Thursday, October 8, 2009


First project: Design a character
Second project: Design a level
....I think I know where this is going? =P
Whereas I found the first one quite easy (- it's what I've been doing for years), this level mechanics business is something I have contemplated but never actually had a proper go at. The closest I've ever come has been building multiplayer maps on pre-existing games, but admittedly I always find myself getting frustrated as they are rarely played in the way I had hoped. So this was a challenge, albeit a fun one.

I followed the mechanics given, tweaking them once or twice along the way, but did try to include every one at least once and I tried to do so in a way that seemed rational based on games I have played in the past. I aimed to give the level a smooth difficulty curve, offering simple item based puzzles early on which trained the player up for more difficult ones later on. I threw in various enemies at certain points to increase the tension and mix up the dynamic a little and tried to alter the size and shape of individual rooms in order to keep it interesting.

I've added the walkthrough I originally wrote which, although slightly looooong, definately helps makes better sense of the level!

1. The Street. First Challenge: Player must jump to overcome obstacles such as derelict cars/ bins/rubble and pits in the ground.

2. Player must eliminate first enemy. At this point, the player only has the melee attack, however it is made easy as the enemy is originally facing away from the player. The Lasso ability is granted upon completion of this.

3. First puzzle - the player must perform a running jump to bridge the gap ahead but there are inanimate objects blocking his path. The lasso must be used to drag them out of the way. This will get the player familiar with using the lasso.

4. Upon reaching the other side, the player will be confronted with another pit, however this time, the running distance is not sufficient to perform a running jump. The player must use the lasso to pull a large object on the other side towards him creating a bridge.

5. After passing through the first door into a building there are two enemies waiting to ambush the player. As each is behind a wall, the player has the ability to try and attack each of them one at a time. Also, directly in front of the player is an object which he may drag towards him to use as cover. The Light weapon is at the end of this room.

6. There is another inanimate object in the corner of the room which may also be dragged out of place to reveal another small corridor. As an exploration bonus, the first large health pack can be found inside. As it is on a high platform on the other side of a gap, the player must get on a level with it and then use the lasso at long distance to drag it towards him.

7. Another two enemies await the player, this time they are looking directly in the direction of the door the player enters through. Each of them has a piece of cover which again can be dragged away using the lasso.

Additionally, entering the room triggers an enemy 'respawn' point in the form of a ladder at the end of the corridor. In order to stop an infinite number of enemies, the player must use the lasso to pull the ladder down.

This room should be a good place for the player to get to grips with using a ranged weapon.

8. As soon as the player enters the next room an enemy will be waiting to his right. To his left, there are three cubicles. The first is empty, the second contains an enemy and as another exploration bonus, if the player chooses to then open the third there is a small health pack. Another enemy awaits to the right but at this point, the room may look like a dead end. One object may be removed to reveal a locked door. Further exploration will reveal a switch hidden behind another object on the far side of a large pit. The player must lasso the object into the pit and then shoot the switch in order to unlock the door.

9. The corridor leads down some stairs into a large 'warehouse'-like area.

In the middle of the room is a single enemy on patrol, at the far end is another on a high balcony surrounded by a pit. This enemy has a long range weapon and will spot the player upon entering and alert the guard on patrol. The player can quickly use the lasso to pull down a large object eg. a stack of crates to create some cover. He can then jump two levels into the upper right corner of the room where there is another enemy. On the opposite side, the player can drop back into a small gap to find the Medium weapon. In order to get out of the pit, the player must lasso another tall pile of crates and then jump over them.

10. In the upper middle portion of the room is a smaller room with a locked door. The switch for it is located behind the 'sniper' on the balcony. After recieving the medium weapon with its longer range, the player must backtrack to where he eliminated the first enemy on top of the crates and shoot both the sniper and then the switch to unlock the door.

11. Inside the small room is another large health pack. Picking this up will create some kind of alarm, causing another enemy spawn point in the upper left corner of the room. The only way to stop the onslaught is to shoot a weak structural area of the room marked by the pink rectangle. This will cause a beam to break and part of the room to fall in, blocking the door. There are a few inanimate objects dotted about the room to provide the player some extra cover at this point, should he need it. Destroying the beam will also unlock the next door which is located up a small ramp near where the player entered the room and down a long walkway.

