About Me

Level/Game Design, the study of games, and game culture take up most of my time. I love to figure out ways to make levels tell a story by the placement of an off-center painting, a pile of rubble, or the color of a light. I've been modding with the UDK/Unreal III and the T3D engine. I'm totally at home with using level editors, Unreal Matinee, Kismet, Particle Editors, and the Unreal Material Editor.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grunt Work

What is Grunt Work?

Grunt Work is a 3rd person, co-op, fantasy brawler, made in Torque 3D, that let's the players choose between playing as the Witch (long range, magic based character) or the Ogre (close combat, smashy smashy character). The Players' goal in the game is to capture the Princess at the end of level three and take her back to the Overlord.  This game was made as the senior capstone project for Columbia College Chicago and was created by 25 seniors.

My Role in the Development

I was the lead level designer for Grunt Work. My main tasks were to lead my team, train them on using the level editor in Torque 3D, monitor the level uploads on the SVN, create maps, build levels, and work closely with the lead designers, producers, environmental artists, sound artists, and scripters.

How the Levels Were Born and Changed

Original Sewer Map
Ogre in Sewer

When we first started coming up with the ideas for the levels, we decided that we wanted to start the Players off in the sewer system of the castle. This area would serve as a movement and combat tutorial for the Players, as well as introduce the Players to the Sentry class enemy.
The map above is the first version of the level that we created. Once the level team learned that our particle system was already eating up way too much memory (which means the lake of poop had to go) and the artists weren't going to have enough time to create breakable objects, we went back and redid the level as two very large floors. After several playtest sessions, we did another redesign of the sewer that closed off most of the paths the Players could have taken, while still making the level look big.
Map of Mage Lab
Screenshot of Mage Lab
We then decided on creating an that would give the players more room to move around, as well as let them experiment with combining their abilities, such as the Ogre's skunkthrow bomb and the Witch's fireball that combine to make a much larger explosion. This area was also designed to introduce the Player to the next enemy type, the Mage. Surprisingly, this area didn't really change much during the development of the game.
The Mage Lab, pictured above, is the end of Level 1. Originally, we had decided that the Players would play straight through to the Princess fight, but because the Zones/Portaling system in T3D 1.01 created crashing and visibility issues, we had to break up the game into three separate levels.

Map of Servants Room to Trophy Rooms
Map of Servants Room to Ballroom

The second level started off with what was supposed to be the Servants quarters, but the Servants class of enemies was cut from the final game around February 2010, so this room was changed in a hallway that led to the Trophy Room. The original concept for this area was that the Players would use the Ogre's charge ability to burst through the doors of the Trophy Rooms which would then lead to the Courtyard. The Courtyard was eventually cut from the game because of time. Because of this, we combined the Trophy Rooms (minus the breakable doors because of time) and the Ballroom (oval shaped room pictured above). In between these rooms is a circular room that was originally going to be a cathedral.

Ogre at the Entrance to the Ballroom

Ogre at the Entrance to the Ballroom
Once the Players leave the Ballroom the level ends and the final level loads.

Map of Grand Hall (Princess Fight)
For the final stage of the game, we decided that we wanted to do it in a throne room style arena. We had originally decided that they Players would need to navigate through several rooms to get to the Princess, but because of time constraints, we decided to cut all the rooms that were, in essence, filler. A throne room had been built for the final fight of the game, but it was clear that it wouldn't meet up to the standards that we were going for, so it was cut. We converted the Grand Hall into a throne room.
Witch at the Entrance to the Grand Hall

Overview of the Grand Hall
Cover Points for the Grand Hall
When I and the lead designer were setting up how we wanted to do the Princess fight, we decided that she would be able to knock down large crests from the tops of the walls onto the Players, as well as summon Sentries, Archers, and Mages to attack the Players. Because I knew that the Player would get bombarded by tons of attacks and enemies, I decided that coverpoints were necessary for the Players. These cover points not only gave the Players a safe spot to rest, but also helped relieve the frustration that can happen when a player feels like he/she is surrounded and can't get away.
Sewer to Magelab

Trophy Room to Ballroom

Princess Fight

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