All posts by J

Mavericks Proving Grounds

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 DesignerTeam 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:

  • Terrain sculpting.
  • Texture painting.
  • Foliage placement.
  • Blockout placement of minor 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.

Large POI’s

Enhanced existing major points of interest, as well as blocking out significant areas of the Sawmill, and Biomass POI.

Tutorial Exercise – Warhammer Total War 2

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.

Paper Mapping

First I tried some paper mapping for an existing Warhammer map called Atldorf.

Map Remake

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:

  1. First pass at terrain, textures, and water.
  2. Setup of deployment zones & playable area.
  3. Test.
  4. Second pass at terrain and textures (more detail work).
  5. Test.
  6. 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!

Some Useful Resources:

Some Tips:

  • Have Warhammer 2: Total War Running in windowless so you easily use it, and Terry together.
  • Have the Go-Region totally eclipse the playable area and close up areas with no-go regions
  • Sample Map Object Hierachy Structure:
  • Buildings (File Layer)
  • Cliffs (File Layer)
  • Default (File Layer)
    • Scale Reference (Object)
  • Logic (File Layer)
    • Deployments (Logic Layer)
      • AI Hints (Objects)
      • Deployment Zones (Object)
    • No-Go Regions (Logic Layer)
      • No-Go Regions (Objects)
    • Playable Area (Object)
    • Go Region (Object)
  • Water (File Layer)
    • Water (Objects)

Last of Us – Bill’s Town Notes

1 – Drawing Attention to a Building

  • Use of light texture.
  • Billboard with red striking sign.
  • Blue awning.
  • Depth of side of building.
Drawing Attention

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.
Openable Door
  • Later on we may encounter another door that looks like that same shiv door from before, but this one doesn’t open (affordance confusion)!
Non-openable Door

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.
Areas of Interest

4 – Lock Before The Key

In this section the player finds a safer that requires a numerical combination to be opened.

The Lock

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?”.

The Key
Continue reading Last of Us – Bill’s Town Notes

Mafia 3 – Briar Patch Interior Blockout

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.

3D Blockouts

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.

Diner Eating Area

Reference

Blockouts

Office

Reference

Mafia III_20190504191326

Blockouts

Kitchen

Reference

Blockouts

Battlefield 5

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 DesignerTeam Size: ~100

Design Goal: Support Battlefield 5’s live service pipeline with high quality content for players.

My Contributions

Chapter 3: Trial by Fire

Firestorm

  • 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.

Mercury

  • Initial fortification design, then iteration with a senior designer.
  • Level design feedback – cover, sightlines, layout.
  • Map maintenance assistance.

Chapter 4: Defying the Odds

Marita

  • Level design feedback.
  • Squad conquest layout proposals, and implementation.

Provence

  • 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.

General

  • Gathering telemetry to present to senior and lead designers.
  • Writing and iterating documentation to improve work processes.
  • Fixed bugs reported by QA on JIRA.

Battlefield 1

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 |  RoleGame Designer | Team Size: ~90

Design Goal:

  • 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.

My Contributions:

  • 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.

Jedi Challenges: Darkside Expansion Duels

Platform: iOS, Android Time: 12 weeks |  RoleGame Designer | Team Size: 7

Design Goals:

  • Create a functional and effective game tutorial.
  • Design and implement a unique and enjoyable Rey lightsaber battle across three difficulties.

My Contributions:

  • Contributed to team and design focused brainstorming sessions.
  • Implemented, and iterated the games tutorial, and Rey lightsaber battle using behavior trees.
  • Designed a differentiated Rey battle experience through layering mechanics and developing combat sequences.

GDC 2018

I had the fortune of attending The Game Developers Conference 2018 in San Francisco this year.

Throughout the conference I took the following notes which I thought to share!

Day 1 – 3/19/2018

My first day at GDC involved visiting a number of sponsored talks as well as a great talk on the game Mortician’s Tale.

