Practice makes perfect! Following this advice I thought to partake in resources offered on Udemy to continue to sharpen my level design skills. These are screenshots from a composition exercise in a level design course on Udemy.
Recently I’ve been playing Yakuza 0. Though there were a couple of things I didn’t like (the occasional unskippable cut scene!), in general I loved it. As well as an absolutely world class story with fantastic voice acting, the game provides a wealth of content. Content that includes making a custom Pocket Circuit Track in a RC car racing mini-game. As a design exercise I thought this would be fun to do!
The track creation tool is fairly straightforward to use, and making tracks was fairly simple. Saying that I failed on my first attempt as I maxed the route length!
For my first Pocket Circuit Track I started with an image in my mind which I drew.
First I made the basic shape. Seeing it in 3D I felt a desire to add lots of slopes to emphasize the windy nature of the track.Continue reading Pocket Circuit Track Design – Yakuza 0
Using Warhammar 2’s Map Tool Terry I’ve recently published Bretonnia Hills V1, a map for Warhammer Total War 2. I did this to practice my map development skills of using height maps, sculpting terrain, painting textures, and placing meshes. It’s on the Steam Workshop – so check it out here!
The bones of this kind of map is its terrain. To start with a solid foundation I began by finding a height map to apply to the terrain. Ultimately I chose data from a location near Trout River in Vermont.
Next I obtained the height map data, processed, and imported into the map editor tool Terry.
Following this I smoothed out some areas, and did a first pass on painting.
Next I found some areas I thought to be interesting and added some meshes from Warhammer 2’s library to add some points of interest. Meanwhile I playtest the map, and made iterative changes to the configuration of the start point, and geographical features.
After a number of iterations I then posted the map on the Steam Workshop, and presented it to the map makers at the Warhammer Map Makers Discord Channel. The Warhammer Map makers gave me some great feedback, and rightly pointed out the map needs more polish work.
I released the bones of the map, which in itself needs more work having very little work in terms of detailing, and extensive playtesting. The detail work will make some good practice so I intend to do more on that side, and post some updated screenshots!
In the pursuit of improving my Level Design abilities in Unreal I’ve started taking courses at World of Level Design. After running through the fundamentals this was the result of the first follow along BSP exercise:
More to follow!
Introduction: Whilst at Automaton I worked as a Level Designer, where I iterated and developed world content for Mavericks a next-gen Open-World MMO FPS developed in CryEngine using SpatialOS.
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 | Time: 2 months | Role: Level Designer | Team Size: ~40
Design Goal: Deliver a 1.8km battle royale play space for the alpha release of Automaton Games’s original IP‘Mavericks’, a next-gen Open-World MMO FPS developed in CryEngine using SpatialOS.
Natural World/Minor Points of Interest (POI’s)
Iterated and developed the natural world whilst distributing minor points of interest for further iteration by art. Major tasks for this included:
- Reference gathering.
- Terrain sculpting.
- Texture painting.
- Foliage placement.
- Blockout, and iteration of POI’s.
Mid Size POI’s
Blocked out, and iterated a number of mid sized points of interest.
Iterated on flow, and cover of existing mid sized points of interest.
Enhanced existing major points of interest, as well as blocking out significant areas of the Sawmill, and Biomass POI.
1 – Drawing Attention to a Building
- Use of light texture.
- Billboard with red striking sign.
- Blue awning.
- Depth of side of building.
2 – Affordances
- We encounter a door that can be opened with a shiv. This in my mind established an accordance that doors that looked like this could be opened.
- Later on we may encounter another door that looks like that same shiv door from before, but this one doesn’t open (affordance confusion)!
3 – Drawing Attention to Areas of Interest
- Like the contrast on the left side, draws my eye to the area where the safe is located.
- Sign as well as red car.
- Like the depth on the right side, draws my eye.
- Depth and blue police car.
4 – Lock Before The Key
In this section the player finds a safer that requires a numerical combination to be opened.
Further down the street the player sees the glint of a note against a dark junk wall, and finds the combination to the safe written on the note. I have an issue with this!
The player does need to do backtracking which isn’t ideal, but it isn’t much, my issue relates to getting the combination. When the player gets the combination it would be an additional plus to underscore receiving this important information with a touch of VO that hinted the relationship between the safe and note e.g “hmm wasn’t there a safe back there?”.Continue reading Last of Us – Bill’s Town Notes
Introduction: I once again had the opportunity to work for DICE LA. This time round I was given additional ownership, and made contributions in Battlefield 5’s content Chapter’s 3 and 4.
