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Game: Dying Light

Genre: First person, Action-Adventure, Survival Horror, Open World Game

Mode: Single Player

Team Size: 1 Developer

Engine: Dying Light Developer Tools (Chrome 5)

Development Time: 7 Months

  • Research

  • Concept and Documentation

  • Environment | Layout Design

  • World Building

  • Lighting

  • Quest Design

  • Gameplay Flow

  • Environmental Story Telling


Thesis Paper

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Thesis Design Overview


The goal of my thesis project was to direct players in an open world game using good landmarks and elements that enhanced the landmarks to be more effective to player. This involved finding best practices to setting up the different types of landmarks used in an open world game and creating an artifact that demonstrated the design and use of the landmarks in navigation. To measure the success of the artifact, I had testers play the artifact without any HUD/UI elements and map markers that would aid in navigation to their goal.

I chose this topic because I believe that mastering the design techniques that subconsciously direct the players towards their objective in a small open world map can bring value to the games I create and me as a designer. Letting the player explore the environment, discover paths, and make choices without forcing them to go to specific areas evokes immersion and encourages exploration. The common challenges that come with an open world is navigation which can be solved with the use of landmarks to aid in navigation and orientation.


I designed a simple quest with multiple stages requiring the player to locate, secure and return Antizin to the quest giver. The intention of the quest was to give the player a goal to achieve while the design of the map would provide player with navigational choices and subconsciously lead the to the quest objective using the landmarks. Multiple quest stages were used to give the player a sense of progression towards their goal while not revealing how to get to it.



Landmarks are attractions that encourage the player to follow and progress through the map. The area around the landmark is visually distinct to aid in navigation and act as a reference point for the player to help them reorient themselves. Additionally, they give a sense of space in relation to the player and location which helps create a memorable cue for the player to mentally map the area in the game world.

I used the three types of common landmarks available to build my map, which included, A Global Landmark, Weenies and Local Decor Landmarks.

Local Decor Landmark

Local Decor Landmark



Global Landmark

Global Landmark

Islands and Alleys

I took the island and alley approach to design my map as it was able to make the different type of landmarks  work well with each other and help me direct the player to their goal.


An Island is a large and wide space where most of the discovery of landmarks, exploration and gameplay takes place. The island design helped me separate and define the visual language of the landmarks from other islands. Thus, making it easier to identify landmarks that are intended to lead the player from on landmark to the other.

An Alley is a path that connects one end of an island to the other.The alley acts as a funneling point that funnels multiple paths on an island, from one end of an island to the other end of another island. The design helped me make sure that players see the next landmark and reaches it, providing a clear funneled path.

Islands and Alley Design
Design Enhancers

Elevated Sightlines

Sightlines give players information of the space and provide navigational choices. They give a sense of direction towards a landmark and the ability to plan on how the player wants to navigate the space or get to a landmark.

I used Elevated Sightlines to provide a massive overview of the scene or layout, giving information where the different landmark islands are and the navigational choices the player can make to get to them using the alleys. The information of the space ahead provides a goal to the player and evokes anticipation of what will the player expect.

Elevated Sightline - Dead Vally

Framed Sightlines

Using Framed Sightlines helped focus the players attention towards a landmark within the frame which enhanced the landmarks value. Islands and alleys usually need framed sightlines to focus the players attention to the next island with a landmark. This helps to subconsciously direct the player around the map.

Framed Sightline - Dead Valley
Map Design


Dead Valley Map


The first thing I wanted the player to see was where their objective is. So, I used the center space to have an island with a huge global landmark. On this landmark, I put a smoke flare indicating the drop zone for the Antizin to the player. Seeing the objective from an elevated sightline, I then wanted to give the player navigational choices having alleys leading to other islands on both sides of the global landmark.

Each island had their own weenie that would visually define the island, attracting and leading the player from island to island. Using the the weenies with reference to where the global landmark is, players will know where they are on the map and how close are they to their objective as the global landmark is seen from anywhere on the maps section.

To combat the issues or mental mapping and orientation, I used local landmarks within the weenies and alleys that create a visual memorable cue for the player. This cue can then be used to metal map the area and help players know from which path they came and what paths they should go to next. Additionally, they help with orientation should the player feel lost.

Map Playthrough


Since this is a small open world map, the play-through will be decided into section of possible navigational choices a player can make, giving a different respective to approach their goal.

Sewer Exit to PowerStation

This is the play-through when the player decides to take the path towards the waterfall (right) which leads them around the global landmark and to the power-station. From the power-station, the player has to make their way towards the construction site and onto the crane.

Sewer Exit to Bridge

The path to the bridge (left) is another navigational choice a player can make if they wish to go to the bridge. But before reaching the bridge, the player must navigate though the island in between the bridge and the sewer exit, having a fishing hut.

Bridge to Lighthouse to Crane to Global Landmark

If the player decided to pursue the light house landmark, they would pass through the bridge and reach it. once they get on top of the lighthouse, they can then find their way oriented towards the construction site that will lead them to the crane.

Once on the crane, they will be funneled towards the Global landmark that leads them to the objective.

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Note: For more Information on my thesis process and findings, please view the Thesis Paper Document under Downloads.

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