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, June 22, 2012

Viking Inspired UDK Level

Viking Inspired UDK Level

Video Part 1 of 3

This level was inspired by my love of Viking myths and the game Rune. While working for Human Head Studios, I was introduced to Rune, and fell in love with the giant layout of its levels. During this time, I decided to take a spin at making my own version of what a Rune level would look like in the Unreal III engine.
From initial conception to the stage it is in the videos took roughly 4 weeks. While working on this, I learned how to create animated textures, work with particle effects, and use the new landscape tool in the UDK. 
*note: This level does not contain any enemies because it is designed for melee combat purposes, which I have not been able to get to work, yet.  Once I’m able to get Melee combat working, I’ll update this video.  Also, this level ends at the half way point to “The Tower”.
This level starts off with the Player pulling into a dock on a Viking Longboat.  I switch the camera view to a 3rd person perspective to match the camera system in the original Rune.
 At the 0:05 mark, the Player is able to see a small fire on the right hand side of the screen.  This placement of this fire is to show the Player the boat’s final location.  The fire is kept small, but bright to draw some of the Player’s attention, while still letting the Player absorb the surrounding scenery. 

The Tower
At the 0:06 mark, The Player is able to see “The Tower”, the Player’s ultimate destination.  This
tower is viewable from nearly every part of the level.  I designed it this way so that the Player has a constant reference point to the Player’s location in regards to the Player’s final destination for the level.  Having this tower also helps the Player feel like the Player is actually moving around in a large, open, living space, and not just moving around a very closed off and limited level.
At the 0:14 mark, the Player is gains control of the game, and is dropped off in the opening area of the level.  Visually, this area is designed to be foreboding and a little spooky.  The tall flaming pillars are designed to guide the Player’s vision to the gate, which the Player would believe to be the goal for this section.  This is misleading as the gate is locked.  The small building on the left is designed to hold a guard.  The yellow light coming from the guard house is designed to stick out against the darker, reddish-orange.  Because of this dynamic light, and the large window that faces the Player, the Player will be able to see the shadow from the guard moving back and forth.
The Monk
At the 0:28 mark, “The Monk” statue is shown.  This statue is being used in place of a Loki statue, because I’m using the default assets in the UDK, the viewer/Player will have to imagine these statues to look like Loki.  Because Loki is extremely narcissistic, these statues appear throughout the level.  The three towers in front of the statue are also a reoccurring theme.  I chose to do this to give the level a feeling of “oneness” and cohesion.
The Curved Staircase
the 0:34 mark, a curved stair case can be seen.  This staircase is an alternate path to attacking the guard that is in the house with the yellow light.  The yellow ladder symbols show where the Player is able to climb.

Right around the 0:40 mark, the Player comes to a large locked door.  This door leads to an underground path that takes the Player past the large gate and to the other side.  Initially, this door was going to be able to be unlocked, but I decided that this created to much of a straight shot for the Player and was not as interesting.  Instead, this door became part of the “where do I go now” puzzle. 

The 2nd Entrace to the Guard House
The 0:56 mark shows the hole at the top of the guard house.  Connected to this hole is a chandelier that is illuminating the guard house (again, because I only have access to stock UDK assets, this chandelier is not exactly what I wanted, but it gets the point across.).  If the Player has managed to get on top of the guard house without attracting the attention of the guard, the Player can smash the chandelier down onto the guard.  This gives the Player an alternate way of killing the guard then just “RAWR, SMASH FACE”.