12. The next room has a similar dynamic to the first in that there are two enemies, both hidden by short walls. It's cubicle layout should cause the player to become extra cautious. After eliminating the enemies, the player has two choices depending on his desire to explore. The first involves dragging away the two objects at the end of the corridor to reveal two ledges which lead to a door to the next room. The second option is to destroy the explosives using the medium weapon which will blow a small hole in the wall and lead the player on an alternative path to the same room.

13. As a reward for trying something new with the second option, the player will be lead into the room behind two enemies who are guarding the door that the player would have otherwise entered. Directly in front of him will be some kind of switch that the player can shoot to trigger part of the scenery to kill the two enemies eg. the roof will collapse on them.

14. Here is another large pit. There is only one point where the distance is short enough to cross and it requires the player to do two things. Firstly drag an object out of the way to create the required running distance and secondly, kill the enemy on the opposite platform so he can land safely. Upon landing, the player will find a small cubicle containing some ammo to his right, a barricaded door straight ahead and an open one to his left.

15a. This long corridor is filled with objects and pits + two enemies, making it very perilous. The player must tackle it one step at a time in order to make it to the end, moving objects which are in the way and dodging the holes in the ground. The first enemy might be quite easily pulled into the pit in front of him using the lasso. The second is a lot more challenging.

He is using the heavy weapon from high ground, making it impossible for the player to get on a level with him and kill him by simply climbing the ledges at the end. There are three large objects which may be pulled down in the corridor and upon activating all of them, the platform that the second enemy is standing on will crash down to ground level, allowing the player to shoot him and get the Heavy weapon. A large health pack will be an additional reward for the player who makes it to the end.

15b. Once the player has got the heavy weapon, he must backtrack to the door from which he entered. Before going through, he will pass a barricaded door on his right. The barricade can now be destroyed using the heavy weapon, granting the player access to another room with a single enemy. This is designed simply to show the new abilities of the heavy weapon. The player can then head back and destroy the barricaded double door he passed earlier and head into an elevator which will take him to the top floor.

16a. The elevator will open onto a long corridor with various small puzzles. Firstly the player must jump a small gap. To his left is a cubicle with a single enemy inside. Ahead are a set of double doors behind which is another larger pit. In order to cross it, the player must pull down a large object to bridge the gap. Doing so however will reveal a hidden enemy and trigger a spawn point from another door on the left. To cancel it, the player must pull another large object in front of the door, blocking it off.

16b. The corridor ahead is blocked with rubble and debris. The player must shoot some explosives with the medium weapon to destroy it and open a path. Next the player must climb some more rubble and they will reach the end of the corridor and two doors. The door to the left is guarded by an enemy but killing him and following the corridor behind him will lead the player to sneak up on an enemy in the next room. Alternatively, the player can destroy the barricade on the double doors ahead, granting him access to the same room but the enemy he could have snuck up on will now have the opportunity to sneak up on the player.

17. Either way, entering the room will cause two enemy spawn points on either side which can only be stopped by being shot with the heavy weapon. At this point, the player will be able to see the helicopter, his main objective, across a gap on another roof. In order to get across, the player must pull down another large object to bridge the gap in the middle or perform a running jump either side of it. On the final roof there are four more enemies. The player may choose to eliminate them or simply make a run up the two ledges to the helicopter and the end of the level.

Overall I was happy with the results and genuinely feel like I learned something new. Also it was interesting to see how others, both in my group and the first year had tackled the project differently. Admittedly, once again the most fun I had was in designing the playable character along with weapons and a back story for the level. This time I went for something a little more sinister.


  1. Needs a legend dude! Can't understand your level design without the legend/key :P

    The character is super creepy. Kind of um, cute I guess, cause of the baby/child-like qualities and innocence of expression, but then he's all muscled and alien and eyeball-less. lol. That kind of off kilter combo is sometimes seen in enemies, rarely protagonists, so this is really refreshing. The vibe I get is an alien? Or plant? Or both?

    I assume from the grappler flower this is the "lasoo" project from 1st year, sweet direction to go with the lasoo itself then :D

  2. Hehe, good point man - I've added the legend and the walkthrough I wrote to help make things clearer!
    Yeah, it was the lasso project. In my next post, I've written a little more explaining my reasons for his design. Interestingly I think Jim kept referring to him as 'Flower-boy' or something similar. The lasso was supposed to be like three tongues with teeth, attached to an extendable spine which could fire from the palm of his hand =P but everybody has said it looks like a flower! I don't really know what is going on with the legs but admittedly the muscles look rather a lot like tree roots. I may incorporate some plant idea into the design later on!