Month: February 2016

Building the level

It’s time to build the playable level in-engine. As I mentioned right at the beginning of the research project, I’ll be building it as a mod for Fallout: New Vegas using the tools and assets made available to me to allow quick prototyping, as this project is focused on the theory rather than assets involved in making a horror level.

The way assembling interior levels works in the New Vegas editor (Known as the Garden of Eden Creation Kit) is that all assets are modular, with the editor giving you meshes for straight hallways, corners, room walls, floors and more. It all works as a kit that you can put together, and due to that, it allows for quick level creation (Compared to other workflows where you must model an entire room before hand and import it in full into a game engine, which is time consuming and prone to lighting issues and more.)

First, I’ll start off by building the reception area of the lab. This area will seem fairly normal, with nothing out the ordinary, in order to play with player expectations.

Screenshot 2016-04-13 00.13.48

Unlit and mostly unfurnished. The very left will be where the player starts the level, with the doors behind them locked. The rubble pieces are there to foreshadow the coming ruined facility, and stop the player from going in unintended directions.

Furnished Reception

Here’s the reception, mostly furnished and done-up. Fallout: New Vegas is set in a post-apocalyptic environment and most of its assets reflect this, so I’ve had to use the least-ruined assets I could find, however I believe I’ve done a good job at it.

Ruined office

The next room over is where the tension is introduced – The player will be presented with a ruined office scene with blood and skeletons plastered around, showing that something horrible has happened here, however the player will know that the only way they can keep going is forward.

Lab Hallway

This is the hallway that leads the player into the lab proper – Built in a similar way to a previous hallway I made several blog posts ago when doing light tests (We’ll come back to lighting in this level in the next blog post)

This is where the main puzzle solving will take place. This area is freeform and serves as the “Calm before the storm” point of the level. The player has to make their way left to eventually escape, but will find a locked door. They will need to activate two switches before they can open the door preventing them from moving on to the next area. On activating the second switch, the creature starts following them.

Surgery Lab Area

By the time the player enters this area, they’ll be being pursued. Due to that, the zone is made up of various hallways that run in circles, to that the player is able to trick and get away from the creature to buy themselves some time. Ultimately, the player wants to get from the very right to the very left (Which is closed off by another locked door they need to find a switch to pass through), and onwards to the ending area.

Final Area

After passing through the locked door, the player will have to progress through this final, linear section, getting to the left. Once they reach the left, the level will fade out as the player is surrounded by multiple creatures.

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Paper Level Designs – Level 3

I’ve finished my 3rd level design for my potential final level. This one’s much less complex and sprawling than the second one, however it has two major ways to get from A to B. The entire level is made up of hallways and rooms that double back on themselves to give the player plenty of opportunities to avoid the creature. There are no rooms that serve as “off-shoots”, they will all be passed through by the player (depending on the route they take), and hence the level wouldn’t feel like it has “filler” content. Here’s the design:

Concept 3

I am happy with it, especially since there are less chances of the player getting lost in this level compared to the previous one as it is simpler. However, as a consequence I worry that I may not have many chances to play with pacing (due to the length of the level), as well as introduce a few scripted sequences to scare the player, as I won’t have much space to work with.

After thinking about it, and weighing up the pros and cons, I’ll be taking forward by second level design and be building that up as my final playable level.

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Paper Level Designs – Design 2

I’ve been designing another level, iterating on the concerns of the previous one.

Here’s the second design:

Concept 2

Once again, the aim is to get from the circled “x” to the uncircled one. To combat the issue of the previous level, with it being too linear while also having too many pointless rooms, I’ve added a few alternate paths for the player to be able to take, and added an actual purpose for players to get into certain rooms.

If you look at the central area, you’ll notice that there are a few hallways that double back on themselves and create a circle-like shape. I intend for these to be areas the player will use to pull away from the creature that pursues them.

There’ll also be very few rooms that won’t have a purpose – Since this level has paths doubling back on themselves, I could introduce some basic puzzle elements, such as switches you have to find to unlock certain doors, while under pressure from the pursuing creature. I very much like this level, but I’ll give another design a go first and see where it goes.

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Paper Level Designs – Design 1

Following the survey results, I’ve now decided to get to work creating some level designs as I mentioned I would in my previous presentation. As I said, I’ll be creating them based on a research lab-like environment.

Here’s my first level design:

Concept 1

I’m not too happy with this one due to a variety of reasons. There’s a lot of pointless rooms – Not so much the amount of them being a problem, but rooms you’d never have to go into. Creating all the rooms in the playable area would be very time consuming, while simply cutting them from the design would leave the level feeling very empty.

Additionally, there aren’t many fun opportunities to be able to get away from the pursuing creature other than running into a room and running in a circle within it, which would become tiresome quick.

On top of that, the level is very linear. While there may be many rooms, the path to get to the final area is through very few straight hallways with no different paths to go on to explore. I will not be using this design.

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My level’s gameplay mechanics

Just a quick post discussing what gameplay mechanics my final level will have. As my research project is focusing exclusively on the level design aspects as opposed to gameplay, I’ll be having very shallow gameplay mechanics – Just enough to have the level playable.

Player movement

Movement will be your standard 3D game controls, with WASD to move around and the mouse to look around.

Player interaction

There will be no inventory management or combat for the player, they can only move around. As far as interacting with the level, they will be able to open doors and flick certain switches to unlock new areas.

Hostiles

As per the survey results, a creature will eventually begin following the player through the level, attempting to hunt them down and kill them. All the player can do about this is attempt to stay away from it. It’ll move slower than the player to give the player a chance, but if they stay in an area too long, it’ll catch up with them.

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