• Josh Hardy

The Art of Level Design - Finished... for now.

After watching all of the videos and following along with the course, my blockout draft is coming to a point where it needs functionality to actually work. I am starting a new course in Unreal engine and I am taking part in Transfuzer at the end of the month. Also, I mainly wanted theoretical knowledge from this course so I am leaving the blockout as it is, for now. However, I would still like to show what I have made and why I have done what I have done.

The level as a whole has slightly changed from the original 2D plan. I removed the random crane from the front as ships need to enter from the sea for easy access. I have also changed the stairs to the power room to a dockyard with the power room above and steps leading upto it. This was because originally the stairs were way too long and dull. Having the exteiror area allows for some nice ambience and some extra dockyard scrap and props. It also allows to easily change between open and enclosed areas when coming to playtesting and altering the pacing.

As you can see above there are a mixture of lights guiding the player and some of the red lights also indicate an electric door that is receving no power, turning green when the power is activated.

Volumetric lighting is commonly placed to communicate to the player a point of interest / Critical path. The first door on the right is blocked by a nest so the player is forced to go to the other light.

This screenshot shows the atmosphere & lighting of the game view.

The green colour shows points of interest. This is to inform the artists that this area is a POI and the orange informs them to keep the area clear so the player can easily see the POI or has space to fight.

The first enemy will be small and easy, and the first nest will already be destroyed so that the player only has to focus on the enemy at this point. This use of layering makes the player ease into the level rather than diving into hardcore combat. You can also see a placeholder for an ammo pickup. This pickup is not necessary but just ensures they have ammo and informs the player of a likely encounter.

Lots of rooms have windows that will make it so the player can see the main nest most of the time. This exposure keeps reminding the player of the core objective of the level, destroy the large nest and find the hotspot source inside. It also helps keeps situational awareness. They know roughly where they are at all times by the angle at which they are seeing the nest/boat.

More lighting to highlight POI. A new enemy lies in wait for the player in the moonlight, this appears to be currently too dark so more lighting would be needed so the player isn't fighting blind.

  1. Needs to reach the higher ledge to shoot flame arrow or throw molotov over wall. (molotov throwing arc wont allow player to hit nest otherwise)

2. This one simply requires the player to throw the molotov through the hole at an angle.

3. This nest is only burnable from the dockyard ledge. The player may burn it this way first time since they pass through the dockyard before reaching the door blocked by the nest (if they do, they will feel smart) but if not they will need to think about how to destroy it.

The images above show the nests. Originally, they were simply placed in the level but now they make the player think about how to destroy them. I did not want them to have long periods of time not making a decision. Therefore, mixing the verticality of the level and forcing the player to be in a specific location to destroy the nests makes use of the rest of the games movement or weapon systems.

A small rewarding loot area that will require the player to use the flashlight, explore and crouch through a hole in the fence to get to the items. The amount of rewards can be changed based on testing to keep rewards scaling with difficulty.

This once empty room has been changed into a place where the player will be swarmed by weak enemies. Although this would appear to be difficult and create a dramatic rise in tension, will not be too difficult for the player. This was done as the pacing of the level dropped considerably once dropping the nest (this shows a cinematic with a boss enemy appearing - the cinematic will foreshadow the battle) and the player would expect more of a wind down before fighting the boss. This flips the expectations on their head and surprises the player.

This is the extent of the level as it stands. I feel it is too symmetrical (and too obviously modular). I wished I had thought of something more epic as the core objective. I love games with great senses of scale like God of War or most boss rush games. However, my goal was to implement my theoritical knowledge and practice building industry standard greyboxes.

I will post my initial 2D plan and beat table for ease of reading below:

*Beat no. 13 is under the South East stairs of the main warehouse.


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