Genre: Action Adventure, Puzzle
Team Size: 17 Developers
Team Name: Moon Hook Studios
Engine: Unreal Engine 4 (16.3)
Development Time: 6 Months
Level Sequence Animation
Cinematic | Cut-scenes
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During the POCT (Proof of Concept Technology) Milestone, I was responsible for researching how lighting is to be used in UE4 and integrated into the project. This included creating a guideline that I was to set and update into the level design document so that other designers can follow. After my research, I created a Lighting Zoo and tested how each lighting works and how they affect the games performance. This also introduced me to the importance of light maps and why they are important to avoid artifacts that form after a lighting build.
This was very useful to both the Level Designers and the Artists on the project.
Level Streaming and Optimization
This is another task that was assigned to me during the POCT Milestone. As the definition of the milestone, we had to prove the tech that we were going to use. This included testing level streaming and how it can be used to optimize the levels.
After researching and looking into how UE4 uses level streaming, I set a guideline on how level streaming is to be used and updated it into the LDD. This would include things to consider while designing levels to make level streaming seem fluid and work well.
I began to set up a level streaming zoo what would include multiple rooms filled with lights, props, AI and multiple sightlines. The test would also include the use of level streaming volumes and blueprint scripting. As it turned out, each had its own benefits and disadvantages. The choice would depend on how the levels were designed.
After a lot of testing and decisions made after our first playable milestone, we concluded that we should maintain a 2:1 combat to puzzle ratio.
As it turned out, combat was more fun while the puzzles were good in providing a breathing space to the player what provided no combat but problem solving. The enemies in the game also felt good to play with and shoot down with the mechanics provided to the player. Our target audience also factored into making the decision as a team
The lead level designer developed a a table that provided a guideline to the level designers to keep in mind when designing the levels. These guidelines were not a rule but just gave us a sense on how the skill progression and difficulty should be introduced. This curve would include the enemies, mechanics and player skill introduction.
Animations and Scripted Sequences
Beacon Fall Location
To convey to the player where they need to go to get the first beacon, I created the animation of the beacon falling onto a cliff with the visual effect of the sand blowing up using matinee. This was all scripted using blueprints which calls the matinee sequence once the player entered a trigger.
Switch Fuse Pop-out
I had to create an animation of a fuse pop out of a fully operational switch to convey to the player where the popped out switch goes or came from and that it is require to open doors to progress.
I used UE4's Matinee and blueprints to put together the sequence that would be called once the player enters a trigger
Enemy Flyers Pass-by
Bring a sense of motion to the levels was something I had to do to avoid the levels from being static. These animations and scripted sequences brought levels to life and made spaces interesting to explore.
Other responsibilities that related to animation sequences included me constructing opening cinematics and other in game cut scenes. This was mostly because I was the only level designer on the team that had experience creating level animations and cinematics.
Becon placed cutscene
Elevator switch cutscene
Level 1: The Tower
As the primary world builder, I was responsible for building the world from white box to Aesthetics using the Mod-kit pieces provided by the artists. I constructed the exterior Hub world and the levels from 1 to 3 as per the designs by other level designers during white box phase. Level 0 is a tutorial level to teach the player how to use the mechanics of the game which was assigned to another level designer.
Apart from building the level, I also integrated the lighting as per the specs provided by the artists in their lighting zoos. Once the level was build and lighting was implemented, I had to get an approval from the lead level designer and artist to check if the design was consistent and the aesthetics were maintained.
I had to keep in mind while building that each level had to have its own unique identity and aesthetic feel. With that in mind I was free to make any minor changes to the layout as necessary that did not affect the game play space.
Level 2: The Fortress
The Fortress used to be a massive level, but due to the length and the time it would take to fill the level with assets, a decision was made to cut sections of the level. As such, I had to only build selected rooms that would remain in the game. This included one top floor and one basement along with the mid floor. Building the fortress took me the least time compared to the other levels as the designs were more squarish instead of complex layouts. I worked partially on the design for this level to make the space interesting and distinct from the other two levels.
I decided to have long pits that would break the space a little to avoid the player from seeing the same design multiple times. The Long pits would also encourage the player to use the multi target mechanic using the glaive, by bouncing of walls and reaching for hard to hit switches that are at a distance. Once the building and lighting integration was complete, I worked with the Art lead to perform a final aesthetic pass do any changes as he needed before getting the final approval with the Game Designer and the Lead Level Designer
Level 3: Refinery
The Refinery was the level I designed and also build. This was the level that had all the major gameplay elements required as per the progression chart. I began by creating each major room space with a different combat style. At the cross section, the player gets to face a charger and a flying enemy at the same time. The king of the hill room was designed so that the player gets an elevation to fight of incoming enemies. Giving the player the chance to use cover and elevation changed the pace of combat and it was more interesting and fun for the player. Once the player gets the missing fuse, they can open the closed door at the cross section.
Behind the sealed door, the player is introduced to multiple stack'em turrets. This room is the hardest as the player has to avoid getting hit by the laser and at the same time knock out the stack'em from the turret. After defeating all three turrets, the player can pick up the last beacon and make their way to the transmitter. This is where the level ends once the player places the beacon.