Google Dev Day

In this event Google was presenting a number of new features. One in particular was Google Instant. The concept is that developers would create partial builds that would act as a lite version of the experience used to give a demo of the experience. One interesting concept they proposed was that as speed increases, consumption increases.

Amazon – Gameon

This session was a demo for introducing Amazons Gameon feature. In the talk the speaker went through how to implement the Gameon system providing diagrams and code samples.

Gameon, as I understood it, is a service that allows deliveries leveraging the Amazon delivery service. The example the speaker spoke at length about was integrating real world prizes into a game system using Amazon’s delivery service e.g. a player wins a game and a real prize is delivered to them by Amazon.

Amazon – Future of E-Sports

In this panel hosted by Amazon the speakers gave their opinion on the future of E-Sports and made a number of interesting points including:

  • What was driving the increase in size of esport was not something in mobile applications, but the increase in the number of devices, and increase in speed of infrastructure.
  • The best e-sport is easy to pickup but hard to master.
  • The perceived skill gap of mobile vs PC is good for the e-sports as its about accessibility having mobile in the e-sports scene.
  • When you have a hit one challenge is to sustain the momentum. There are several ways to do so. Two ways are building a brand or building a community.
  • Games that are good for broadcasting are surprising, unpredictable, and easy to watch.
  • E-Sports has a structure like that of regular sports. Blizzard for example has franchises all over the world, and the owners of E-Sports teams are like the owners of traditional sports teams.

Mortician’s Tale – A Different View on How Games Treat Death

This talk was about the concept of death in a game called Mortician’s Tale. As described by the creator Morticians Tale is ‘a job simulator game’ about being a Mortician.

During the talk the speaker made a number of interesting points including:

  • Death systems in games have endured. In Mortician’s tale they wanted to explore ways of displaying it.
  • It was important that death in the game should relate to narrative and mechanics of game.
  • One book that was influential to the development was ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ by Caitlin Doughty.
  • The purple color in the game was used to hide the ugliness of death and reflects melancholy.
  • The game removes the ability to fail during preparation of the body as the creators felt it would disrespect the bodies.
  • The protagonist of the game was made silent as a silent protagonist can act as a vessel for players.
  • A silent protagonist also underscores the importance of listening in the grieving process.
  • Post release the feedback was positive and the creator believed there was some evidence of a transformative effect due to the design decisions made while making the game.

At the end of the conference the speaker made recommendations of a number of other games to look at that explore the topic of death:

Finally the speaker made four major recommendations for how to do death in games better:

  1. Make it meaningful.
  2. Do your research.
  3. Be understanding with your players.
  4. Asses your own feelings.

Talk Link

Continue reading GDC 2018

Of Blood and Water – Dragon Age Tabletop RPG Adventure

Introduction: Of Blood and Water is a five-act RPG adventure written for the Dragon Age tabletop RPG system. It was created as a semester-long project for the RPG Writing Workshop course at Carnegie Mellon University. This involved creating character descriptions, step-outlines, and five acts that each include a dramatic scene written in script format.

Time: 15 weeks |  Role: Producer/ WriterTeam Size: 5

Design Goal: The goal of this project was to create an RPG adventure suitable for a three person party to play over the course of several weeks.

My Contributions:

  • Raymon’s character sheet.
  • Act 1’s step outline, prose, and dramatic scene.

Download: The story bible is available here.

Flower Power – A Transformational Game Project

In this article I will chronicle the design process and lessons learned in creating Trash Traders a multiplayer iPad game aiming to empower a sustainability mindset.

Introduction

At Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) multi-disciplinary teams work on projects over a semester to create an artifact. While attending I was the primary designer on the project which created Trash Traders.

Trash Traders is an iOS app built by a team of students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center in 15 weeks for West Virginia’s Steenrod Elementary. Trash Traders is an experience that has shown to be fun and promote discussions about living a more green life.

Continue reading Flower Power – A Transformational Game Project