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Role

Level Designer
Game Designer

 

Game Engine

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Gameplay Type

Survival Horror FPS

PROJECT OVERVIEW

The Huntress is a First Person Survival Horror developed in 15 weeks as a final project at Campus ADN.

I have worne many hats during this project such as Game Designer, Level Designer and Scripting tools for other level designers to bring life and fun/scary situations in their respective level.

​ CONSTRAINTS

  • Teach/Practice/Master specific mechanics 

  • The level must contain a backtracking section.

  • The space needed to support multiple type of enemies and difficulties of encounter because of the different stages of the game.

  • Stay truth to architectural design of 1850 castles in Spanish colonies.

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MASTER THE MECHANICS


The biggest task I had to accomplish was to develop the first level of the game which include, introducing the gameplay mechanics that act as pillars for our game. Make sure these mechanics are taught, practiced and mastered in correlation with the blueprint of the game.

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LEVEL ART  SERVING THE GAMEPLAY

I have worked closely with a Level Artist named Jonathan to achieve great guidance for the player.  We made sure to have a smooth navigation throughout the level and making sure that image composition highlights gives crucial information to the players. Embracing the iterative process made the level way easier to navigate.

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FRAMMING THE OBJECTIVES

One of the core mechanics of the game is a gas line puzzles where you need to rotate valves to activate doors and other gameplay ingredients. The first person view makes it hard for the player to have a great overview of the problem he have to solve. 

To achieve the best results, I tried  iterate on numerous valves and gas line position.

ENVIRONMENTAL STORY-TELLING

Following the narration established by the writers, me and the Level Artist worked closely to develop an immersive level that rewards the players looking for details and lore spread across the environment. We designed the spaces with the context in mind to make it feel as alive as possible.

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TOP DOWN

 

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1. Vault practice

This is a small skill-check to make sure the player understands the vault, one of the main navigation mechanic spreads across the game.

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2. Pushable object practice

The player is now facing a locked door and the only way to progress further is to find the key which is hidden behind a pushable object, a mechanic the player already experiment in the previous section of the game.

3. Crossbow upgrade

Since the main weapon of the player is a crossbow, I felt that the right choice was to give the melee blunt attack upgrade to the player before any encounter with an enemy since the player could waste all of  the bolts available at this point to eventually dying without any alternatives.

4. Teasing a future mechanic

Later in the game, the player will get access to an explosive weapon. To pick the curiosity of the player, I decided to foreshadow one of the mechanic which is a cracked wall that can be destroyed by a explosive weapon. Since the player needs to backtrack in the level later on, I carefully framed this cracked wall on the golden path.

I think this kind of small details can create awesome moments if the player pay attentions to details.

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5. Teaching the main mechanic

This beat was for me the most challenging moment of my level to develop.

Since the player relies on munitions to kill efficiently the adepts (basic enemy), I had to iterate multiple time following the playtests and the feedback from developers and players.
I finally found a design solution that felt right and easy to handle for newcomers to this game genre. 

I made sure the framing of the challenge was appropriate, the voice over lines were there to enhance the objective as well as a tutorial box to teach the controls. I gave the player six munitions to kill an idle enemy.

As i said earlier, if the player misses all of the his shots, the melee blunt attack taught earlier was still available. In the worst case scenario the player would die and had to redo a 3-4 minutes gameplay sequence. 

This gameplay moment was super well received by playtesters and I achieved teaching the main mechanic of the game.

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6 and 7. Crouch + Crossbow practice

The second crossbow challenge I gave the player was an easy encounter against two adepts. Entering the room, I am teaching the player how to crouch to avoid being detected. The layout and the pattern of the enemies made this challenge easy to experiment with the crouch mechanic as well as the crossbow. The room is filled with health potion and bolts to help the player in case things go wrong.

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8. Safe zone

After these two combat challenges, I felt it was right to give a checkpoint to the player.
In this room the player can craft consumables (Health potions and Bolts) if needed.  

9. Teaching the puzzle mechanic (Easy difficulty)

The gas line puzzle was one of the main mechanic of the game. It needed to be fully understood before going for more complex challenges.

I made sure to:

  •  Show don't tell the mechanic to let the player experiment.

  • Let the player use instinctive deduction to complete the puzzle.

  • Frame carefully the objective to provide guidance and feedback to the player.

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10. Combat challenge (medium difficulty)

This room is filled with 3 enemies with different patrol path. The player needs to be patient and precise to avoid being detected. Multiple covers are spread around to facilitate the navigation. This challenge is a good skill-check for stealth and combat abilities.

11. Safe zone 

Analysing the feedback from playtesters made me figure out that most player were running out of comsumables after the last combat challenge and bringing more enemies would only be a bad decision. I chose to  focus this room around exploration and looting.

12. Safe zone 

Analysing the feedback from playtesters made me figure out that most player were running out of comsumables after the last combat challenge and bringing more enemies would only be a bad decision. I chose to  focus this room around exploration and looting.

13. New recipe

After facing multiple challenges, the player is rewarded with a new recipe to craft firecrackers (Taught in level 2).

14 and 15. Puzzle challenge (Medium difficulty)

The player faces a second Gas line puzzle  spread across two rooms. I iterated this puzzle multiple times to  make sure the difficulty curve was not too hard but needed reflexion to complete. I am proud of the final result of this puzzle.

After this challenge the player got all the components needed to head towards level 2.

The layout brings the player right in front of the front door to access the hub quickly.

TO SUM UP

It was the first time I had to design for a Horror game and I embraced the challenge open-handedly. Developing fun and scary moments was super enjoyable and I am super proud of our team and especially what me and the level artist achieved in this short period of time.

FULL PLAYTHROUGH

 

Credits

Level Artist: Jonathan Beauchamp

Campus ADN 2020-2021 cohort 

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© 2021 by Philippe Sylvestre