Hey everyone! I’m Adam Robinson-Yu, the main developer behind A Short Hike. I’m excited to finally announce that the launch date for A Short Hike on PS4 will be… November 16! With the release just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to share a bit more about the world of Hawk Peak Provincial Park, and how it took shape while I was developing it.
In A Short Hike, you’ll be exploring the park and working your way towards the top of the mountain. There’s plenty of areas to find and explore, but it didn’t start this way. In the beginning, I just started sculpting areas that were fun to climb and glide between. At this point, the world and the player’s movement were being designed hand in hand, and I created hills and valleys on whim to test out every tweak to the character’s controls.
Through this process, I started to get an idea for what types of terrain were interesting, and how I could make areas unique from only the shape of their geometry. I also started brainstorming a list of landmarks that I could scatter around the world for players to discover. I collected a variety of references, of either places I wished I could visit, or places that I had been in my own life. For example, the firetower in the game is directly inspired by the one I visited in person when hiking to Mount Pilchuck.
I also used photos to help me establish the primary color palette for the world. I found a photo of a breezy fall landscape that really captured the feeling I was aiming for, and I then sampled colors directly from the photo to build a palette for texturing the rest of the game with.
After this initial experimentation phase, I eventually needed to settle on the general structure of the game. I wanted freedom of exploration to be a core aspect of the level design. To me, this meant avoiding any sort of invisible barriers or cutscenes that force you down a specific path – even from the very start of the game. I wanted the player to always feel free to explore any direction they wanted. However, this can make it difficult to design the game, since I can’t be certain about what the player has or knows at any given point. So to help solve this problem, I drafted a quick map that divided the world up into regions.
Each region would be elevated a different height above sea-level. To climb into the next region, the player will need a specific amount of stamina (which is given via golden feathers) to get there. This allowed me to control the pacing of the game a little better, and create a more distinct beginning, middle, and end.
One of the challenges of designing an open-ended game like this was trying to make sure players don’t miss important items entirely. While almost all of the items are optional for completing the game, I think the game is more fun if the player has more tools to play with. When testing the game, I found a lot of players would plunge into the ocean and explore the back half of the mountain first. To help lead them back towards the stuff I want them to find, I placed a little cave in the back that gets them back on track. Who can avoid the allure of a good cave?
The hardest part of the mountain to design was the peak. While A Short Hike isn’t a difficult game, I wanted the final area to be a little tricker to ascend. Our protagonist, Claire, is a little nervous about reaching the top, and the atmosphere and music tries to reflect this. This section should reward players who explored the most, giving them more ways to reach the summit. However, I wanted to make sure it was also possible to get up there with barely any golden feathers too. (It’s just a lot more difficult!)
I don’t want to spoil too much here, but I hope you enjoy exploring Hawk Peak Provincial Park. I tried to make each area feel unique – either through the types of flora that decorate it or the landmarks you’ll discover. A Short Hike isn’t a giant open world game, but I think it’s little world is dense with things to uncover. Come check it out for yourself when A Short Hike releases on November 16.