Level Designer

Being a Level Designer at Oddworld Inhabitants allowed me to use my entire skill set.  We used a proprietary editor built into Maya for layout, gameplay markup and access to our C based scripting engine.  The design team was a small group of six and each of us was responsible for owning entire sections of the game from conception through final polish.  We worked closely with our Art and Programming partners to create a fun and complete experience for each level we owned.

Design Process

Each new level started with a series of brainstorm sessions with the lead designer and any other designers that had time and wanted to contribute.  I would then take that information and draw up a paper map showing key locations, intended player path, and major beats.

Next I would use our level editor to create a "blue box" version of the level, first focusing on the size of the space and flow of areas.  Once I felt good with the initial layout, I focued on all of the markup needed for the AI to path correctly and take the best cover in combat.  Initial scripting of gameplay objectives is also done then to create a complete gameplay experience in a first pass form.  I would also take a first pass at writing the dialogue for the characters in the mission.

The level then got a pass by my partner in the Art department for first pass visuals.  We often needed to collaborate on where to make adjustments on our ends to get the best compromise of fun and look.  I then took the beautiful version of the level and do a final markup pass to adjust for any necessary layout changes.  

This process often went back and forth several times as we narrowed in on the right level of polish. After a series of bug fixing and focus tests, we ended up with the final version that you see in the game today.  Below is a couple of examples of my work from Stranger's Wrath.

Jo Momma Boss Battle

Early in my time at Oddworld Inhabitants, we decided to take a transition location in the game and add another boss battle.  I came up with the idea for Jo Momma and her abundance of sons and then went to work in figuring out what kind of gameplay I wanted to come up with for the space.

I was able to leave the ground and surrounding terrain mostly intact and focused on creating the structure for the gameplay I had in mind.  I created a rough mesh for a pile driver and then scripted it's movements and timing based on the player proximity to the three predetermined smash locations.  I struggled early on with how to telegraph the impending doom on the player, but eventually settled on a combination of sound and lighting vfx to show when and where the attack was going to land.

I wanted to do something different for the hand over hand wire mechanic, so I decided to add a live electrical wire that must be crossed.  The player would need to temporarily disable Jo Momma and then shoot at the activation box to turn off the wire and make their way across before she could re-activate it.

It took several passes on the amounts of additional enemies and types as well as the length of wire deactivation time, but in the end I was happy with what we settled on.

New Yolk City

Being the designer in charge of a city was a complex task that took a lot of organization and heavy scripting knowledge.  I created and maintained a master script that monitored the entire act of the game and updated based on conditions the player met.

The Townsfolk had specific lines to play about the state of the city, like giving hints about how to complete your active bounty.  My script had to ensure the proper lines are played based on a variety of sometimes complex conditions to give the player the right information.  I also created side encounters for the player to find if they took the time to explore and interact with the Townsfolk regularly.

I wanted to add a little mystery to the town, so I found a tucked away area on a rooftop for a Black Market.  Players willing to explore would find the entrance, but needed the password that was found by listening to Townsfolk between bounties.

Here's the in game version of Stranger heading through town and accessing the Black Market.

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