During senior year, Champlain College has students from each game production major come together and form teams. These teams spend their first semester prototyping game ideas before starting work on a game. At the end of that semester, they then present the work they did and the faculty decide which games and teams go forward and which ones get cut for next semester. After that, the students that were in teams that were cut get allocated to different teams for second semester. In second semester, the updated teams then try to get the games to a release state.
I was cut from my first semester team - Unnatural Selection. I was brought onto this team primarily as a level designer. This game was created in Unity 3D.
Visualizer is a 1st-person rhythm shooter in which the player must fight off hordes of enemies with a variety of weapons. Either the player can fight it out in the endless mode to see how long they survive or fight in the campaign to destroy the nests they spawn from before fighting off the Lich that started this all.
- Campaign Level Designer
- Created 4 objective-based levels plus 1 boss
- Helped create the systems for the objectives
and the environment of both the campaign
and endless levels.
The Intent was to create vibrant, high energy environments that put the focus of the level on the main objective - destroying nests - while also providing the player an open enough space to reliably combat or run away from a horde of varying enemies.
The team had decided in their first semester that the levels were all centered around the theme of a dance club. And so, the 4 main campaign levels and the endless mode level are all inside nightclub-like areas. We also decided to add a progression of corruption from level to level. That means that level 1 has very little corruption while level 5 is full of corruption.
- Constantly spawns areas until they are destroyed
- Destructible objects and the main objectives in the game. In order to beat the level, the player must destroy all nests
within the level.
- Multiple different nests that spawn different types of enemies
- Corruption is an ever-present, growing thing within the game.
- 2 types of corruption
- Procedural Corruption: Originates from areas of corruption not attached to nests and grows as the player plays
through the level. The growing corruption can be destroyed, however the corruption they originate from cannot.
- Nest Corruption: Originates from nests and does not grow. This corruption gets destroyed once the nest gets
destroyed. Draws the player towards where the nests are.
- Either opens or limits accessibility to multiple areas from the player
- More corruption in each level as the player progresses is meant to signify that they are getting closer and closer to the
boss and end of the game.
I worked on the levels in sequential order. And so, level 1 was the first level I created.
I wanted there to be a progression of complexity in the levels within the campaign. And so, by that logic, level one should be the simplest of the levels. It was designed to be the player's first level they go into after the tutorial, and so the area is very open and the space is very easy to understand and know how to traverse at just a glance.
This allowed the player to master the player's mechanics and the systems within the level without having much get in the way of that. The only things the player had to worry about is how they functioned and what the objective of the level was.
The lead level designer started by creating the layout for this area while I started on level 1. After he had set up the floors, outer perimeter walls, and stairs in front of the stage, he focused on the endless mode level and I started to work on this level.
I wanted this level to still be a bit more on the simple side, however have more interesting mixtures of spaces. Furthermore, I wanted to show off more of the level systems and the complexities they can bring with them.
To start off with, there is the bridge made of corruption that allows the player to traverse from one side of the top floor to the other. However, this corruption is attached to a nest, and so when that nest gets destroyed, so does the bridge. There are also walls of corruption blocking off areas as well that act the same way. This all is meant to show that as the player progresses through a level, the environment changes as well, both changing how the player can move through the area and the sight-lines they have available from any given location.
From this point onward, I really wanted to make much more unique environments and create levels that really differed both in looks and gameplay.
I first wanted to use the artist assets to create a truly unique area as the centerpiece. I think a distinct centerpiece is key in truly differentiating areas from one another, since often the centerpiece will be somewhere in the player's camera.
I then focused on differing the gameplay as well. I thought immediately that the best way to truly differentiate the gameplay would be to change how the player maneuvers around the environment. The player moves throughout the prior levels mostly horizontally. And so, I put more emphasis on the vertical movement in this level, trying to get the player to move commonly either by moving up by the stairs or down by dropping from upper floors to lower floors.
I wanted to go with a similar direction for this level as the previous one, with the focus being on the vertical movement as opposed to the horizontal movement.
And so, I started with creating 3 different floors in the level. I made the floors glass to add visibility to all the different floors while they were right over one another. This allowed the players to always see where they need to go despite the locations of the floors.
I then wanted to branch out from this central area of floors to make the environment feel like more than just a box. And so, I added multiple different areas throughout the area, all located in different areas with different shapes to still make this whole level feel unique.
Furthermore, this level is the 2nd most corrupted level in this game right before the boss level. And so, I wanted to put an emphasis on how the corruption affected the gameplay. I did this through multiple areas that block off the players, along with stairs that continue to promote the vertical movement.
Lastly, I created the boss level.
We had decided it would be interesting to do something that's not necessarily a dance club like the rest of the levels to differentiate it more from the rest of the levels. And so, I decided to try to make a sort of opera hall area. An opera hall is pretty large and open, which made it so when designing and programming the boss, we didn't have to worry too much about obstacles. From a narrative standpoint, it is also a place focused on music, just like dance clubs, allowing it to fit seamlessly into the theme.
I also lined the seats in the area so that the enemies could be standing in front of the seats and come from the seats to fight the player during the boss fight.
Lastly, I themed the whole level around the blue corruption, and the environment artist helped really pull it all together.
I am overall quite happy with the levels I created. If I had time to iterate, I would like to revisit level 1 and 2 to make them both a bit more interesting and compelling, especially level 1.
Furthermore, I think some of the spaces within the levels can be tuned a bit. There are some areas that are a bit too tight and narrow, making it difficult to effectively maneuver around the environment.
I definitely think that the artists and I made an incredibly compelling environment that is breathtaking and provides a strong environmental narrative.