The Bridge and Underground Passage
At the 1:10 mark, The Player is able to see the bridge that is locked off and the underside path that leads to the other side of the bridge.  This is part of showing the Player the “lock and key” mechanic to keep guiding the player through the level.
The Entrance to the Underground Passage
At 1:17, the Player has discovered the hole into the underground passage.  This passage leads to the other side of the bridge.  I envisioned this underground section as a storage/customs area, a place that slaves and goods would be stored until the go ahead is given for them to be moved. 
Screen Grab of the Underground Passage

Video Part 2 of 3

The First Battle Arena
At the 0:08, the Player has entered the first battle arena.  This area is designed to give the impression that it is a construction site.  Because of all the construction stuff that is littered around, as well as the pillars, the Player has multiple options on how to deal with the baddies in the area.  These objects act as cover for the Player.
At the 0:13 mark, the Player is next to the fire pit.  The original concept for the fire pit was simply to be a light source and point of reference to guide the Player to the area, but I then decided that the fire pit could also become a tool for the Player.  If the Player knocks an enemy through the fire, the enemy will catch on fire.  The Player can use the too damage other enemies as the burning enemy will catch his friends on fire.
The Fallen Monk Statue
At the 0:21 mark, the Player’s progress is stopped by the large statue.  Again, this is a “lock and key” mechanic that the Player has to deal with.  When the Player turns around, the Player will see a set of torches at the far end of the arena.  These torches lead the Player to a higher area that contains a winch that is represented by a trigger that the Player activates at the top of the stairs.  Once the trigger is activated, the statue moves and allows the Player to continue.
Highlighted Trigger and Collapsable Trigger
At the 0:33 mark, the Player has discovered a intractable pillar that can be pushed over.  In the final version of the level, the pillar would appear different from the others and a UI prompt would appear to let the Player know that this pillar can be pushed over.

The Winch
At the 0:51 mark, the Player has found the winch that raises the statue.  In the final version of this level, this would be a large piece of construction with a crank that the Player would turn.  This machine raises the statue and clears the path for the Player.
The Ramp
At the 1:33 mark, the Player has reached “The Ramp”.  When I began designing this ramp, I quickly realized that it is way too big for it to just be a simple ramp.  The time it took for the Player to reach the top was completely in the “GAH!!!! BORING!!!” stage.  The other problem I faced was that the ramp needed to be this big so that Player could get to the higher elevations and the size aided in the epic feel of the game.  Because of this, I decided that the ramp needs some sort of combat to ease the boredom of traveling up this huge ramp.
 Once I decided that the ramp needed combat, I set about figuring out how to have enemies come at the Player without the Player seeing them spawn and without having to have the enemies spawned in at the beginning of the level and eating up resources.  The pillars that I’ve been working with throughout the level became the solution to my problem.  I had placed them down as decoration alongside the ramp, but I realized that I could knock one of them over, and have the arch fall as well, and this would give the area an ancient feel, but also a fantastic place to hide the spawn points from the Player.  So, as the Player begins up the ramp, the enemies will spawn behind the fallen pillar and arch.
The Cages
At the 1:46 mark, the Player has come across “The Cages”.  These cages contain prisoners from the docks at the beginning of the level.  One of the cages has been animated in Kismet to demonstrate one of the prisoners, still alive, shaking the cage.  I also put “The Cages” on the edge of the cliff, because they have a view of the docks below.  This allows slaves coming into the docks to see their fate if they misbehave.  Having “The Cages” positioned here also allows the Player to see the beginning of the level (see below).  Doing this helps the Player feel like the level is part of a larger world and not just a series of hallways and arenas that aren’t really connected.   
Starting Point Of The Game As Seen From The Cages
Guard House
At the 2:00 mark, the Player has entered one of the guard houses.  The guards are already dead, because the Player already killed them on the bridge, so this area is designed more for exploration and mood setting.  Within each guard house, there is a cage.  These holding cells are designed to hold prisoners/slaves that haven’t yet been put in “The Cages”.  I’ve envisioned these holding cells as being full of prisoners, some screaming, some already dead.
On the ocean side of the cliff path is the second guard house.  This guard house has a lower level to it that can be accessed by either a flight of stairs that go out over the cliff, or by going through the hole within the guard house.  This area contains collectibles for the Player, as well as a place for the guards to throw prisoners from. 
The Bridge to the Tower
At the 2:30 mark, the Player has reached “The Bridge”.  This path is the supposed to be the main path to “The Tower”, but is destroyed by a falling rock.  This forces the Player to find another path to “The Tower” (this is another example of the “lock and key” mechanic).  I tried several times to build and animate a bridge that would collapse, but, unfortunately, my animation skills just aren’t that good, so you’ll have to imagine a rope bridge that gets broken.

