I think something that is very important to make a good game is to get the pacing of the game right. Both with Story and Mechanics. And then leverage it to able to make interesting and memorable twist and hooks.
I did this project in collaberation with a friend and classmate Kevin Osgyan. Him focusing on the scripting and art. While I did the Level Design and Pacing.
This is our collaberation in creating this Prototype of an experiance.
First person Survival walking simulator
Story and Mechanics
4 weeks (part time)
Unreal Engine, Maya and Exel
To start off I knew I wanted to do a level where the player was ascending a mountain while battling the elements and environment. While discovering some mystic or strange structures and ruins. So I looked at and collected some references for this to spark the imagination.
Secondly, I freshen up on the 3-act structure and wrote down the different story beats. And used that as a base for the story as well as the actual level itself.
I had an idea in the beginning as well that I wanted to have a heat mechanics. Where the player had to manage heat in some way. And see how far I could push and develop such a simple mechanic.
And to pace the mechanic I decided on using a design philosophy called: Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu. Witch basically works like "intro-Develop-twist-conclude". And it's a technique commonly used by Nintendo to great effect.
And with that information collected, I sat down in Exel to see how I could put all of this together. More of that below
The Heat mechanic we Designed and build the game around
Fighting the elements
Freeze mechanic. I wanted a very suppressive and exposed feeling playing the game. Witch reflected the journey and story you were going to experience. So we planned for slow movement, restricting heat mechanic. Symbolizing your fighting and movement against the elements. And to counteract the negatives that come with that, we focused on providing the player with heavy feedback while moving thru the world. As with the screen freeze, overheat and blizzard effect. And use the Level Design to very and interlace those experiences.
If player gets too hot or cold he dies
The world by default will lower your heat slowly
Fire: Provides heat's up until your default heat.
Blizzard: Restricts your vision and Lowers your heat at a rapid pace
Lava: Provide you with heat but can kill you on contact. And can heats you to a point that you overheat and die.
Story and Mechanics pacing
The pacing chart that came out of the PreProduction
Going in to to the story I took the role as the writer just to make a simple story that I could use as a base and try to build the level Design atop of that. And with Level Design help to emphasize and enhance the story that is being told.
So the story became a kinda tragedy story. You were sent out to find a group of people whom you are going to join to then enter a location that hosts a giant heater generator. And you have now arrived at the outskirts of the tower. You make your way to the gate of the area. But upon arriving the people is nowhere to be found. You then go on to try to find them and venture out along the area wall into the wilderness. Finding tracks along the way. And after a long and exhausting journey, you find them. But the same fate that befell them you now succumb to aswell. Freezing to death right before the entrance to the generator...
And again to aid the story I used the level design to enhance the different story beats and feelings you want the player to have at those points. Like open areas when it's more light-hearted and cramp, dark areas when it's more serious tone.
So to pace the mechanics I first looked at the story beats and found out where they would make sense that they would be. and also how they could help enhance the different story beat.
And as mentioned before I used the pacing techniques called Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu / intro-Develop-twist-conclusion. To develop and use each mechanic to its extent in a short time.
And the big twist of the level was how the Hot and Cold changed roll as you go. From at the beginning seeking heat to then avoiding it and in the end juggling them both.
Map and flow
With that I sat down and started the process of creating the space.
I started out by making a quick blockout in unreal with BSP's to get a general idea for what I wanted and how big the spaces should be. And I ran thru them to get a feel for them. And after some feedback and realisation on the lack of time I was having there was a rearrange and cutting of the Level. Where I also then had to go back and adapt some of my Mechanics and story pacing to match.
Staring the more refined phase of blocking out. I started from where the player starts and build out from there. Moving along the flow path and composing them as I go from the mental image I built up. Creating and iterating on it as I go.
Also, split it into two levels to allow for Level Loads and optimization.
My philosophy when blocking out the level.
Since I had the heat mechanic that restricted the player. I decided to use that as the restricting element for the player and in that way afford to have a much more open level where the player is allowed to go anywhere but couldn't because he would end up freezing to death if they did so.
And with teaching them that you need to make your way between the different fire's. The player would intuitively recognize and realize where the "Bounds" where. While not explicitly being told so. Which is always a good thing.
And that leads to the challenge of the level. Which is to observe your surroundings and decide on where it would be possible to go. While juggling the heat mechanic and all its different aspects.
Aid the story
I wanted as mention before to give each part of the map a visual and shape language that helped represent the story and mechanics beat that was going to play out there.
As well as to try to match the story beat's as much as possible with the mechanics beats
Hot and Cold
And i whanted to leverage the Hot and cold contrast that would take place.
This project was made in cooperation with another another Level Designer Kevin Osgyan. He jumped on the project in the begining when he heard about the game concept.
Division of work
Kevin set up the Heat system and turned the acompaning objects needed into blueprints/Tools that I could use and tweak to properly design the experiance.
Balancing of heat system
Kevin's system for closer look. Here
And my personal favorite! Once I was done with the level Design and locked it down. He did a artpass on it. With his level design skill strengthen the level with more guiding elements. And respectfully reverting and changing things on feedback I gave him along the way. And I just loved how it turned out!
I found this project extremely fun to work with. Because it turned out so much better then I could have hoped for! And surprised myself how fast I was able to create the level. Since it was basically the equivalence to 2 weeks full time from start to finish. And I was really fun to work with Kevin. He really helped to make sure we were able to take this to the next level.
I learned a lot about designing and iterating quickly and to shepherd an idea from concept to final level. And to work around the limitations that were put on by time and resources.
And I think the Story and Mechanics pacing turned out well. They helped complemented and enhance each other intended effects.