Gaming

An inside look at the creation of a Short Hike – PlayStation Blog

Hello! I’m happy to announce that A Short Hike is coming to PS4 this fall! The Short Hike is a small exploration game about climbing a mountain.

In it, you lead a bird named Claire to the top, freely explore the mountainside, and help other people along the way.

I started working on the game after doing several trips around the west coast, visiting as many of the walking and natural areas as possible. I really fell in love with hiking and started wondering if I could capture this experience in a video game.

There were some specific moments that I wanted to capture, such as the moment of respite upon reaching the summit and the view of the landscape from a new perspective. But overall, I wanted to try to recreate the peaceful, meditative feeling you experience as you explore the world around you.

To create a sense of freedom, I tried to create the game as a tiny open world. I wanted to encourage you to explore the less frequented roads and to reward your curiosity. This meant that I had to design the player to go exactly the opposite of the obvious route and keep the pace of the game nice!

This has led to the creation of many mini-games in which you can explore off-roading and interrupt your hiking trips. With the addition of fishing, boating and (form) volleyball, the game became more like a little summer vacation – a love letter to those cool summer days when nothing has to be done and all the time in the world.

Most of the time I worked on The Short Trek by myself. Between programming, design, graphics and testing … I’ve been busy! It was difficult for me to write. Although the game has an easy storyline, I wanted it to be meaningful to me and I wanted to address some of the fears and anxieties I have.

On a previous project, I had a creative breakdown in writing, and really struggled to put together something that suited me. So for A Short Hike, I tried to take a more improvisational approach. When I started writing dialogue the same way I communicate with my friends through text, it became much more natural and helped me find a voice to play.

Since I did most of the art myself, I took the opportunity to experiment with style. I was interested in trying to create a 3D game in which pixels are a major part of the aesthetic, as is often the case in retro 2D games. While 2D games have perfected pixel art for decades, 3D games have tried to hide pixels as much as possible. I wanted to see if I could create a beautiful (and readable) 3D world using as few pixels as possible.

This choice defined the rest of the art direction, forcing me to use flat cohesive shading with no anti-aliasing. I added a soft outline effect to the objects to make them stand out and stay readable with so few pixels.

I feel like low resolution can help the world feel luxurious and let your imagination fill the details. However, some people found the pixelated look less appealing, so I’ve included the ability to fine-tune the pixel size to suit your preference. On PS4 Pro and PS5, you can even watch Short Walk in 4K!

The only thing that I have not had a hand in is the music. When Mark Sparling was creating the soundtrack for the game, he suggested creating a dynamic soundtrack that changes as you wander around the island. He sent me a map of the world with an inscription on which his plan was laid out, and I implemented it in accordance with his plan. The tools will appear and disappear depending on where you are, creating variations of the main theme. The strings will ring whenever the player flies and the trumpets will ring as you pick up speed in the motorboat … I think he really did something special!

I’ve worked on other games before, but this is the first big project I’ve released mostly on my own. It has been a journey and I am thrilled to bring it to PlayStation! Hope you enjoy exploring the world I’ve created when it comes out this fall.


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