Lead Level Designer

As Lead Level Designer, I held the vision for the mission gameplay arc and worked closely with my team of designers to ensure the proper flow, pacing, integration of story, and technical feasibility.  Making missions for a destructible environment was one of the most challenging experiences I've faced, since traditional level tricks (like spawning enemies behind a building) weren't available to us.  I often had to lead the team to creative solutions to keep the content fresh and exciting.

In addition to leading the team, I also personally handled the placement of all Salvage pickups and Audio Logs to ensure balance across the entire game.  I focused on encouraging exploration and making the player feel clever when they made the effort to find the collectibles.  We used the same terrain deformation editor from Red Faction: Guerrilla, but it used LUA for all of the scripting.  So, I also helped develop a visual scripting state-machine editor for the design team to use on the project.

Opening Mission

During pre-production and early development, I often went into the editor to build out rough versions of the necessary spaces to ensure feasibility and fun.  I would then hand this early, playable version to another level designer to take through production and polish.  I did this with the opening mission of the game to create an initial playground space for the player to experiment with destruction before increasing the action level.

I then focused on increasing the action slowly through the rest of the opening area, ramping up the enemy difficulty and amount of threats to deal with.  I also had to ensure that I built the area to accommodate a cinematic mid-mission, which added some complexity.

We had a goal of showing that this war was bigger than just the player, so I focused on encounter scenarios that would include allies in the battle in a way that the player had a high probability of noticing.

This video shows all of the surface space that I laid out, up to and including the first boss battle of the game.

Purification Plant

During pre-production, one of our structure artists took a concept for a water purification plant and created it for the game.  This thing was massive, at least twice as big as anything else we had created so far, but we put it in a test level and it was really fun to take down.  

 The only problem was that the programming and art leads felt it was too resource intensive to actually build a fun environment around.  So, I sat down with everyone individually to hear their concerns and understand what issues I was up against.

I then went to work building a tall, cylindrical environment with inclining walkways around the perimeter that created a fun space without breaking our budgets.  I used all the tricks I could think of for visibility issues and resource management and then got everyone together to view the prototype level.  Everyone signed off on it and I was able to give it to another level designer to take through production and polish.

This video shows the environment I created to house the building.

Escape the Sewers

The producer on the project told me that he wanted to see a level where there was a lot of verticality.  He had received a lot of push back on this when asking for it in the past and I told him I had a few ideas of how it could be pulled off.

So, I created an experience that started you at the bottom of a very tall, vertical space and had you ascend to the top.  There were a ton of challenges with this in a destructible world, so I had to be sure and balance the amount of stable ground to pace and give checkpoints.  It felt good for the player to have moments of real fear of falling and then a chance to breath.  At the top, I wanted the player to be able to look down and see how far they'd ascended.

This video shows the ascension of the player to the top of the level.

Next: The Godfather II

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