BladeGunners
 

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Role: Technical Level Designer

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Team Size: 12

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Engine: Unreal Engine 4

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Development Time: 4 Months (in-dev)

BladeGunners is a first-person, online arena shooter game. It utilises skating movement mechanics to allow for rail grinding in the arena which will charge up the player's energy-based weapon. Set in the distant future where bullets are a thing of the past, private weapons manufacturers seek to covertly field test their weapons through gameshow sponsorships. Players are placed into 2 teams of 4 and must face each other in a deathmatch for the highly desired grand prize.

Check out our testing build here! 

Personal Contributions

Additional Contributions:

  • Continually implemented and developed Prototype systems within the game throughout development.

  • Key vision holder throughout development across all iterations.

  • Managed, organised and oversaw playtesting sessions.

  • Led and assisted with the agile development pipeline (planning/reviewing sprints regularly)

  • Aided with Network Programming, mostly bug-fixing player-centric systems (weapons & movement)

Pre-production

BladeGunners at face value is an atypical arena shooter game that leans towards the more competitive side of gameplay in comparison to most. Within my role as a level designer, it's pivotal this is reflected throughout the level itself, otherwise, if the level itself isn't designed with competitive integrity in mind - the experience becomes lackluster and boring. 

At no point throughout the level did I want the Player to feel 'stuck' or 'enclosed'. With movement in mind, everything should flow naturally, sections adjoining new sections and multiple routes being available to the Player's POV at all times. With any design, this is an iterative process, typically improving with each iteration. I think it's safe to say this was a success, comparing the paper prototypes. 

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Original paper mock-up

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Final paper layout

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Original Concept - Multi-floored approach. 

My original concept featured a 'Spire' being the centralistic point of design for the level, having the players use it as the main way of traversing through a multi-layered map. Through iterations, this was scrapped and favoured for having it being a central section to join the rest of the map. In terms of quality, the map improved drastically and in turn, gameplay with it. The Spire stayed though! :)

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Final Layout - In-engine

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'Hydraulic press' section.

Beyond the rail system, I also made various non-static elements throughout the level, the intention being that they directly affect the flow of the map itself. The 'Hydraulics' serve as a stopping point of continuation, forcing the offending player to navigate around them whilst the 'Spinning spire' serves as an additional route, leading the offending player to a reward of a special weapon pick-up if they manage to stay upright.

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'Spinning spire' section.

Scripting

Working on BladeGunners as a Technical LD, as opposed to regular, meant I found myself embedded into a lot more of the system implementation and working with Programmers more frequently than previous experiences. Taking responsibility of all systems within the Level, my work has spanned from moving objects to full on movement systems for the Player to interact with. 

At first, the 'grinding' system was the most tricky to implement for the Player, but after a few iterations and great amounts of testing - I was able to get a prototyped system for playtesting and feedback in our earlier builds. Initially, I tried a few different methods until resorting to Unreal's spline system. By transferring the Player's transform to a spline, I created a simple timeline that emulated the Player's movement along it from point A to B. This created an illusion of 'grinding' whilst not taking away Player control.

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Rail-grinding movement system.

Design Philosophy

Casual

  • Multiple routes for the Player to use at all times.
     

  • Hard to master. Casual layouts typically are incredibly unpredictable and aren't built with competitive integrity in mind.
     

  • General lack of predictability are a common feature within Casual layouts, making it harder to 'counter-strategize' against your opponents.

Competitive

  • Multiple routes for the Player to utilize throughout the level.
     

  • No choice. A design decision to force the Player down linear paths, ensuring conflict between players happens eventually.
     

  • Fake choice. Multiple choices that are an illusion and eventually lead to the same point, ensuring conflict between players.

BladeGunners

  • Multiple routes for the Player to utilize throughout the level.
     

  • Hard to master. Casual layouts typically are incredibly unpredictable and aren't built with competitive integrity in mind.
     

  • Fake choice. Multiple choices that are an illusion and eventually lead to the same point, ensuring conflict between players.

With considerations that our project is, at the moment, a student-led project, this made choosing a 'path' to follow with our design thinking somewhat tricky. I made the decision to design with a blended approach, supporting both competitive and casual play to keep our options open for now. This had massive reflections on the initial level design and is a factor I've had to keep in mind throughout all iterations up to date. 

Designing in scope with the resources and team members I have at hand is the greatest lesson I've learnt from my degree. Because of this, I always design from a top-down approach, working with minimal ideas and vision and scaling outwards in conjunction with the resources available throughout the lifespan of the project.