For this piece, I decided to try designing a level around an aerial dog-fighting game such as the Star Fox or Ace Combat series. The player will have a mission objective or objectives that may change depending as the player progressing through the level. While in game, the player is free to fly around to any part of the level. Unlike previous levels, this level was designed with more scripted events in mind. Each level has multiple sequences that are activated on a timer or based on the player’s actions. As with previous projects, this portfolio piece uses placeholder assets pulled from the Unity Asset Store. This project serves as a prototype for what a production-ready stage may look like for this type of game.
This level takes place in the ocean, with the two main landmasses being a military base in the bottom left corner of the map, and a small town in the bottom right. The rest of the terrain is below sea level, with the exception of a few uninhabited islands scattered around the level. The cutout shown here is the in-bounds section of the level. When the player reaches the zone limit, they are automatically turned around and redirected.
The player will not be able to directly interact with this town during the mission. However, enemies will be capable of damaging and even destroying the town, so it must be kept safe from harm. Some stage objectives can be completed to different degrees, and the mission results will change based on how much of the objective the player completed.
This angle show is meant to give a better idea of the size and scale of the level.
This is the military base the player spawns from, along with a player affiliated spacecraft. The level begins with the craft docked near the base, but it circle around to different parts of the stage as the mission progresses. The player cannot directly interact with the spacecraft, but they can interface with the base. The player return to restock ammunition, refuel, and change weapon loadouts.
For the military base, I was unable to find any assets that directly fit the look of what I needed. I ended up finding a large spaceship, and burying it into the terrain so only the top protrudes from the earth.
This volcano sits at the top right corner of the map, serving as a unique marker for the environment to give the player a sense of location. This would become more pertinent as levels grower larger and more intricate.
This is a shot of the level from the top left corner of the battlefield. In addition to the areas above the water, the player can take their vehicle under the water. Each ship the player can choose from handles differently in the air and the sea.
This is how the level will look at the beginning of the mission. The player will be given a minute to fly around the stage free of enemies while dialogue sets up the premise of the level. Once the dialogue has ended, a massive aircraft will be seen moving through the northeast corner of the map. The first of three enemy battleships will arrive, heading slowly towards the town. This battleship will begin spawning small aircraft that spread out across the map.
The player will be informed of enemies preparing to attack the town, and given instructions to defend the town from attack while the shuttle docked at the base is sent to retrieve the citizens in danger. The shuttle will then begin to sail towards the town via the outlined route. Once the shuttle has arrived and all citizens have boarded, it will return to the base. It is up to the player whether they want to focus on defending the island, or take the offensive the enemy battleship.
While the shuttle is en route to the island, some of the enemy ships may break away from attacking the town and move towards the shuttle. The player has multiple ways of choosing to deal with this situation; they can move back and forth between protecting the town and the shuttle, focus on one and leave allied units to guard the other, or concentrate on destroying the enemy battleship and cut off the enemy fores at the source. The goal behind this mission’s design is to offer replay value and variety in how the player approaches the conflict.
Once the shuttle arrives in town to rescue the citizens, a second battleship will be detected at high altitude, slowing descending towards the base. Depending on how quickly (or slowly) the player dealt with the first battleship, the player may have to divide their efforts between fighting at both islands. Unlike the town, the military base possesses the ability defend itself from attack. It also serves as the restock point for the player, offering a great convenience if fighting nearby. After destroying both battleships, all remaining enemies will retreat from the combat zone. A final sequence of dialogue will play, which will signify the end of the mission once it is complete.
This image demonstrates what the player might see during the mission. In this shot, the player is following an allied aircraft to the town while multiple planes do battle in the distance. The shuttle has already reached the town and begun collecting the townspeople. From this angle, neither enemy battleship can be seen.
A close-up view of the shuttle shows that is has no weapons with which to defend itself. However, a small squadron of fighters will be accompanying the shuttle during its trip to and from the town.
This is a close-up view of the town, built using a combination of assets to create the final look.
As mentioned before, the player can travel both in the air and underwater throughout the level. In production, the sea would be comprised of volumetric water that covers the land up to a defined point. Because I lack the technical prowess to create this myself, I decided to put together a sample of how this would look to the player. I used a prefab Unity provides to serve as the surface both above and the ocean, and added camera effects to that are activated while the player is below the surface.
This how the environment looks above the surface.
And this is an example of how the stage would appear from beneath the sea.
While underwater, each vehicle will have unique specs for how it handles compared to in the air. Some crafts, such as the ones the player is currently engaging, may even perform better underwater. In addition to the ships themselves, weapons will handle differently depending on the terrain in which they are used.
This is the first battleship as it approaches the town.
This is the second battleship, shown to be descending from the sky towards the military base.
Earlier on, I mentioned that there three enemy battleships on the stage. The third can be found hiding underwater towards the northern edge of the combat zone. However, this battleship, nor the ships protecting it, makes no attempts to attack the player unless provoked. When approached, the battleship retreats from the area as the other fighters defend it from harm. this triggers a dialogue sequence that is meant to serve as foreshadowing to the story for the player.
It is not a mandatory interaction in the stage, but one that may be discovered on a later play through. This type of event encourages players to explore the environments, attempt to complete missions in different methods, and return to levels that have already been completed.