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  • Writer's pictureDonovan Garcia-Buckler

Wrapping up my Senior Capstone

Last week I delved deep into my time at Champlain College and what I learned from the past four years. This week I want to take a look at the outcome of my four years, my senior Capstone game, Project Nautilus.


Where did we start from?

Our First Class Aug.30th, 2021

We originally started as a team of 7 rapid prototyping three game ideas that we wanted to work on for the semester and pitch it to the game studio cohort. We are one of 7 teams out of the original 14 chosen to work into the spring time. This came with a whole new set of challenges, but ones that were worth taking on. I talked about those challenges in a previous post linked here.

However our game has had a lot of different changes over the course of development and has grown and adapted to not only fit new team members, but fit new ideas and ways to give the player a fun experience.


Growing Pains

I mentioned there was a lot of growth from the original concept to what it is today, but, I wanted to break it down into the three stages of our project.

Stage 1: Depths(Original Name)

I mentioned that we rapid prototyped and I wanted to briefly mention the original name and premise of the game.

Our original title art for a very rough concept


"What if God was at the bottom of the ocean and a mega-corporation wanted to get to the bottom to see if they could capitalize on it on"The player is an intern at one of the largest mega-corporations: Isthmus. You have been tasked with controlling a drone and exploring a newly discovered system of caves, documenting what lies below and recovering any items of interest that you discover as you explore. The original program involved sending people in submarines down and it went, swimmingly.... until it didn't. Eventually, Isthmus decided that sending humans directly down there was not the best idea (obviously for-profit/feasibility reasons, not human welfare). So It developed a drone program to go down into the depths. This program uses human-sized vessels, that used the same tools as the submarines that were left from previous, expeditions. Essentially, the player goes down with two weapons and can switch weapons based on what they find deep in the depths. By returning to the surface with different weapons than originally started with, they become unlock-able for future dives.

This idea of multiple drone load-outs was toyed with a lot, but eventually scrapped for simplifying encounters and make it easier on us before we had extra help going into the next seamster.

For a fun visual here is what the original premise was targeting in terms of player experience.


Stage 2: Project Nautilus (v1.0)

Debut of Project Nautilus!

As we geared up to present our game for approval for the spring we made some changes on what we wanted now Project Nautilus to be and what we wanted the player to experience. We still had elements of the original theme of mega corporation and large-scale narrative. However our idea of multiple load-outs didn't feel like it fit our part of the game, so we elected to scrap that and only focus on the two tools we had developed at that point indefinitely.

Let us now take a look at what we were aiming for player experience instead with the shift away from strategic load-outs.


Stage 3: Project Nautilus (v2.0)

New Game Logo for our final stage game

This now takes us to the present. After going through greenlight, onboarding new teammates and going through a whole new evolution we arrive at the current Project Nautilus. It took a lot of discussion, iteration and testing to help us craft the game we are at now.

One of the biggest changes we as a team made was our switch from Combat to being solely exploration focused. For a long time we spun our wheels on how we were going to fix and tweak combat, and we realized that instead of trying to fit something that didn't fit we should drop it. Dropping Combat is one of the biggest changes we have made and the game is far better for it, and as result we are able to focus on the core elements of our game. The elements that made the game fun, that being our exploration and heavy narrative focus.

The game has come along way and has a much clearer identity, and traversing this year and all of these changes has been my honor as a Producer and I feel so much more experienced for the whole experience.

Here is the new description of Project Nautilus for some more context of the changes that have come from all of this development.

"Project Nautilus is a first person exploration game set in the not so distant future. Remote operate a drone to explore this newly discovered cave system. Use tools to break away obstacles and propel your way down to find what lies below these long forgotten caves."

This description is actually the one that is posted on our Steam page that is live. We are incredibly excited to get Project Nautilus onto the staple of PC platforms, Steam. It has been my honor and joy to be a member of this team and I could not be Producer of us for getting here to this point. Here is the link to the steam page for Project Nautilus please wishlist and I hope you can join in the celebration of success of Isthmus Studios.

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