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ZAKARIA ELBAHI

LEVEL DESIGN Portfolio

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This level is intended to be the first in a small game.
The main objectives with this level was to codify the vocabulary the game has at it's disposal, teach players basic mechanics, introduce the essential enemy types and set the tone of the game going forward.

I wanted to utilize the whole space in a clever way, once the player picks up the fuel, they enable a new trigger box behind them > they turn around into a jump scare sequence, revealing their rescue target has been behind them stuck to the roof from the start.

 
A really simple but effective alternative to just having him in front of the alter. 

AREA 1

The choice to use cinematics as the introduction to the level is to establish them as viable vocabulary for the player. 

The end goal of this level is to make the player feel helpless and powerless, later in the level I used cinematics to block off the player from earlier parts of the level. They are supposed to leave a shocking impression when used. In later examples they wouldn't have the intended effect cinematics were not established as an option earlier. 

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The path until the first enemy encounter is relatively well marked, intended to be easy to follow.

The establishing shot for the level has the player get up and fall into the frame shown here. The tower stands out immidiately but if players follow down to the base of the tower - the town hall can be seen just through the trees.

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Once the player reaches the first enemy encounter area they are presented with two pathways without clear direction indicating which one is the "correct" path.

The AI in this section was deliberately restricted to only two nav points, and has severely restricted vision - he stands patrolling one of the two pathways. 

 

The other pathway is the image shown in the centre, a completely dark mine-shaft, the flickering light by the entrance. 

It's intended to be an uneasy choice, if players follow the enemy's path they'll have access to a new area and an extra light to use later, but risk being caught.

 

Once the player navigates down into the mine chaft - they are completely blind in the dark, this is when they are prompted to use their light for the first time.

The door on the left is shut by someone on the other side when approaching. I found this was a resource friendly way to let the player know they are in danger. 

This also provides context to the cinematic sequence that is upcoming and informs the player that doors can be open and shut. 

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Once the player enters they are greeted by dimly lit staircase, and blood stains on the indented wall above. 

 

The space geometrically gets increasingly smaller as the player continues, resulting in more tension - leading up to the jumps care where the player is thrown down the stairs. 

The player is now blocked off from the previous areas of the level. This has a few benefits in making the threat level feel more present to the player, freeing up space for performance, and forces the player to continue down the intended path, hopefully breaking up the level map in the players head, in an entertaining way. 

The player has collect a key from the nearby farmers house before they can enter.  Once the player returns to the space, the door is open. 

This used to build tension and reinforce the intended lack of control feeling I was attempting to create. This also serves to teach the player that they can use keys to open doors without giving the player too much agency and loosing that feeling of hopelessness.  

AREA 2

Area 2 is where the player gets their first fuel pack allowing them to use their thruster - it's not something I wanted the player to miss, so composition wise the alter where the thruster fuel has been placed is front and centre and acts as a visual the pull for the area.

Similarly the red lighting is intended to introduce a splash of colour amidst the lightly tinted green, acting as a warning to the player. 

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The fuel is hooked up to the same interaction system that allows players to interact with doors and lockers.

 

This area is intended to be a (relatively) stress free way to introduce the player to this. Before subverting the relaxed feeling of a tutorial experience to jump-scare the player. 

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Where the first enemy encounter on the approach was stunted, as a way to safely introduce the player to enemies - this enemy spawns after picking up the fuel and whilst he only has 3 nav points, he is otherwise fully functional - the player now needs to engage with the AI and learn what is expected of them going forward. 

Enemy AI is intended to be simple but appear threatening to the player. It's set up with two custom functions and accompanying scripting on the player blueprint. 

It can navigate and walk around patrol points. It will choose patrol points at random within it's navmesh. Once there is will circle randomly with each patrol point, giving me the option to scale them up and give the impression of far more varied nav points. 

If it encounters the player it will chase, if it looses the player it will enter a search area before returning normal patrols. 

Fairly simple but effective for a horror game and the run or hide feel I was aiming to achieve. 

Ai

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One of the main challenges I faced with the design is that I could not have multiple AI in one level as they would have navmesh problems and sometimes move to each others nav points.

I solved this by teleporting the AI to different points as the player progressed, spawning and de-spawning nav points depending on the location. 

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The player has to complete a running jump in after passing through a tight corridor in order to make it to the boss level.

The corridor does two things, firstly it is a more intense space, initially this area was out in the open but I felt it took away from the intended fear and awe we wanted the player to have as they seemed to have too much space to manoeuvre and potentially to hide once the boss appears.

 

Secondly in order for this sequence to play properly the boss enemy had to be switched out from a cine rigged actor to a blueprint actor. There didn't seem to be a seamless way to do this - so by having the player entrer a narrow space after seeing the boss reveal it allowed me to improve tension and cover backend stuff from the player. 

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Mechanics used for this first level were intended to be tutorialized and gradually introduced to the player.

 

'Lockers' are placed deliberately next to enemy placements but are always seen first by the player before the enemy.

 

The intention being that they recognise the safe spot and interact with it before engaging. Allowing them to approach encounters with a registered safe spot in mind.  

Tech wise, they work on two simple arrow components within the box component. One listening for player character to be in proximity and pointing in the locker's direction and one listening for the opposite. On interaction it moves the player on a short timeline to inside the locker. 

area 3

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Area 3 is intended to do two things. Introduce vertical gameplay into the space - which made using larger enemies possible - and to teach the player how to use their thrusters with newly acquired fuel. 

They first have to jump over a minor chasm, if they fail nothing happens keeping the stakes low for the introduction. The player then navigate into an enemy area and has to out mauver the enemy only to be presented with a larger drop of the crumbling building.

 

This drop is fatal but does not require a running start.

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Finally the open area where the player must avoid the boss's sight. This had a similar problem to the aforementioned area where indented fear and awe was lost. In this area I couldn't switch out to narrower pathways or caves as the boss had to be both visible to the player and exist within the space in full in order to function correctly. 

I fixed this by utilising the vertical nature of the tower to create a more dangerous and engaging space whilst keeping it open to achieve the desired reaction in the player.

 

The vertical jumps up to the statue can be seen by the player in almost all areas that they have to navigate within the space - clear visually coded jumping puzzles seemed to hit a subconscious reflex and immediately appear obvious as the intended pathway. Additionally, the final jump before reaching the summit require the player to mantle, adding an extra level of stress to the encounter. Unknown to the player - there is a lot of leeway on this ledge setup instance to allow all player's to reach it, first time. 

mechanics

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Similarly with the light throwables - I wanted a system that didn't just light up the whole area without decision making on the player's part. 

The mine shaft initially started out as a continued part of the forest however I found that it was just confusing rather than intense.

 

So by changing it to an underground area and restricting the player's vision this area became a natural way to introduce the light system and give the player the feeling that they were navigating the space rather than just running around lost.

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