WEEK 5&6: A GIGANTIC LEVEL! (OPEN WORLD LEVEL DESIGN)

Hi friends! I hope you are doing well! Thanks again for joining me yet on another week of this super adventure! This week, I will talk to you about what I did during week 5&6 of the course Level Design For Games on CGMA. The assignment this time was on 2 weeks as we needed to do a map that would be way bigger than usual. This time, we're tackling the subject of Open World Design! We also started talking about document making. Not my favorite part I admit, I'm definitely more a person of action! 😋 But I really enjoyed doing a little map and doing a little more preparation is good I feel.  
ASSIGMENT
Here are the requirements for this 2 week level:
- Theme is Lunar/Planet type Base
- Use the Character Blueprint of your choice
- Make a One Pager with a world map describing your idea
- Create a more Open World level 
- Design different district/part of the map that could have distinct visual identities
- Concentrate on large elements
- Have interior and exterior spaces
- Implement environment storytelling
- Make some cool landmarks and create interesting compositions
- Create barriers or edges that fits the theme of your level

Here's a little recap on things I wanted to improve or learn with this new assignment:
- Try to guide the player visually from one space to another
- Improve my compositions

Now, let's get to work!
LETS DO THE WORK!

During this 2 week assignment, my process did not really change that much, but I took this opportunity to refine my design a little after the first week. I think the fun thing was really to get feedback and be able to iterate on the subject. I love iterations, so this was really fun! 
1. BRAINSTORM / MOODBOARD & INTENTIONS
If you have seen my previous videos and blog post, you now know that I love this part! I find references that I find cool, make a chaos in PureRef, than I narrow down a little to what I really want to do by asking myself some questions, identifying the references that really excites me and than I have my idea for the project! 

My cleaned up moodboard. I did one for the level overall and for some areas. 

I decided I would go with a brutalist inspiration (my 90%) with a little twist that this is a Salt mining planet (my 10%)

WHO: A Sheriff
WHEN: Future
WHERE: On a Salt Mining Planet
WHAT: Investigating a murder
WHY: It's your job! It's the first murder in this community, let's not make it a habit!
HOW: Explore the space, find clues, investigate the crime scene and talk to NPCs to gather information
2. ONE PAGER
As said previously, this week, we needed to do a one pager with a little map. I started by doing some sketches in my sketch book to get a rough idea before I would do a more clean version that I would put in my one pager. I also tried to find cool names, it can be pretty hard, especially as a French speaking person who needs to find cool English names! 😋

The One Pager!

A rough pen sketch to think about the map.

3. FIRST BLOCKOUT
My first block out was WAY too big. It was gigantic and very hard to navigate. I was able to block out almost everything that I wanted to do but I quickly realized a couple of things:
1. My character is only running, I need to reduce the space if I want it to be any fun
2. My landmarks are way too small. We could not see the tower from far away, neither the electrical posts. It just lacked a coherent sense of scale
3. I had no story in mind, so I didn't know where to put my efforts or direct the player!
I also spent a lot of time figure out how I could use the terrain tool to my advantage. I've played with it in the past but I haven't done a level with it yet and I wanted to start thinking about this. 

This is my first block out. You can't even see the NPCs because it's too big...😅

Still, I modeled and imported some assets that I would end up using on week 2 so it was not a waste of time! 

Some things I modeled with the engine modeling tool

Some free assets from Sketchfab

Some simple materials I made to use in the level

4. REDOING THE LEVEL / BLUEPRINTS & GAMEPLAY ELEMENTS
During the second week, I scope the layout down a lot! It still ended up pretty big I feel, but it was more fun to navigate. I ended up making myself a little pack of blueprint actors assets I could use here and there to populate the space. It was super helpful to get to know how to do this! Also, I made myself a little chart of what the story could be. It was not linear and I don't  really know how to do this in blueprint but I'm sure it will come! All and all, I think the space feels way better even though I did not have the time tu push it to the level I wanted. Let's do a play through so you can see it all! 😊

I made a little chart in Miro (free version) to help me. You start at the mine, at the crime scene (red space to the left). In the end, it's a complex chart and I was not able to implement it all, but an investigation is a complex thing right? 

I made many clues and objects you can gather during the quest.

Something that really saved me time this week was to get to know how to make blueprint actor as prefabs, or kit to kitbash if you prefer.

Although it is still a bit big, my level ended up way more manageable than at the first week!

5. LETS PLAY!
Here's a little video of the gameplay! :) 
KEY TAKEAWAYS

Definitely, the bigger the level, the more time it takes to make. That's obvious. I did not think it would take me this long to do all of this and although I'm satisfied with what I've done, I wish I had more time to implement all my ideas. It was quite a challenge! I think I was previously afraid of making super big elements but I kinda embraced it with this level!
TO KEEP:
- Gigantic landmarks works well!
- I think the little red cubes to pickup clues were a fun mechanic
- Making blueprint actors/prefab to populate my space was cool!
- Adding cues for where we could put story elements like signage or things like that is fun!

TO IMPROVE:
- I think I could have used more of the red clue cubes to add elements to the story. It would have also added some more things to do
- When there is no gameplay in a space, I should just limit the access to it so I don't confuse anyone
- I think the clinic could be a more interesting space. It's only functional right now
- I think it could be fun to add some lines here and there from your character interacting with the world
- Also, I would just like to finish the map really!

TO LEARN:
- I would love to learn how to make a better mission system
- It would also be interesting to do a mini map or at leas a visual cue for your objective
- Something that would also be nice would be to have more than one line in dialogs
- Maybe also learning how to placeholder some cameras for potential cinematics

There's just too many cool things to learn! I'm having a good time, although I wish I would have had more time on this one. It was very huge. As always, I've done a little video for the ones who like more this format. You can see the whole series on my Youtube chanel.
Thanks for your time! I hope you enjoyed it!
See ya!
- Caro

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