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Monument Valley 2

by ustwo Games
The studio
They game it with feeling

In under five years, the South London-based ustwo Games team of artists, engineers and storytellers has grown to 20 strong, and gifted the world with some of the most beloved mobile interactive projects, like Land’s End and Monument Valley. They are such a close-knit bunch that they refer to themselves as a “fampany” (family + company).

As in most families, feelings come to the fore at ustwo, “We consciously put ourselves in the player’s shoes. We want to make sure we understand how each sequence will make our players feel. And of course we want to amaze them with the elegance of our visuals and the fun of our gameplay,” says Laura Cason, senior artist at ustwo.

Some of the ustwo family, who've generated over 30-million downloads

Some of the ustwo family, who've generated over 30-million downloads

To achieve these enviable goals, the fampany collaborates across disciplines, sharing diverse skillsets. It’s this input from so many unique points of view that plays out in their games, which are well crafted with very appealing UX. And the market agrees, with 30-million downloads and two BAFTA awards for the much-loved Monument Valley (best British Game and best Mobile & Handheld game).  

The project
Watch the Monument Valley 2 trailer

The pair embark on a journey of discovery. “Mother stories don’t get told that often, and when they are told, it’s often through the perspective of the child,” says Cason. “But mothers have a story of their own, and that’s the story we really wanted to tell in this game.”

For all of the new coming-of-age themes, the fantastical palette and challenges never fail to draw players into the game’s universe.

Finding the magic in everyday life

In Monument Valley 2, the studio revisits the same logic-defying world inspired by the incredible art of M.C. Escher, but this time they’ve added a new dimension involving a mother and child.

The reveal
Playing with the X, Y and Z axes

One surprising element about Monument Valley 2 is that the entire environment is actually built from 3D assets. When viewed through the lens of parallel projection, however, the objects appear as 2D to the players.

In addition to this effect, custom-built extensions to the Unity Editor enabled ustwo to create architecture that looks connected through the game-view camera, though in reality it isn’t actually next to each other in world space.

Pieces of architecture sit far apart along the X axis, while lots of moving bits and bobs, including characters, move forward and backward on the Z axis without players ever realizing it.

Essentially, when characters arrive at the end of a path on geometry that sits farther back in world space – and that same path connects to another piece of geometry closer to the camera – the character teleports forward in world space to follow the path. Because players are viewing through the fixed orthogonal camera, however, they only ever see the character smoothly moving across a seemingly impossible environment.

Extending the Editor with special tools enabled ustwo to make impossible levels possible.
New Editor tools give creators more power and faster iterations 

When they began developing Monument Valley 2, ustwo applied lessons learned from the development of the previous game. They created a new toolset that made it easier for their growing team to iterate rapidly. The new Editor extensions enabled artists and designers to get the look and feel of a level just right without the help of engineers.

In the first game, the tools required multiple layers and passes of geometry. That meant that designers were forced to copy and paste cubes to lay pathways and architecture. With the new system, however, the same people could quickly create entire meshes rather than single cubes. In this way, it was possible to go from the first sketches to the final level much faster.

Architecture that looks connected in-game is separated on the Y axis in the Editor.

The team also improved their visual scripting tools. Working on Monument Valley, designers had to look for functions from a giant list of options. On Monument Valley 2, a true node-based visual scripting sequence was tailored to their needs. They could call multiple actions at once, making it much easier for them to do their jobs.

All in all, the new toolset enabled ustwo to recreate the 2D illusion, incredible isometric art and impossible architecture from the first game, yet much more efficiently.

Unity’s many solutions for Mobile games helped make Monument Valley 2.​​​​​​​

Interested in building tools with Unity’s open and flexible architecture? Check out our latest version.

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