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 | Time: 1 year | Role: Multiplayer Designer | Team Size: ~100
Design Goal: Support Battlefield 5’s live service pipeline with high quality content for players.
Chapter 3: Trial by Fire
- Augmented EA Criterion’s design of Lake Village a major point of interest in Battlefield 5’s Firestorm game mode.
- Using Confluence I created level design notes for implementation by level artists of natural areas, major and minor POI’s in a several 1km areas of the Firestorm launch map.
- The note format prepared in confluence was set by EA Criterion as a standard for level designers on the project.
- Initial fortification design, then iteration with a senior designer.
- Level design feedback – cover, sightlines, layout.
- Map maintenance assistance.
Chapter 4: Defying the Odds
- Level design feedback.
- Squad conquest layout proposals, and implementation.
- Iteration of the Provence map.
- Scheduling playtests and conducting post playtest feedback discussions.
- Map maintenance – spawn points, floating objects, blocking off areas.
- Supported level design with visual scripting efforts implementing:
- Fortification prefab clusters that were used in multiple levels.
- A means of blocking off second story floors.
- Gathering telemetry to present to senior and lead designers.
- Writing and iterating documentation to improve work processes.
- Fixed bugs reported by QA on JIRA.
Introduction: Over the summer of 2017 I interned at DICE LA, a studio of Electronic Arts. My time was spent working with DICE LA to ship the downloadable content In the Name of The Tsar for Battlefield 1.
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 | Time: 12 weeks | Role: Game Designer | Team Size: ~90
- Deliver high quality level content through iteration.
- Develop my ability to analyze and critique level design in a professional environment.
- Practice supporting the efforts and vision of senior designers on the team.
- Bolstered Battlefield 1’s DLC content with map analysis. This took the form of:
- Collecting, processing, and documenting Battlefield 1 level data for use by senior level designers.
- Offering map feedback on flow, map features, cover, spawn placement, and play space volumes.
- Used Frostbite’s visual scripting language to implement:
- Content bug fixes from JIRA tickets.
- Then iterate based on feedback of game modes such as Supply Drop, Team Death Match, War Pigeons, and Domination for multiple levels in the DLC pack.
- Created exploratory paper maps for Battlefield 1’s Apocalypse DLC.
Last week I designed Grapes of Wrath, a concept for a multiplayer level in Battlefield 1. Reflecting on the experience I will detail my process, and lessons learned in the hope of enriching myself and others.
I initially split design into two segments. Theme & Structure.
Given an aim to create a post apocalyptic theme I began my research with reference images.
In addition to reference images I sought out other forms of media such as movies, book and games that were set in a post apocalyptic setting.
What struck me most when reviewing this material was the desolate landscapes, and ruinous infrastructure. I intended to include these elements in some manner in the map I designed.
In the context of Battlefield 1 I define structure as map objectives, points of interest, unit design, and player flow.
Not only did I experience these modes by playing them, but I used spectator mode to watch the battle play out at a meta level. This allowed me easily see how objective placement, and points of interest affected player flows.
I then looked at Battlefield 1’s units. A study of the different infantry classes, tanks, airplanes, and vehicles revealed sub-categories, each of which had different play styles:
- A fast but weak plane
- A slow but powerful bomber
- A hybrid plane
- Glass cannon artillery
- A fast but weak tank
- Slow but powerful tank
- A hybrid
- Long range
- The Behemoth – A lead breaker
Battlefield 1 is a web of balance, and what I found was their vehicles cater to extreme playstyles with disadvantages, and usually a third averaged option.
Combining map knowledge and player elements I created a ‘cerebral map’ for Rush and Conquest. These maps included player flows, and major elements such as the Behemoth route, and an underground bridge.
For Rush mode the map intended to convey that attackers would become weaker over time, and defenders stronger whereas in Conquest it should be balanced strength. I hoped to achieve this experience with various measures such as:
- Placing map objectives progressively further from attackers and closer to defenders in Rush
- Giving more elite kits and vehicles to defenders as the attackers captured objectives in Rush
- Balancing elite kits and vehicle spawns in Conquest
My cerebral map was an initial pass at an experience, which was all well and good, but it clearly was not a map! What I had created was akin to a disfigured skeleton which needed a layer of flesh, and its bones tweaked. A location was needed to root these abstract concepts in. Therefore Location became the third segment of my design process.