Level Design – LENSES Demo

I touched upon the Level Design of LENSES on the project page itself, but I thought I would do a longer post explaining thoughts and decisions which went into the finished design.

To see the full Project Page, please click here!

| Background

When beginning the group project we decided to all come up with an idea and then fairly vote on who’s idea we liked the most. After pitching mine, my project idea received the most votes and I was settled as the Creative Director.

There was a variety of reasons why I decided on the setting and time period of the game, which is 1980s Western Slovkia. One of the reasons was the availability of pursuing Historical Accuracy.

Most other groups in the module created fantasy games set in mythical fantasy worlds. Though I enjoy that type of game, I liked that our project was more unique by being more grounded and real, and when it came to designing the demo I had a lot of History available; before beginning to design the level itself, I researched floor plans of bunkers all over the world to get a rough idea of how I could attain Historical accuracy which would go a long way in making the game demo feel believable and realistic.

And bunkers seemed to share a few small features:

  • Condensed area.
  • Thick walls.
  • Enclosed rooms/corridors.
  • Visible piping/wires.

With this research completed, I began designing the level.

| Level Design

It was planned out on paper before any graphic design was done, but sadly that original copy has been lost. However, this was the very first design that I used, re-creating the original in Adobe Photoshop using line tools.

Design1

Initial Level Design

I had the primary route the player would take all mapped out to begin with, as well as gameplay opportunities and the general flow that the demo would have, and created a floor plan like the ones I had researched. Lots of small rooms and tight spaces, which was perfect for a horror title.

Design2

Added Cameras

The next step was to add cameras, these being necessary for it to function as a game how we wanted it to. The intention was to ensure every possible space of the map where the player character could walk would be covered by the cameras.

To do this, I actually created a little cone by cutting paper out and I would hold it up to the screen to create a small “vision cone” for the cameras. Despite getting told off for using blu-tak to attach these to the computer screens in Pandon Basement at University, I believed this was a very easy way to do it and get feedback from others in my team, as anyone could move a cone.

An additional reason for doing this rather than actually creating cones to move around on Photoshop was my teammates not being very well-versed with Photoshop. This way, everyone could pitch in equally and I believe everyone working together to get the cameras perfect was a great team-building exercise and produced a clear, concise plan for later use when creating this in Unity.

Design3

Labels added for rooms

The next step was labelling the spawn point (which was E, meaning Entrance), and putting some of the room names in. These would be vital when I began to create the camera overlays themselves, as they would feature accurate IDs for where they should go. This massively helped with the organisation in-engine.

Design4

Added verticality

One of the final steps was adding verticality, showing where the stairs would be. Sadly due to problems with the engine, only two of these remained in the title itself, which is the stairway on the far right and we added elevated areas to the far left.

We had issues with the physics engine and character animations, and therefore decided to keep elevated areas to a minimum in order to avoid this problem as much as possible. The stairs in the final level would get edited many times in an attempt to alleviate these problems, and thankfully we were successful in them not showing in the final product.

Design5

Image effects to make it look like a blueprint

And this was the final design, where I added some post-processing to make the blueprint look more interesting when shown to our tutors, as this was required to be in our Design Document. This was done easily by duplicating the line-layers which made up the floor plan and using Photoshop’s fragment effect and lowering the opacity. Small lighting and other effects were added and our tutors commented favourably on this design.

Design6

The map re-created in Maya

This was the big next step. We had used Maya in our 3D Modelling & Animation module, and therefore it seemed appropriate to use it for the level. There were a few attempts to try and create a level but they all produced rather unfavourable results. We couldn’t quite match the level design I had done earlier, and I was resilient to the large amount of changes that were sometimes suggested to make it “easier” to do. This would have resulted in a much more plain and smaller area to explore.

After some thought, I then decided to use my design as an actual floor plan rather than simply as reference to look at. I created a 2D plane in Maya, and then textured it with the blueprint I had created. Textures were then turned on in modelling tools and this gave a perfect reference to then create what you see above, which is a fully 3D version of the original level. After it was completed, the original 2D plane was hidden.

Doing this was a massive success and the base level was completed in a much shorter time than we had initially planned out during the Project Planning phase.

Design7

And imported into Unity

The level was imported into Unity, and myself and my teammates began work in different areas; I started to create all of the 2D assets and write the script, as well as helping with creating static 3D models, as the others created more 3D models and worked on programming the game itself.

When we had created enough 3D models to ensure variety (the time saved on the actual Level Design I wanted spent on creating a wide variety of models, so we spent longer on that than originally planned) and the base game was relatively completed, the lighting and character models being available now, we began mass-importing objects from Maya into Unity and clutter the map.

Here you can see some of the models I created for the map.

When we created the models, we did so by placing them inside the original level design. I wanted this to happen to very easily ensure that scale and size were coherent despite the models being made on different machines and potentially different settings. Doing this allowed us to very efficiently import them into Unity as most did not require any re-sizing.

Design8

Final map

What you see above is the final result after all the modelling, texturing, and lighting was completed. The floor texture was actually created by me in much the same way as the level itself; I created the different textures as a 2D image on Photoshop, all connected, and then we applied it beneath the floor plan to create a seamless full texture of the ground.

And that was the level design completed! For the project we received an 85/100 overall and I believe it was very accomplished for a 3-person student team to create in only 6 months.

For a full look at the project, please click right here to go to the project page.