Now that “The Bridge” is destroyed, the Player is forced to backtrack to the area near the waterfall.  On the return trip, the Player notices that a pillar has been knocked over and forms a ramp unto the roof of the guard house.
Video Part 3 of 3

Path to the Waterfall
The third video starts with the Player on the collapsed pillar that is leading up to the guard house.  This allows the Player to get to an elevator that will take the Player up to the top of the waterfall.  Because this area is frozen, the waterfall should be frozen solid, but, because I’m using the base UDK assets, I did not have one.  Similarly, in the final version of this level, the Player would not take an elevator to the top of the waterfall, but would scale the waterfall by using two daggers.

Scaling the Waterfall

The Watchtower at the Top of the Waterfall
At the 0:20 mark, the Player has reached the top of “The Waterfall” and is in a medium sized battle arena.  On the left side of the waterfall is a watch tower, straight ahead is a alter pit, and to the right is a cave system that leads to the large battle arena. 
They Player first goes to “The Watchtower”.  In the final version of this level, there would be a guard patrolling back and forth in the tower.  There is a dual purpose of the guard in the tower.  The first is to warn the other guards that are by the alter pit, if the Player charges in, and the second is to pose an elevated threat to the Player.  The guard is armed with a crossbow.  “The Watchtower” is one of the many destructible environments in the level.  The Player is able to destroy the tower by bashing the legs from the tower.

The Lookout
At the 0:32 mark, the Player has come to “The Lookout”.  This area is designed to help remind the Player where the Player is ultimately going. 
The two large statues next to the “The Tower” are there to represent other large statues of Loki.  I animated the revolving spheres in the UDK Matinee editor.  These are set up on 3 minute loops that return the spheres back to their original position.  Doing it this way makes the transition between the loops invisible to the Player.
The Waterfall Altar
At the 0:56 mark, the Player has gotten to “The Waterfall Altar” of the medium sized battle arena.  This area has two distinct areas: 1. The top. 2. The Bottom.
The top area is completely open and has a large hole in the center.  At the bottom of this hole is a fire pit.  Like in the second video, this fire pit is an environmental hazard for the Player and the enemies.  The Player is able to throw enemies into the fire pit, or knock them off the platform and into the fire.
The Lower Level of the Waterfall Altar
The lower level of the altar has numerous obstacles for the Player to traverse, the fire pit, and a broken wall at the back that leads to the Final Area of the Level.

The Broken Wall
At the 1:19 mark, the Player has come to “The Broken Wall”.  This is one of two ways that the Player is able to enter “The Large Battle Arena”.  This path takes the Player through the most direct route to combat and danger.

Guard House Seen Through the Cracks
At the 1:25 mark, the Player can see the guard house through a crack in the rocks.  This was done to reward and warn Players that pay attention to the world around them.  If the Player is sneaky and watches the patrol pattern of the guard in the tower, the Player can sneak up to the tower and destroy it before the guard can warn the guards in the “Holding House”.

The Large Battle Arena
At the 1:35 mark, the Player has entered “The Large Battle Arena”.  This area contains: “The Holding House”, “The Outhouse”, “The Ballistas”, “The Meeting House”, and “The Pit”.

