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Accolade: Academy of Art Spring Show Winner For Level Design (2022)

Skill Focus: Level Design & System Mechanics

Project Length: 3 Months 

Engine: Unreal Engine 4

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Summary of the game

In this game, you play as Lance navigating through a trainyard filled with infected creatures to reach a helicopter on top of a factory. The level is inspired by The Last Of Us with stealth and horror elements and includes story elements.

The primary mechanics are stealth takedowns, a distraction system using rocks, and enhanced vision.

The game was a personal project completed in three months and won first place for level design at the Academy of Art University Spring Show.


More Details Ahead

Read on if you want to:

  • See more details on the mechanics used.

  • Screenshots and thought process on level design.


Level Layout Process

As I was constructing this level, I had a well-defined and meticulously planned layout in mind. My aim was to make it compact, yet also create distinct sections that would give the impression of a larger area.
The level begins with a smaller region that introduces the player to the initial mechanics and storyline. Subsequently, it expands to showcase more of the terrain that players will traverse.
To ensure that the train cars occupied the empty space while also avoiding an overly organized and linear feel, I spent considerable time devising a layout. The most suitable approach was to create a realistic appearance of a number of cars having crashed and blocked off certain areas.



I also wanted to include some interactable parts to the map in order to give a more lively feel and to make the players experience specific parts of the map.

The best example of it would be needing to use the crane controls in order to actually move the train car out of the way in order to go forward in the level.


Player Mechanics 

Enhanced Senses

I successfully implemented a mechanic in this level that I have always wanted to add but previously lacked the knowledge to do so. It was a relatively straightforward process, involving material manipulation rather than blueprint creation. 

The most impressive aspect of this mechanic is its ability to emit a different colored glow from several objects, based on a number I select between 1 and 3. I added this feature to the game to make it easier to keep track of multiple enemies, particularly when hidden behind walls or other obstacles.

Throwing Rock

This was a very simple mechanic to make but it was one of the core mechanics of the level. 

The enemies have a basic AI Perception setup that will let them detect the rocks being thrown up to a certain distance so it doesn't attract all the enemies to one area.

The last part of this mechanic that I wanted to add was more for the player and make it easier for them to aim and throw the rocks accurately.

This involved creating some functions that would draw out a spline and create a path in that I put a see-through red material. Th
is would create the line that the player uses to aim, with the extra ability to change the distance by using the scroll wheel.

Stealth Takedown

In developing this level, the final core mechanic proved to be the most time-consuming. It had many areas where errors could occur, but the most challenging part was ensuring that the characters were correctly aligned for the animations to play at the right time. 

To solve the problem, a box trigger was incorporated, and the player was required to be inside it to activate the animation. Both the player and enemy would then remain frozen in place until the animation was complete.

Getting the timing right for the sound effects was also a considerable effort, but it was satisfying to achieve perfect synchronization. The neck snap sound was particularly challenging to time, but it turned out to be the best animation timing I have accomplished so far.

Ai Mechanics

Kill Player

I designed my AI mechanics with simplicity in mind, as I lack expertise in AI systems engineering. My mechanics include sound detection exclusive to the player and a kill-player mechanic, which took me longer to finalize than the stealth takedown mechanic. However, now that I see it in its complete form, it appears straightforward to me. The most challenging aspect was ensuring the player would turn and face the enemy when grabbed. Nevertheless, I opted for this method to avoid the need for creating different animations for being grabbed from various angles.

The best part of this mechanic is how uncomplicated it is to set up the attack and death animation. The characters become immobile at a specific distance from each other, allowing the animations to flow smoothly. Upon death, the player is directed to the title screen, where they can choose to restart from the beginning of the level. Overall, I am confident in the mechanics I have developed and their effectiveness in the game.

AI Behaviour Tree

Mastering the behavior tree was a daunting task that required a significant amount of time and effort. After numerous hours of dedication, I can confidently say that it was successfully implemented, and to ensure simplicity, I designed the AI to perform just four critical sequences.

  • The first sequence involved patrolling from one point to another, which could be extended to include as many points as necessary.

  • The investigation sequence was relatively straightforward and involved the AI moving to the source of a detected noise and remaining there for a predetermined period.
  • The alert sequence was the most challenging to perfect, as it required the AI to move to the player's last known location and perform a thorough search within a specific area to locate them.
  • Finally, the caution sequence served as a reset mechanism, where the AI would scan an area for 20 seconds before returning to the patrol sequence.


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