My role: Level Design

LumberJacked is a co-op puzzle adventure game where player needs to throw objects to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. LumberJacked is a game completed in 8 weeks with a 25 person team in my second year at Breda University Of Applied Sciences. 

IGAD Game Awards 1819

Audience Award Y2

IGAD Game Awards 1819

Best Art Y2

LEVEL DESIGN

My responsibility as level designer on this project was to create a large majority of the main level and the entire tutorial level. The main challenge as level designer on this project was creating engaging puzzles that allowed the players to utilize the full potential of the game mechanics. 

Main Level

My main responsibility for the project was to create the majority of the main level. This level consisted of 10 nodes, of which I was responsible for 8. 

General Notes:

  • Level was intended to have a low-medium difficulty level. This difficulty was determined by metrics and playtesting.
  • The level heavily focused on the player solving quick simple puzzles using the throwing objects mechanic. 
  • Enemies were added to puzzles to increase tension.
  • Picking up the other player and throwing them was also encouraged by the puzzle design.
  • There were frequent opportunities to throw your friend into a death pit, this supported the “couch co-op banter” design pillar.
  • The total gameplay length of the level was around 15 minutes.

I had complete responsibility over my nodes in this level from start to finish. This included Brainstorming gameplay moments, Concepting, Documentation, Blockouts, Playtesting, Iterations, Art pass and eventually the final polish and QA passes.

Some of the challenges I faced were:

  • My unfamiliarity with the art pass process lead to collision issues and gameplay changing. I put a new emphasis on more frequent and in depth communication with the art team to fix this issue.
  •  Edge cases and collision errors. With the complexity of the geometry in the level layout and art assets, I struggled with making the collisions of the level feel smooth and un-intrusive.

Tutorial Level

I was the sole responsible level designer for the tutorial level.  This level aimed to teach the player: Movement, Pick up, 2 types of trowing, Enemies, and Puzzle elements.

General Notes:

  •  It was important to complete the “Main Level” first because I can only create a good tutorial for the game if I know what the game is. This is how I determined what to teach the player.
  • The level is short and only introduces the most important mechanics so that the
    player is capable of playing the game.
  • Provide the player with a safe environment to learn and use their abilities.
  • The total gameplay length of the level was around 7 minutes.

Some of the challenges I faced were:

  • Learning to teach the players mechanics without UI pop ups. 
  • Finding the difficulty balance so that new players don’t get frustrated by hard puzzles, but also don’t get bored by easy ones.

Art Pass Process

One of the most valuable experiences from this project was working directly with environment artists on an art pass for my levels. 

I learned how to make it clear in my blockouts what each environment objects is, so that my vision is clear to the art team without the need for endless meetings.

I learned that in the art pass process it is a matter of compromise between what looks good and what feels good to play. Thus, the art team and the level designer need to be consistently communicating in order to find the optimal balance. 

Planning Process

The level design process started with moment sketches, where I looked at the game mechanics and sketched possibly interesting moments. Those moments were then blocked out in engine and playtested to verify if they delivered the intended experience. From all of the moment blockouts, I reviewed the most successful and enjoyable ones and determine what would be going into the levels.

QA

As a level designer, QA involved tracking down and fixing: Edge cased, areas players could get stuck, Being able to reach unintended locations, progression blockers and visual glitches. During the art pass my main task was to test and fix collision issues that the art assets introduced.

I was most focused on QA in the polishing phase of the project, where no changes were being made to the layout anymore and I could focus on tracking down and fixing level  bugs.

GAME DESIGN

Next to Level Design I was also involved with the Gameplay Design aspect of the project. Such as:

  • I was active in discussions to design the throwing of the game, specifically the controls, types of throwing, UI and the arcs.
  • QA testing and bug reporting

Take over from pre production

This project had gone through a pre-production phase before our team started on it. We took that initial concept and iterated ontop of it with new ideas and design pillars. We also followed some of their pipelines and used their work as inspiration for level design and game design.