Steams recent winter sale had Final Fantasy 9 on discount. Since I’ve been meaning to play FF9 for awhile now, that and a good price made for a match made in heaven!
Whilst playing these are ‘designery’ thoughts I had during the first several hours of it:
FF9 starts you off in a dark room where it easy to focus on your player and understand movement. It then lights up the wider environment.
Narrative reinforcement – One moment where you have to remember and mention the princess name when they are going over kidnapping plan.
Level Exploration – In the scene below your character enters the scene from the bottom of the screen. Once you have control of the character the world fulfills the expectation of continuity by providing an area that’s the opposite way the player is encouraged to go (using the crowd who moves forward).
Lots of and easy to find initial pick ups from environment to quickly establish and encourage exploring the environment for rewards.
Storytelling Moments – Initial area showcases poverty/class differences through characters in the scene.
Lots of encouragement to explore through cutscenes. For example Steiner locked in room and the cutscene shows you are treasure chest which encourages you to go there.
Love the variation of activities right from the start such as finding the knights of pluto, and a scene of quick time events of sword fighting.
Writing Prompt: Name a game with fictional architecture that is based on real-world architecture. What does the use of that style convey about the in-game builders of that architecture? What mood does it create?
After studying a number of architectural styles. I believe a major architectural influence on this cities style is the Gothic style. In particular the Gothic Revival and Gothic Victorian style on its civilian structures.
What does the style convey?
In the world of Final Fantasy 9, Lindblum is regarded as the most technologically advanced nation who is making amazing progress. Their architecture seemingly melds a colorful Victorian Gothic style with sophisticated metal work in a high density of buildings. In addition sections of the city we see in the background are mind defying steep leaving on in wonder of how this is even possible? Additionally:
Clocks appear several times often embedded into buildings. This could imply a ‘precise society’.
The Gothic style is popular in the fantasy game genre. Given this is such a game the combination make for an interesting style to create the sense of a technologically advanced fantasy city.
So given the contrast of comparatively less ‘technologically advanced’ architecture styles the player has encountered before. The result I feel creates a mood of ‘wonder’ and ‘buzzing progress’, and leaves an impression that the builders are highly advanced.
Hot on the trail of a big find, Nathan Drake’s destination is Al-Hambra’s Alcazaba (fortress) in search of a vital clue. Unfortunately for him, his arch-nemesis Doctor UptoNoGood and his mercenaries are already on the scene! Now our plucky adventurer must contend with them in-order to reach his goal!
Traverse the layout to the indicated door, and defeat any enemies encountered along the way.
Nathan Drake: The player is Nathan Drake.
Mercenaries: Foreign mercenaries hired by Doctor UptoNoGood.
Atreus has been kidnapped by Skadi the Goddess of Winter in the previous level. With Atreus in tow Skadi has fled to her Temple in the snowy mountains. Kratos, chasing the Goddess, has finally arrived at Skadi’s Temple and now must ascend it to save his son.
Kratos storms into Skadi’s Temple. He is awestruck not only by the scale of the Temple, but by the great statue that is carved into the side of the Temples tower. Unfortunately Kratos has no time to dwell on such thoughts as he is not alone.
Dev Note – The view of the statue is foreshadowing Beat 3.
1.1. Skadi was well aware that Kratos was coming, but is overconfident. Standing atop a pyramid of stairs in front of an elevator, Skadi summons a massive ice wall across the room to block Kratos’s way forward. Commanding her minions to attack, Skadi proceeds up the elevator. Kratos’s goal is to reach the elevator.
1.2. Following Skadi’s command a weak group of Temple Priests attack Kratos at the entrance.
Dev Note – The overall theme of the level is desecration. So having Kratos kill the Temple’s Priests feeds into that.
1.3. Kratos notices a huge chandelier above the ice wall with giant chains that hold it in place. Kratos decides to destroy the chains that hold up the chandelier to create a hole in the ice wall.
1.4. On approaching the first chain a stronger group of Temple Priests appear. They are more difficult because they have a height advantage and ranged units.
1.5. Once they have been dispensed with Kratos proceeds to destroy the chandelier chain, and collect the nearby loot.
Cinematic Moment – Kratos tears the chain out of the wall. On doing so the chandelier drops violently. Cracks can be heard, the room shakes.
1.6. Noting the chain on the other side of the room Kratos heads towards it.
1.7. After defeating a more difficult group of enemies Kratos destroys the other chain (and again collects loot).
Cinematic Moment – Kratos tears the chain out of the wall causing one side of the massive chandelier to slam into the ice wall which destroys a large section of it, and causes structural damage to the Temple Entrance.
Dev Note – Foreshadow the major structural collapse of Beat 3.
1.8. Kratos climbs the fallen chandelier, using it to proceed to the elevator.
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.
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:
Lately I’ve been itching to practice my level design skills. I’ve found such an opportunity with Total War Warhammer 2 where Creative Assembly has made their battle map editor Terry available for public use.
Therefore to practice my level design skills I’ve decided to take my love of Total War, my design skills, and support from the existing map making community to try my hand at creating maps for Warhammer 2.
First I tried some paper mapping for an existing Warhammer map called Atldorf.
Next I thought it would be good to remake a map. The map I chose to copy was a tutorial map from the map community. My intent was to make a bare bones version so I can focus on practicing using the tool. I began with studying the tutorial map.
For me the development process was loosely:
First pass at terrain, textures, and water.
Setup of deployment zones & playable area.
Second pass at terrain and textures (more detail work).
Rinse and repeat steps 4-5.
Some In-Editor Shots
Some In-game Shots
Next I plan to practice creating a map, this time with an imported height map!
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?”.
In an effort to continue building on my 2D Layouts, and 3D blockouts skills I thought I’d try a short exercise of creating an area in a game that I am playing. The subject of this exercise was ground floor of the Briar Patch diner in Mafia 3.
2D Top Down
I began with a very rough to scale-ish 2D top down to get a general shape.
Next I began 3d work which involved taking in game pictures as reference from various, and areas of the ground floor. Using these ‘references’ I created approximate blockouts. The following is the results of this exercise.
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’sDLC 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.