This is the 6th gameproject I worked on while attending the leveldesign program at The Game Assembly. It's a Diablo-clone developed over 13 weeks part time. We had certain directives we had to follow, mainly for artstyle and setting. The game is part of a "fictional" franchise called Spite and the goal of the project was to emulate the idea of working on a new entry in an already established franchise.
The game plays similarly to Diablo. Throughout the game you find shrines which unlocks new abilities, like a dash, projectile, AoE with stun, and a focused high-damage beam. By defeating enemies with their basic melee attacks, the player gathers a resource called Blood, which is used to cast spells.
The game features 6 levels and a final boss.
The Godess of the Earth, Tlatecuhtli, swallowed the sun for herself, casting the world into eternal darkness. Izelk, a Blood Shaman, travels into the heart of the jungle to confront this deity, and restore light to the world once more.
Development time: 13 weeks part time
Engine: In house engine (CBB3D)
Genre: Topdown Action
Level2: Layout, blockout, partial enemyplacement, propping and lighting.
Level4: Layouttweaking, enemyplacement, propping and lighting.
Level5: Layout, blockout, partial enemyplacement, partial propping.
Level6: Layout overhaul, enemyplacement, propping and lighting.
Programming: Tobis Nilsson - Jonathan Michaeli - Linus Eriksson - Erik Norberg - Anton Jonson
Graphic Design: Tim Person - Anton Berngarn Wallerstedt - Johan Jergner-Ekervik - Erik Quinn
Animation: Edgars Kaulins - Lovisa Ekelöw
Level Design: Niklas Olsson - Hugo Borg - Marcus Tegerhult
From layout to functional level
We first started by sitting down and discussing the journey the player was to take, and what distinguised these areas esthetically. We collected reference materials from different south-american jungles, and locations from other games, which the graphical designer used as a base to throw together some concept art that we could use as a basic guideline when putting together the einvironments.
Mockup by "Erik Quinn"
Concept for a "Jungle Village" by "Johan Jergner-Ekervik"
Since this project started development while we where in the locales at The Game Assembly, we worked on paper overviews that we could easily show and walk through with eachother. Originally we wanted three distinct, longer levels, but due to questions regarding how our engine would handle large levels without massive impact on performance, as well as the issue with one level designer being tied to one level, we split these into 7 shorter levels + final boss, which was then cut down to 6 levels + boss.
We didn't start blocking the levels until there was at least a basic paperdesign finished for each level, mainly as a way to properly plan out the overarching flow of the game while the engine was still being set up.
Since we used Unity as our level editor, we began blocking using basic planes that closely followed the layout of the paperdesigns. The strenght of the planes was that we could easily indentify "walkable ground" and generate our navmesh based on these, but the downside was that it was often a slow process to build with these in the editor.
"Level 2: Fields" - an example of the first blockout and the sketch it was based on
Some gameplay concepts where still up in the air at this point. We originally wanted the player to be able to "dash" over small ditches and holes, in order to position themself strategically, or to have something the player would do to break up the walking and combat. However we were uncertain if we'd be able to achieve this in our engine, therefor we would often draw layouts with small parts where the player could take advantage of this, but always keep in mind that they might have to go. This came to pass and dash feature was relegated to simply serving an evasive purpose, and all voids the player were supposed to dash over got patched up to allow player to simply walk over them.
End of alpha/early beta - itterations were made after playtesting
Birds-eye view from from the finished version, as seen in Unity
We had three different enemies: A basic grunt, a ranged spellcaster and a miniboss of sorts: an enormous stone golem.
When the layouts were being planned, we had ideas for the flow we wanted in a level. An area would be designed under the idea that a large encounter would ambush the player there, but we never wrote down the specifics of the enemyencounter, as we felt that the specifics were better left up to the itterative process, once enemies were in the game for us to use.
For gameplay and performance reasons, enemies would most of the time be spawned in when the player triggered an invisible tripwire, rather than always being loaded on the level. By spawning enemies in, we could also create ambushes where player would get swarmed from multiple direcitons, as well as lock the player in arenas where they had to defeat the appropriate amount of enemies before they could continue.
Propping and lighting
The artdirection we had to follow was a sort of styalized and cartoony, yet dark and ominous style. Props where large, cartoony and colourful, allowing us to create more fantastic environments with a focus on nice composition from the players perspective, rather than creating fully believable environments.
While we rarely had time to get all areas up to the same level, some things I always kept in mind while detailing was to make sure the general compositions always pushed players forward, avoided conflicting elements that made the area look messy, and to always think of what was beneath the player, as that was our opportunity to create breathtaking vistas.
As for lighting, we would always seek a mood for each level that fits the setting. Level 2 is set at the edge of a village and had warmer lighting in order to emulate a safer feeling, whereas Level 4, Cliffsides, has a colder amtosphere both due to being set higher up, and also to symbolise the increased danger the player faces as they draw closer to their final goal.
One of the biggest strenghts of this project was our workflow. We managed to fully utilize the pre-production to finish up sketches, break levels into combatbeats and make sure that each level flowed into the next in a sensible way, find referencematerial and make documents that could easily be refered to during all phases of development. By also creating blockout made from simplistic shapes, it was easier for the graphical designers to look at a level and figure out what was needed to fully realise the artistic vision for the game.
If I were to redo the project today, the big thing I would have done different would be to get enemies into the levels eariler. It was partially due to how late into the project the enemies had full functionality, but during the final two weeks of the project we started to notice massive imbalances with our gameplay and the damage done by the enemies, which we didn't manage to tweak to the degree we wanted, and the game ended up being very easy as a result.