The Holding House
At the 1:57 mark,  The Player has entered “The Holding House”.  This is a tri-leveled building that contains guards on the first level, prisoners in the second (dungeon) level, and a waterway that connects to “The Outhouse”.
On the top level of “The Holding House”, there will be multiple guards that can come streaming out if they are warned by the guard in the Guard House that the Player sees at the beginning of the “Large Battle Arena”.  There is a broken window in the back of the “The Holding House”.  The Player can sneak to the back of the “The Holding House”, and stealth kill enemies through the hole.
Inside the 1st level, there are several benches, a fire pit, and a few boxes.  Once the Player kills all the guards, the Player can move one of the boxes, which exposes a hole that leads to the second level.
Lower Level Torture Area
The 2nd level of the building is the Dungeon/Prison.  This area is used to torture prisoners.  There is no combat in this room, but the Player will be presented with many prisoners calling out for help.  If the Player wishes, the Player can execute the prisoners that are on the torture racks.  Near the back of the room is a hole in the ground that leads to an underground sewage system. 

The Sewage Tunnel
For the fiction of the level, the sewage system is where Loki’s followers deposit the bodies of the ones that they don’t throw into the “The Pit”.  As far as function is concerned, the sewage system connects to “The Outhouse”.  This path is designed to help the Player avoid fire from the ballista on the gate and to help the Player move about the map without having to fight more guards.
The Outhouse
At the 2:40 mark, the Player has come out of “The Sewage System” thru “The Outhouse”.  “The Outhouse’s” purpose is solely to get the Player from the middle of the map to the “Holding House” without getting killed.

The Meeting House
At the 2:48 mark, the Player has come to “The Meeting House”.  The building serves as a cover spot for the Player so that the Player can escape the ballista fire, as well as a spot for the Player to attack from.  On the top level of the building, there is a window that the Player can attack from.

The Sacrificial Pit
At the 2:55 mark, the Player has come to “The Sacrificial Pit”.  This is designed as a multi layer hazard and tool for the Player.  By taking the lower route, the Player is able to get away from the ballista fire, but the Player is in danger of getting pushed into the pit.  If the Player takes the upper route, the Player is in danger of the ballista, but it gives the Player a safety net if the Player falls.  The top level also holds one of the three ballistas that the Player can use to shoot at the Mid Level Boss. 

The Wall
At the 3:12 mark, the Player gets a good look at the gate and where the Mid Level Boss would be.  The large blue and white checkered diamond at the top of the gate represents where the ballista would be.  In order for the Player to defeat the boss, the Player must run from one ballista spot to the next, firing at the boss.  The boss is shielded on one side from incoming fire by a large shield that rotates around the boss.  After the boss is shot from one direction, the shield rotates to that side.  This forces the Player to keep moving, and adds a layer of difficulty to the level.
Once the Player has killed the boss, the Player uses the ballista on the “The Sacrificial Pit” to blow the doors to the gate open.  This would be the end of the level.  Once the Player crosses the gateway, the level ends and the new one loads.

The next section of screen shots are for the alternate path that leads the Player to "The Large Battle Arena"
The Tunnel
At the 3:50 mark, the Player has come to “The Tunnel”.  “The Tunnel” is an alternate/sneaky route that the Player can take to get to “The Large Battle Arena”.  If the Player goes this way, the Player is able to avoid direct combat with several enemies, avoid detection by the guard towers, and avoid the ballista for a time.  Inside “The Tunnel”, there is one guard that patrols the length of “The Tunnel”.  The Player is able to take the guard out by either direct combat, a sneak attack from the shadows, or by throwing an axe at one of the stalactites which will crush the guard.

Entrance to The Tunnel
The final part of the clip takes the Player to entrance to "The Tunnel".  On the right side of the "The Tunnel" is a large burning totem.  This totem is placed here to draw the gaze of the Player when they get come upon the "The Waterfall Altar".

Thank you for taking the time to go through this very long post about this level.  More is to come on this level as I add actual enemies and as I figure out how to code in melee combat..  Any comments, questions, harsh criticisms, or job offers ;) , please contact me!

I will continue updating this blog throughout the week.

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