connect to her, and how she connects you to the world.
Creating a connection between the player and their character isn’t about telling nice backstories or showing cool artwork, it’s all in the details, and creating a natural, intuitive way of interacting with your character and the world they’re in. Although Six has been given a fairly standard set of actions, the way you perform these actions is what hopefully gives you a greater sense of connection to her.
We’ve used the word tactility a fair bit to try to convey our approach, but to explain in slightly more detail, the idea has always been that - only when you press a button should something happen. This is why Six only holds on to something when you hold on to the R2 button, and why a crank wheel will only turn when you rotate the stick. It’s not like this is a revolutionary idea, but these are just examples of how our decisions have been guided by common principles, of being in control of your actions and staying connected to your character.
This persistent connection extends beyond the controls themselves. Our intention has also been to ensure that you stay connected. There will be no cutscenes or lengthy animations taking over, it’s just you, the controller and your character, and you’re almost always the one responsible for your actions. I say ‘almost always’ because there are a few instances where you’re not in complete control, but we’ve found that the infrequency of these moments makes them noticeable, and therefore a good deal more impactful. I’m obviously not going to unleash any spoilers at this late stage, but hopefully you’ll see what I mean come April 28th!
Equally as important as the connection to your character, is how your character connects to the world, and that’s all about getting the feel right. When developing any new features for Six, instead of jumping straight in with all the technical stuff, we’ve started out with a discussion of how this new feature would feel. How would Six act, behave or animate in different situations? Would this behaviour remain consistent with the core pillars of the game? Does it even feel right for the way she looks? Without wanting to state the obvious, it’s sometimes as simple as that ... paying attention to your character design, remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing, and shaping decisions around that.
The idea of a child trapped in an oversized world is one that has evolved over time, particularly the way in which she connects to that world. In the beginning, the focus was on the size and weight of things, and how slow and laborious it was to move these things around. The problem was ... slow and laborious isn’t that much fun! Since this might might jeopardise the player’s connection to the character, we decided to shift our focus slightly, emphasising the agility and gracefulness in Six’s movements. This allowed us to preserve Six’s childlike personality, whilst at the same time keeping the gameplay tight and energetic.
Another important element to us has been the variety of ways in which Six connects to the world. It is for this reason that you will see Six’s movements adapt to different contextual situations; for example, she will tiptoe when very high off the ground, or when walking through broken shards. Similarly, we have used inverse kinematics to ensure that Six will interact differently with things depending on their height, shape, and weight. Again, hopefully these things won’t be glaringly obvious, but they will just quietly feel right.
The idea with all of these decisions has been to constantly reinforce that this is a physical world, that Six is a real person trapped in it, and that you have the power to help her escape. We’ve tried to make Six feel different to other game characters, in the way she looks, acts, and controls, but right now we feel almost blind to whether we’ve succeeded! Perhaps in a year’s time we can look back with fresh eyes and see how well we did, but hopefully now you’ll have a better understanding of our ambitions and how we’ve attempted to achieve them.