About the game

Outer Cell is a 3D sci-fi puzzler game where players explore their environment to discover solutions for obstacles impeding their progress throughout the world. By uncovering these solutions, players advance to reach significant milestones or proceed to the next level.

The plot revolves around an alien robot-like character who is captured while unknowingly exploring a restricted space controlled by another race. The character is sent to an underground facility as a prisoner, destined to be dissected for its unfamiliar technology.

The main character being transfered to an underground prison facility.

The character is equipped with various special skills, including telekinesis for object interaction and a hacking ability. This hacking ability allows the character to listen to digital streams emanating from objects scattered throughout the environment.

The game offers two exploration modes: a primary third-person view and a secondary first-person view. In the first-person mode, players gain a different perspective and can interact with distant objects. This mode isn’t solely a viewing preference but also serves as an essential mechanic for overcoming challenges.

The main character interacting with an environment object.

About my role

This game was the result of a collaboration between myself and visual artist Paulo Silva. Paulo handled the creation of the necessary 3D models, while I conceptualized the idea and handled all other development tasks.

The goal with the development of this game was for me to explore the concept of using audio as the primary mechanic driving gameplay, offering a creative and original twist on puzzle-solving games. As a result, playing the game with the sound turned on is essential, and I highly recommend using headphones for the best experience.

Overview of the underground prison facility in Outer Cell.

One of the implemented challenges involves listening for a specific cyclic sound within a door authorization mechanism. This sound is layered over the background music and serves as the key to unlocking the security door. Once players identify the sound as the solution, they must precisely press and hold a button while the sound plays. If successful, the door unlocks, allowing players to progress to the next level.

This project was developed in the Unity game engine, with FMOD serving as the audio middleware. The audio work involved several tasks, including creating the main theme, designing various custom sound effects with some featuring looping and transitions, crafting gameplay music, and implementing positional audio.

The gameplay track was structured into two adaptive vertical layers. These layers play continuously during gameplay until a specific event is triggered, leading to the audio puzzle. At this point, one layer fades out, creating a sparser musical arrangement to help the key sound stand out for the player. Once the audio puzzle begins, the key sound is overlaid onto this arrangement.

The security door audio puzzle in Outer Cell.

Originally, we planned to create multiple levels for an engaging journey with a clear beginning and end. However, only the first level was completed. This project marked our first foray into game development outside of game jams. As often happens, it proved overly ambitious for a side project managed by a two-person team with multiple other responsibilities. Achieving the desired end result would have demanded an excessive amount of time from us. Consequently, we decided to conclude the project by finishing the first level and making it available for free as a proof of concept.

The game was originally designed for mobile platforms, which is why it features a straightforward point-and-click control style. This choice was made because I wanted to easily showcase and share the idea in person with other developers. However, for archival purposes and easier distribution, we ultimately decided to finalize it as a PC (Windows/macOS) title.

Other projects