Level Design Practice #8 – Sci-Fi City

Wow, this one was fairly difficult. I have never really had much interest in science fiction, and it definitely shows in this project. I’m trying to expand as a designer and I will definitely work on more sci-fi related projects to round things out for the future.

015 - Sci-Fi City (August 29, 2016)

  • Title: Sci-Fi City
  • Time Spent: 2 hours
  • Assets Used: Unreal Infiltration Demo Pack

This one is less of a level, and more of a vista. I will likely go back and improve on this piece since I feel that it’s lacking in many areas. Maybe add places to, you know… walk.

Feedback and suggestions would be great here, I’m struggling a lot with this genre.


Level Design Practice #7 – Desert Pathway

Here’s my latest work after about a week hiatus. Unfortunately, my posts will be fewer as we progress due to… life.

Life sucks.

014 - Desert Road (August 27, 2016).png

  • Title: Desert Pathway
  • Time Spent: 4 hours
  • Assets Used: Unreal Vehicle Demo Pack

I spent a lot of time on this project learning more about Unreal’s special effects. There was a lot of trial and error while trying to determine the right amount of fog, and the color of the sky/clouds. Something about this scene seems barren, which isn’t illogical considering it’s a desert, but the lone cactus in the front view seems slightly out of place.

I decided to record a video of myself working on this project. If there’s positive feedback, I will likely continue doing more of them; they make great portfolio pieces. Check it out!

As always, I look forward to reading your criticism and feedback. The comments you guys have been leaving so far have been awesome!

Level Design Practice #6 – Foggy Cave Entrance

Up until now, my work has felt unrefined, which only makes sense considering how new I am to working with Unreal 4. My latest project however, is the work that I’m most proud of thus far, because it actually resembles something remotely professional.

012 - Foggy Cave Entrance (August 16, 2016)

  • Title: Foggy Cave Entrance
  • Time Spent: 4 hours
  • Assets Used: Unreal Particle Effects Collection / Unreal Water Planes

I’m starting to discover and utilize more Unreal 4 tools as I become more comfortable with the platform, and I’m really enjoying the results. This particular scene had me playing around with lighting, exponential height fog tools, and various fog shoot/light ray blueprints. A lot of this scene was developed as a result of trial and error, and I think that my knowledge of natural environments might be translating to my level design.

I didn’t have too much time, so there are no gameplay elements in this particular project yet.

I also think that my photo composition skills might be improving as well, but who knows.

I’d love to hear any feedback if possible!

Level Design Practice #5 – Mushroom Caverns

This project was inspired by my time playing Ark: Survival Evolved, an open-world game featuring dinosaurs. When it was first released, Ark had only one map available to all players named ‘The Island’. The Island was an enormous 36-square kilometer level featuring different regions with varying heat levels, height discrepancies, and underwater portions. It even had massive cavernous regions featuring subterranean animals that can only be found in the dark underground complexes. These cave sequences were eerie and were lit by a number of bright, colorful mushrooms, and I loved the aesthetic, so I wanted to recreate something similar.

This was my attempt:

011 - Mushroom Cave (August 14, 2016)

  • Title: Mushroom Caverns
  • Time Spent: 3 hours
  • Assets Used: Luos Free Caves

Luos provides a free sample caves package with a bunch of great assets, and this cave sequence was created entirely using the pack. Caves can be extremely varied and random, so I wanted to avoid making things too uniform. The mushrooms are practically the only source of lighting in the caverns, so I emphasized their effect using point lights. I have a lot to learn about lighting and I feel that this first step was a huge leap forward.

What are your thoughts on the cave? Do you have any lighting advice?

Level Design Practice #4 – Winter Cliffs

Here’s a project based in a fictional Northern mountain range. I’d say a lot of inspiration for this project comes from random pictures of Canada I came across, as well as various open-world video games (Skyrim in particular).

010 - Winter Cliffs (August 13, 2016)

  • Title: Winter Cliffs
  • Time Spent: 8 hours
  • Assets Used: Unreal Water Planes / Infinite Blades Ice Lands Collection

I wanted to try my hand at a Winter scene and ended up producing this after a good amount of time. To date, this is probably the longest project in my practice series, taking roughly 8 hours to complete across three days. One of my biggest issues when working on this scene was running into a creative wall, where I disliked my progress with the level, but had no idea as to how I’d fix it.

Here’s what I had after a few hours of work:

005 - Winter Cliffs (August 10, 2016).png
Early Stages

I think the problem was my lack of knowledge when it came to natural environments. As a level designer, I’m beginning to realize that I need to hone my understanding of various environments, and that I should be actively taking in information as I browse through pictures or stroll through the city. I need to understand the nature of each environment that I encounter so that I can accurately reproduce them within a game, otherwise my scenes will look lifeless, improper, and incoherent. With due time and active analysis, I think that I can begin developing my strengths as a proper level designer and fully utilize the tools at my disposal to their true potential.

This project also took significantly longer than my previous ones because I wanted to incorporate actual level design. Up until now, my projects were more like ‘speed design’ studies where I would quickly develop a scene purely for aesthetic. This level actually allows the player to walk around, and introduces branching paths and skill gates for playability. I’m currently using a simple FPS template, so there are no unique mechanics to add to the level, so I may add those via blueprint in future work.

Here’s a quick video I put together showcasing the (semi)completed level:

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