Designer Series: Level Design II

As the team continues making strong progress in implementation and testing of important (and sometimes just “crunchy”) game features, the elements of level design I was able to elaborate on in the last post of this series — spatial composition, flow, and cover — are also being tested passively by us any time we play a round in the current MEGAWEAPON testing level: Shiprekt. I’m admittedly more distracted than I would be during competitive play as I try and glean from others’ experience where any troublesome areas might exist in the level as far as ease of movement, or unfair tactical advantage bias, or whatever else might detract from a fun and rewarding gaming experience. My primary consideration at the moment is cover, particularly because the other two aspects of level design group pretty closely for a game like ours.

Where’s my cover? Who designed this hellscape??

As you can see, it’s crucial! It also happens to be something almost all level prop prefabs I created provide, so I can drop a dilapidated car, a hobo barrel, a novelty-sized toilet, or whatever else I feel fits the context of the area as well as the dimensions of cover desired. Some weapons have explosive properties that ignore cover, so keeping a variety of cover thicknesses accessible by the player in different areas of the map is key as well. We’re feeling pretty good about player speed and roll distance, so balancing spaces between cover now has an additional reference point for aid.

For reference: dilapidated car, hobo barrel, novelty-sized toilet.

An important implementation was made recently that will be a relevant consideration as I continue to design levels in MEGAWEAPON – piercing shots. The sniper rifle is an equip-able weapon in testing and is the first to incorporate shots that can pass through hard full cover to strike other players. The number of objects the round passes through can be set currently with the possibility to add things like material specificity and associated limitations in the future. This adds so much more tactical complexity with a single addition, but also requires a reconsideration of the existing layout and balancing. (Note: I love what happens to a system like this when simple rules get slowly added and tweaked. I find this is usually the best recipe to get emergent gameplay mechanics – ways to play the game not intentionally added by the creators that occur as a result of the structured system of the game i.e. the rocket jump from Halo.)

Piercing shot pierces

Those sticking points I mentioned in the last blog are slowly starting to show themselves. The level feels fun though! Once we have our shader handler properly set, previously-opaque objects will no longer obstruct the player from view, removing one of the last veils as far as level design as well. The implementations around the corner, development-wise are really exciting and meaningful — we’re working on real gameplay modes, better gamepad optimization, conveying more visual information to the player in an attractive way, and so much more.

Cover FTW!