By: Matt Lopez (Level Designer) and Andrew Clifft (Quest Designer)
Concept and Layout:
The level has been effectively split into two separate, smaller levels since its original conception at the request of Allen. The first picture represents the first level which is a sewer system that leads the player into the second picture which represents the second level, a maintenance tunnel that leads into Ataberk’s city level. The concept of the space derived from the idea that this is a transitionary space between Tyler’s and Ata’s levels which represent the city outskirts and a portion of the main downtown area respectively.
With that said, it was decided that this space will not keep the player for too long as it is more of an obstacle, for lack of better term, than a main space to explore and play in. However, that does not mean we can slack on the quality of the amount of detail we can pack into the level itself. We could potentially give narrative beats, short platforming sections and small quests to give the player something more interesting to do than just wandering around. The second level (maintenance level) will have a quest within it that will be explained in depth later, but it will lead into a lower Wacker Drive inspired area that leads into the main downtown area. In terms of motion or verticality, the level goes from going lower and lower to eventually ascending and continuing that theme of ascension all the way through the end of Ata’s level. This allows for a real sense of vertical progression which correlates to empowerment as well as scale.
When creating this level, I immediately thought of a few games and other forms of media that would influence how I crafted these spaces. The first was Fallout 3 and Skyrim due to their heavy usage of underground spaces. In Fallout 3, the spaces underground connect the player to parts of Washington D.C. that have been blocked off above ground due to the resultant debris from the nuclear holocaust. It also effectively compartmentalizes level streaming as parts of the world are completely cut off from the player which allows only the immediate area to be loaded. Furthermore, the underground spaces consist of sewers, maintenance tunnels, metro tunnels, vaults and makeshift shelters. With that said, a problematic commonality between most of these spaces is that there is a lot of backtracking that needs to be done in order to get out. With that said, Skyrim makes an excellent improvement in which the dungeons/crypts are designed in a way that the player goes through them and then unlocks a secret door or elevator that takes them back to the beginning. This reduction of backtracking creates a more efficient gameplay loop and feeling of completion.
Other games and references I took into consideration were the Metro Series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dishonored, Half-life 2, real-life sewers in Europe and other real-world historical sewer systems and stories. These examples provide a basis for a realistic sewer system, but one that can be crafted to fit the game. We have to keep in mind scale and architecture in order to pull this off in a believable way. The rest of the references, research and their respective implications can be found in the accompanying Sewer Research document.
The level starts where Tyler’s left off which is in a sewer/ storm drain. The player will move into the actual sewer itself and will make a faux-choice to go straight or right which will lead them to the same drop off point. During this portion of the map, different world building beats can be present to populate the space such as graffiti or areas under construction. Furthermore, we could possibly put spaces that feel like someone was taking shelter there. I say this as research brought up that homeless communities exist underground especially in places like Las Vegas in order to escape the intense heat.
Although the player can choose their path, it still ends up at a drop off point that the player will have to go down to progress further. It also is an example for level streaming if need be as the player will be unable to rise back up. Also, this forces progression for the player to move forward as we estimate that this section will not take too much time overall.
The second-portion of the level starts the player in the largest “room” that will be populated with gear that one would find in a chop-shop or maintenance area. Items such as repair tools, construction supplies, work benches and other tinkering activities. Upstairs, they will find another room and, on the left, there will be a sealed door that will activate a short quest that will be described in greater detail below.
From this point, the player will have to go through the corridor on the left to activate the console and the right corridor to turn on the generators. The halls are designed for an efficient loop around instead of backtracking which was inspired by dungeon design in Skyrim. Once the door is down, the player will go through the tunnel that lies behind and will end up in the Lower Wacker Drive Area that will lead into Ata’s level. We are planning to envelop the exit with fog in order to reduce the level of detail needed to convey the scale of the city which would also help in level loading and performance.
The quest is a simple location activate quest.
- Arrive at the locked door, which prompts go to the new room finding a generator.
- Begin a moving box puzzle to be able to climb up to two different levers
- After pulling the levers the player must then move on to another room to activate a button to open the door that will then lead to the city
Assets needed for this to work:
- Control Panel
- A mechanical door
- Blueprint connecting the items together.
By: Andrew Clifft (Level Designer)