All posts by Jake Hawes

Sour Sewer: Pre-Production

First off, I drew a basic level layout on graph paper. Since I’m going for more of a sidescroller perspective, I showed the map from the side, rather than from the top.

SS Floorplan

Pretty sure that a real toilet pipe wouldn’t go straight down into an empty room like that, but hey, it’s a game. After the initial layout was done, I put in some basic coloring.

Lit Floorplan

Though this initial coloring isn’t all that bad, I feel it was a touch unfocused, with spots of color thrown in a little too haphazardly. I wanted to differentiate the rooms by color but got a little too extreme with the variation. As such, I’ve revised something a bit more conservative. I break down the new color palette in the image below.

Sewer Color Palette

Here’s a collage of reference images I collected. There’s a few pieces of generic sewer art, some from video game levels (Ratchet & Clank, Crash Bandicoot), and some more specific details, such as pipes, steel plating, and grates.

SS Reference Images

Next up are a few concept sketches for some of the modular elements, as well as the boss object.

SS Modular Components

I started with a simple large sewer pipe wall that would act as a basic building block for the level. Ill-aligned plate metal covers the curved part, while the flat floor will probably be some kind of concrete. I’ve also considered having pipes lining the walls as a way to break up the monotony.

Next is a smaller tunnel section which acts as a clear break between different rooms. It’s a much smaller and shorter pipe that will probably have a darker coloring. I also include a grate wall surrounded by stonework, to act as boundary the player cannot cross.

Lastly, I threw in a catwalk for good measure, as there’ll be a couple of them to bridge gaps.

SS Boss Object

At this stage, I’m still hesitant to commit to a direction for the boss object. I considered having him just as a standalone mutated fish, without any metal housing or weapons. If I take this path, I’d have to decide whether he’s just a 2D sprite or a fully fleshed 3D model.

(By the way, I’m going for a Paper Mario-esque style, meaning most characters are 2D sprites. Sometimes the convention is broken for boss characters, who may appear as 3D models for dramatic effect.)

If given a metal housing, it’d definitely be more optimal to model it in 3D. I want to make a quirky, scrapped-together hunk of machinery, with pipes, pistons, and weaponry flailing off it in random directions. A tank in the center would show the shriveled up fish, kept alive only by the ridiculous contraption built around him.

After sketching a concept for a laser, it’s shape accidentally reminded me of a hairdryer. This brought up the idea of designing his weapons as if they were scrapped together from bathroom accessories that somehow made their way down the drain.

In this case, the machine gun is admittedly a bit overkill, but in a universe where toilet drains are direct vertical pipes into a dead-end room, and goldfish can manage to survive in such an environment and foster that much hate and revenge, I don’t think it’d be too out of whack for military-grade weaponry to end up in the sewer somehow.

Level Concept: Sour Sewer


When their toilet is mysteriously clogged out of nowhere, the protagonist(s) drop down into the sewer to investigate (instead of taking a more obvious action, like using a plunger or calling a plumber). After mucking about in the dark depths of the public town sewer system, they find the toilet was deliberately clogged with junk. They eventually trace it back to its source, and find…

…the protagonist’s old goldfish he flushed as a kid when it died. Unfortunately though, his goldfish wasn’t actually dead, he was just sleeping. After being misflushed, Mr. Sneeples (name subject to change) was subject to highly toxic water. Over many years, it mutated him instead of killing him. Combined with various metal bits that were flushed over time, he was able to construct a metal housing to keep himself alive far beyond his natural expiration date. He now seeks revenge for his untimely flush.

Faced with the threat of imminent death, the protagonist has no choice but to end Mr. Sneeple’s life once and for all, and ensure no other innocent toilets suffer his clog-ridden wrath.



I’d like to structure the level similarly to those in Paper Mario: that is, have 3D rendered environments that can be freely traversed, but lock the camera to a fixed rotation. This would allow the level to be built like a stage, with an open wall at the front for the camera to look through.

Stylistically, I’m going for a geometrical-yet-quirky look. For lack of a better explanation, think of the stylization used in the later Ratchet & Clank games: sleek, but still cartoony. This involves painterly textures instead of photorealistic ones, lots of color (though not oversaturated), and varied lighting.

Overall though, I’d like to focus on the audio (surprise, I’m not an art student!) Optimally, I’d like to integrate the Wwise audio engine with Unity so I could set up a more detailed and dynamic soundscape. A sewer setting provides the opportunity for a lot of interesting sounds and ambiances.


Concept Art

Varied sewer areas

Level Ideas

Mr. Sneeples (mutated-mecha-goldfish boss)

Boss Ideas