Role: Level Designer
Team Size: Solo
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Development Time: 2 Weeks
In this project, I focused on re-designing the first level of Dishonored - 'Dishonored', a AAA action-adventure game developed by Arkane Studios. This level does not go beyond whitebox and doesn't have playable systems implemented as I entirely wanted to focus on the blocking out process and primarily focusing on player sightlines and multiple routes of gameplay to practice general Level Design and comfortability with UE4.
When considering the initial layouts of the level, I always put myself in the perspective of the player in pivotal parts of the level. When exiting one section and entering a new area, what can they see and what information can I convey from that angle? This allows me to get a feel for the Player's experience whilst in-editor, allowing to design for relatively smooth transitional periods between areas within the level.
In combination with this, I design these specific points to allow me, as the Designer to know where the Player specifically will be and compose the landscape/area in front of them to convey specific information. A lot of the techniques I utilise here come from Film & Photography; a skillset which I personally believe can very easily transferred over into designing 3D Spaces.
Finished paper design of the level layout
This blockout utilised Unreal's base BSP system without any additional addons or plugins to achieve it's final state. Intricate shapes and interiors were mainly created with additive and subtractive brushes. This introductory section (The Prison), was mainly a place for the Player to learn the constraints of their mechanics. Following Dishonored's style of offering different routes of gameplay, I made sure to include both a 'Action' and a 'Stealth' route immediately to teach this to the Player and kept the dynamic going throughout the rest of the level.
However, an aspect of this design that I recognise to be easily exploited is just avoiding risk entirely. To counter this, I included several 'Locks' throughout the level; ensuring that the Player must gather a mission objective from that area before being able to progress. These varied from Documents to Keys to Doors.
Prison - Level Introduction
Bridge - Mid-point of the Level
Lighting played an essential role in the overall exterior design. Being the first time I've worked in a night-time scene, it made me realise how much ambient lighting guides the Player's eye and in turn, navigation. With this in mind, I kept the light level high enough to ensure the Player could see their surroundings, and highlighted points of contact with light strips and sentry lights. By keeping this consistent, the Player learns the significance of these spots and develops behaviours surrounding it.
Village & Dock - Level End
What would I have done differently today?
With an original intention of re-design, I found it incredibly difficult to re-design a level which in itself, is already of incredibly high quality. This coupled with the development struggles that Covid-19 brought along, I'm incredibly happy with what I was able to achieve.
Along the lines of practice, I feel I was very successfully able to nail the fundamentals of LD Techniques with this piece - Compositionally and with micro/macro design as a whole.
The greatest flaws with the level lies towards the climax - the 'Village' & 'Dock' sections offer a form of forced linearity to the player, an aspect I was attempting to avoid. The overall space planning and layout would be the best improvements in an updated version.
Another issue I found is that without the usage of mechanics - it's impossible to playtest, making the overall piece incredibly difficult to plan and manage. If I were to re-visit this, I would definitely implement a basic controller to help Prototype areas before iterating upon them.