top of page

Project: dead planet
 

Main project focus: World Building, Enviorment Design, Player immersion
Introduction

The initial goal of this assignment was to create a combat encounter which the player would have explore an area wherewhere they would later return and which would become a combat zone.

 

This assignment was a futher continuation of two diffrent assignments rolled into one where technical design meet advanced level design.

Details
  • Level design itteration from blockout to refined whitebox. 

  • Systems to support horror game mechanics

  • Working with a large third party gameplay template.

Level Overview
 

Synopsis

In the icy world of 'Dead Planet,' players find themselves on a desolate sphere within a binary star system, rich with untapped resources but deadly in its embrace. Inspired by space horror classics like 'Dead Space' and 'Alien', the game plunges players into a narrative of fear, isolation, and existential dread. As they face twisted humanity and lost civilizations, survival becomes their desperate goal in this unforgiving, frozen wasteland.

Level Flow & info

Player goes from A to C and then back again. Leaving at A7

Area: A [indoors]
A1: intro sectio
​a2: audio scare
a3: loot & exploration
a4: navigate obsticle
a5: door introduction
a6: going down 1 level
a7: Vehicle bay (exit)
a8: optional elevator
a9: power puzzle

 
area: b [outside]
b1: going outside
b2: container yard
b3: Frozen collapsed caves
b4: destroyed shed
b5: fallen fuel storage
b6: Stairs to reactor station
b7: entering reactor station

 
Area: C [indoors]
c1: lobby area
c2: small room stairs down
c3: reactor control room
c4: reactor core

Level Progression
 

Project outline and progression.

Knowing how the player progression in the level would look like i started to plan out the events in the level and how i wanted the player to feel at each moment. Making sure at that moments of exploration not feel dull i added different event triggers to upp the tension while during combat offering moments of respite and security.

Level Design Process
 

Pre-production

"A failure will not appear till a unit has passed final inspection." - Smiths Law

Goals and Ambitions

Capturering the essense of 'Dead space' was one of my main priorities of this project, but the gameplay was something I was not sure about how I wanted it. This lead to the project going between: First person, third person, first person and back to first person.

Did I want a space horror shooter, or did I want a horror space shooter? That was something that never really got settled when designing the level and building the game world.

Choosing a Location

I wanted to show a contrasting enviorment and settled on a vehicle repair station located in a canyon. Allowing for funneled level flow with a clear direction to it. 

Unique selling point

I wanted to achive a sense of dread and fear in the level and enviorment design. Creating a enviorment where the player can explore but not without being careful and fearful of said enviorment.

Gathering references

The world I crafted has been in the works for quite a few assignments starting very early into the game assembly, becoming a setting i would revisit many times. I knew I wanted space horror set in a frozen landscape so from there I gathered all i could find which encapsulates coldness and dread

DeadPlanet_Enviorment_Ref2.PNG
20240229_131307.JPG
The first sketch

Knowing that I would have 2 pieces of built up infrastructure seperated by an outdoor section was something that was outlined in the orginal assignment description, something that i decided to keep when transisioning to portfolio. 

 

Here I decide how i want the player to move initally with a general layout of the level before jumping into the quick blockout phase. 

The building process

"If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something." - Murphy's 8th Law

Problems encountered

The level had many problems, one notable one being the outside area not having a good exploration feeling and not performning when when the combat started. This lead to major reworks and redesigns both spacially and conseptually. 

Sometimes it gets messy...

It is never to late to return to paper when a design needs to be reworked. Just a quick sketch can really help when stuck in the blockout. 

Sometimes this process can be quite unintelliable when viewn just on paper but in a bigger context they help inform design desisions. 

20240229_131321.JPG
Transition to Whitebox

Moving from the blockout to whitebox was something that was quite trubblesome as it also included shifting gameplay templates and reworking all areas heavly which also included a large amount of work fixing underlying gameplay systems and AI.

The main focus of the whitebox phase was getting the gameplay and horror experiance to feel complete and complementary to the exploration.

gifmaker_me.gif

Gameplay Systems
 

Building Required systems

"Murphy was an optimist." - Smiths Law

AI and Procedraul physical animaiton

Building the AI was very simple as their behaviours consist only of patrolling around and chasing the player. They AI will also investigate sounds and return to their original state if they find nothing after investigation. This enables the player to lure away enemies.

The AI was also a carryover from another assignment where I worked with making zombies with procedrual animations aswells as using physical character assets for interactions in the enviorment and reacting to bullet impacts.

Cold System

The cold system was added to insure that the player would feel insafe outside. Going outside now is a timed experiance, with the all present cold slowly reducing visibility for the player aswell as hurting them after sufficent time in the cold.

 

This reinforces the feeling of dread aswell as forcing the player to choose a route and stick to it inorder to reach safetly. It was also built to work with any template due to being built with modularity in mind.

Electronic System

A carryover system from previous assignments i decided to implement my electricity system into this project to allow for puzzles, enviorment changes and breaking up of gameplay. It was easy to implement into the 'Low Poly shooter pack' with it being built to work with any template with minor modifications.

 

This includes an inventory system aswell as more advanced interactions with the electical grid.

Gameplay
 

Insuring a changing gameplay experiance

"The only perfect science is hind-sight" - Murphy's Law

Exploration

Insuring that the exploration phase felt intreseting and not just being a dull looting section required lots of work with space management. Insuring that no space could to easily missed but insuring that the player was always wary of their enviorment proved a challange.

 

Working within the thight dark corridors of the facility proved to be harder than expected in which player navigation and spacial awareness became something of great consern.

Combat

When it came to the combat I did not really commit to either one of my gameplay references which in the end resualted in a game which played closer to 'GTFO' but without the depth which and complexity. With enemies only being melee and the player having no issue dispatching them proved to be a nightmare to balance.

 

This resulted in sightlines being the most important metric with cover being near useless, only acting as a way to provide sightline blockers.

Suspense and Fear

Something that I wanted to capture was the feeling of suspense and fear. This was achived using diffrent types of gameplay events, this included sounds being played in the enviorment to things scurrying away was the player approched. 

This added to the final experience as when the player explores the facility they dont know when something is going to happen and when it finally does it comes a suprise for the player


Reworking & Closing
 

Before and After Rework

"I have run out of appropriate qoutes..." - Me

Closing thoughts

Describing this piece, I'd say it's visually appealing but suffers from superficial gameplay, with significant issues that vary from gameplay to the space of some areas. The indoor section, with its long, uneventful corridors, and the vehicle hangar's vast, empty space, both detract from the overall experiance.

The project, aimed at combat and worldbuilding, was justified a focus on the latter. Ending in the whitebox stage, I kept the material grid, considering the project not fully complete due to core gameplay flaws.

Despite its challenges, I am satisfied with the experience of working on this project.


Credits & Mentions
 

Credits

  • Base template: Low Poly Shooter Pack - Infima Games

  • Particle systems: Unreal Engine Particle pack

Mentions

A Special thank to my Fellow Level Designers of the class LD22 who assisted greatly with their feedback on the level. 

Please do check out their portfolios!

https://thegameassembly.com/se/studerande/program-leveldesigner/

bottom of page