A cozy non-fighting game with climbing and puzzles. There is a focus on level design, flow and storytelling.
This project follows the three-act structure.
Level 1 is teaching the player the different mechanics of the game.
Level 2 goes deeper with the mechanics in a new environment and later makes a twist since the player now must use them to catch the dragon
Level 3 concludes the experience and makes the player feel like they have the upper hand.
To implement the three-act structure by making three levels. The design will revolve around creating a chase sequence, which is inspired by LA Noire's chases.
10 weeks - half time
Unreal Engine 4
Keep it in white box stage
Using assets from Epic's free marketplace
Learning the game
The player gets introduced to the mechanics of the game. The level is linear so that I can introduce obstacles without players trying to find an alternate path. I also start hinting about the dragon, the one the player will chase later, by letting the player see it flying around
In the city, the goal was to create a feeling of openness and player choice. Thus a section which was as close to nonlinear but still guiding the player. Water helps block the player from being able to go everywhere and goes against the nonlinear feeling but it felt unnecessary to have a player walk around there in the beginning when there was nothing to do.
The first half is the player going to the traverse towards the tree and they do that by using what they were taught earlier: jumping and climbing the rooftops. I also introduce movable boxes to get higher ledges, adding another layer to the Pick-Up mechanic.
The view the player is met with at the start of level 2 is designed to lead the player to the tree. The tree is framed between the two towers and mountains. A human statue is pointing towards it and there is a hole in the wall to better see the statue's arm. The player's golden path is going in the direction of the tree. Even the water at the right is curling to the side pointing at the tree. In order to not show the player too much of the level at once, I put a block (debris from the broken tower) to the right, to make the view more focused on the tree.
Introducing the Dragon Chase
It was quite tricky to suddenly shift the goal from the tree to the dragon. I had hinted about the dragon in level 1. To try and make the tree seem impossible to get to I put water between the tree and city, since water has previously been established as the player's weakness. Unfortunately, the player still wanted to go the tree. It could have been more obvious if I put something impossible to traverse, like lava or a large shaft.
I chose to wait with the chase sequence until halfway through level 2 since the player by then have become familiar with the city and feel more at ease with the mechanics. At first, the plan was to have the chase restart if the dragon got t0o far away from the player but the city felt too small to truly lose the dragon.
Finding Another Path and Puzzle
What was originally a checkpoint in the dragon chase, there is a puzzle section, where the dragon burns down the path to a tower. I decided to keep it since it was a nice break and helped avoid the chase from becoming monotone.
In an LA Noire chase, it ends with an event forcing the player to take action against the suspect. I wanted to try events like that, only it's during the chase in order to make it seem more alive.
Raising the Stakes
During the chase, the player is only focusing on following the dragon. To raise the stakes I added fire. The dragon has been shown being able to breathe fire before so it felt natural to make it shoot fire at the player. Now the player must keep check on the dragon while also avoiding small bursts of fire which slows the player if they get hit.
To conclude the experience I wanted the player to feel like they had the upper hand. To do so I keep the dragon close to the ground and made the area go downhill. This put the player above the dragon and could almost jump onto the back of the dragon. In an earlier version of the level, I made the player jump and climb obstacles but it made the chase lose its stakes since the player had no second try if they messed up. Once the player gets the crystal, they keep following the path which leads to a cave. The cave takes the player back to Level 1. The circle of level design.
I have succeeded with my goal of creating a three-act level structure but I feel like I could have got more out of the chase. It did not feel like the project revolved around the chase since it turned up halfway through the experience. If I had more time then I would have started the chase in the first act of level 2.
Other than that, I am very happy with the small puzzles, how I introduced the player to the mechanics and the pacing of having the player repeating the actions so that they would not forget. This project has really helped me develop to be a better level designer.