Genre: Top-Down Strategic Shooter
Tools Used: Unity, SVN
Production Time: 7 weeks
Team Size: 3 Game Designers, 3 3D Artists, 2 2D Artists
Role: Lead Level Design, SCRUM Master, Gameplay Design
In an alternate history Russia, you play as the siblings Matvei and Oksana. Assuming direct control over the brother Matvei in a top-down twin-stick shooter fashion while giving commands to your sister Oksana in her tank via a tactical map.
Perhaps the hardest challenge to date due to the many different mechanics, I started planning the level by listing everything we wanted to teach the player.
With the limited amount of time for developing and for the jury to play, I decided that putting everything in one level was the right way to go. This decision did lead to a lot of problem solving on how to fit everything in the level and which order as well as how much freedom we want the player to have.
To the left is the original order of things which was eventually changed to a minor extent since it would make more sense and allowed for better pacing throughout the level.
With new information and a clear understanding of what we needed as well as a basic layout, I completed the whole basic blockout with placeholder props and enemies in 4 days time.
To the right is the main tutorial area, the player starts on the left with direct control over Matvei along with the tank that Oksana is commanding. The tank is immediately visible right from the start and both the siblings have similar visuals to make a connection between them.
As the player moves forward, learning how to move and shoot, the narrative kicks in with voice over and subtitles as well as Oksana moving up to wait for Matvei to clear the area of the first two enemies.
When the two enemies have been killed, Oksana will move down the natural ramp and stops next to the player, waiting for orders. This is where the player is instructed on how you can use the map to give Oksana coordinates to either move to or shoot at, in this case shoot the fallen down train carriage.
After the player is taught how to destroy obstacles, they move through a narrow canyon filled with barbed wire to teach the player that they can use the tank to remove certain obstacles.
On the left is the next place the player will reach, here we teach the player how to remove mines which will damage the tank severely if hit. As soon as the player goes to dig the mines up, nearby enemy soldiers will aggro to surprise the player and make them think about planning further ahead using the nearly learned binocular ability.
Once the mines are gone, there is a bunker down on the lower right which the player can’t destroy using bullets, here the player will have to use the tank which was previously parked behind due to the mines, by moving it up and instruct it to shoot at this location using the 2D map.
With the large map and one single main objective comes the challenge as to what we can do to make the player want to explore.
I decided that since the game is pretty hard with the slow pace, planning and balancing we had to add something that helps the player if they decide to do the optional objectives.
On the right is an example of an outpost, there are several of these scattered throughout the level. By killing all of the enemies and blowing the outpost up with the tank, the player is rewarded a checkpoint and will start here next time they die. We do have a checkpoint at the start of the game and after the fallen train carriage just to make it easier for players to get into the game.
The open world nature of this game gave me perhaps the biggest challenge which led me to take a different approach to level design I haven’t done before. With this new approach, the core of the level was quite quick to take form and allowed me to give the player freedom of choice. It also gave me the ability to place and script things in the world for the player to interact with depending on how they move throughout the level.