Castle Wall: Level Breakdown

Initially, I was planning to work on these next few levels in UDK. However, I was fortunate enough to get a key for Unreal 4, so I postponed working on this until I was able to get the latest version of Unreal Engine set up and running on my computer. The point of building this mini-level was to learn my way around the tools available, so this is more of a showcase of understanding UE4 than level design. I made use of StaticMesh Actors in addition to BSP Brushes to populate the level, made use of the Matinee animaton tool to add moving platforms to the level, made use of materials, experimented with particles a tiny bit, and worked on creating a scene that is both a playable level and aesthetically pleasing.

Screenshot 1

This level takes place along the wall of a huge castle. Specifically, it’s meant to be a moat found behind the castle, and the player’s destination is a walkway located directed above their starting location. The wall itself is made of simple shapes that UE4 provides. This asset would be modeled by an environment artist, but these basic shapes work pretty well as placeholders.

Screenshot 2

This is where the player spawn’s in the level. Initially, this part of the level was completely empty, so I added these pillars to fill in the scene a bit. Along the castle’s wall, you can also see two sewer pipes I added so the wall wouldn’t be so barren.

Screenshot 3

A close-up on the wall so you can see what’s back there. I didn’t feel like breaking open Maya for this task, so the sewer pipes are just a combination of simple shapes. I threw a plane colored black on the inside so the pipe appears to lead somewhere rather than just seeing the wall on the inside. I went back and forth on adding the staircase on the end, but decided to leave it in so the level wouldn’t be a little less empty.

Screenshot 4

This is one of a few sections where I left room for enemies by leaving the player with some room to move around. I’d place a close range enemy in the water, and an enemy that fires projectiles on the ledge directly behind him.

Screenshot 5

For this section, I made use of Matinee and Blueprint to create moving platforms. The first two move to a predefined location once the player comes in contact with them. The final platform rises and falls periodically, regardless of the player’s interaction with the platform. Below the moving platforms, I left space for 1 or 2 close enemies that the player must contend with if they fail to make the jumps.

Screenshot 6

This vertical jump leads to large empty platform where the player would encounter additional enemies. Since this is about halfway through the stage, this point would be a good place for having a mini-boss fight (assuming this stage was significantly longer). If there wasn’t a mini-boss, this section could also contain several enemies stronger than those faced earlier in the level. Since the player has so much open space, this area serves as a good combat section for the level.

Screenshot 10

After the straightway, the player has one final platforming section to navigate past before reaching the goal. Since this is just a small playground for features, the fact that the player can fail a jump and and end up back at the beginning isn’t that big of a deal. In an actual level, this would be incredibly frustrating because of how much work the player would have to do to retrace their steps back to where they were before. This could be mitigated by simply having the player return to a checkpoint at the beginning of the section if they fall in this area.

Screenshot 7

In the middle of the final platforming section, I included a rotating platform. While this in may be a simple hurdle for the player to overcome, it gave me a chance to work through technical issues that affect the design. I needed to make sure the platform rotated from its center, moved at even intervals, did not have any collision issues, and figure out at what angle the player slides off the platform. I was able to figure all of these problems out, but it was a welcome reminder of everything I need to be aware of when it comes to level design.

Screenshot 9

After completing the final platforming section, the player reaches the goal post. I made a few torches using flame particles and pre-made shapes that Unreal provides. While testing the level, I noticed the frame rate take a drop as soon as I reached the end. Since there is nothing going on in the level, I’d completely forgotten about what effect the particles would have on how the game runs. In a production level, I’ll also need to take in account what is going while the game is running. Flashy effects like may look cool, but should be skipped if they cause the game to perform under expectations.

And that covers everything for this level. Since this level was aimed more at learning the tools I was using, the next piece will be focused on demonstrating level design understanding.

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