The video here provides a quick overview of our Scraps level. It start with my team member Cory's section, while my section starts with the transition starting around 3 minutes in. Originally we had four group members, but due to personal reasons two members had to drop before the end of the project.
This resulted in a much smaller level, but we were able to adapt around this obstacle and created a fluid level.
Scraps Design Process
Scraps takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the rich hire out scrappers, like the player, to retrieve rare items from the ruins of humanity. After reading a game design document detailing the setting, atmosphere, and general mechanics of the Scraps world, I began the layout of how I wanted my level to play out. Many of my classmates focused on disarming the ruins of traps and weapons, but I wanted to do something different. Knowing that a post-apocalyptic world would be harsh, I wanted to pit the player against the environment itself. The biting cold and a race against time would be the challenge provided in my level. To start I needed a reason for the player to be out in a frozen wasteland, I decided that the best way that would allow easy flow into my level would be a helicopter crash. From there I set about a list of short-term objectives the player would have to take in order to make a call for rescue. Detailed above is the original flowchart I designed. Each area has a set of steps the player would have to take to succeed in addition to subgoals they could take in order to gather more resources for use later in the game.
Initial Map Design
Using the flowchart as a guide this was my initial design for the map. The player would start at the edge of a forest and make there way into the abandoned tower. Overall the map was compact and made use of verticality. As long as the player was outside they would take constant ticking damage from weather affects, shown by the transparent blue. I wanted to avoid simple lock and key scenarios for the player to overcome. The bright blue patches represented ice and would have Unity's ice physics applied to them. This would up the difficulty as items would slide around till they hit something. After completing the hotel lobby the player is presented with a choice of taking the stairwell, and take constant damage from the elements and falling ice, or more to the adjacent building and proceed up an elevator. While the later path is safer, it would test the player's ability to solve puzzles to reach the elevator and unlock the bridge at the top. Both paths lead to the top floor where a giant ice room meets the player. At this point the player should have a grasp of the ice mechanic and are challenged to find a path through the maze using the various items in the room. The rooftop would challenged to player to quickly find a way to turn on the radar and call for help before the elements take them. On the rooftop the damage over time effect would be doubled to increase the sense of urgency.
Final Map Design
After receiving multiple sources of feedback for the initial map, I went through a couple of variations until arriving at this final version. We were require to have relatively short levels overall so the first major cut I made was the removal of the top floor section. The stairway and other building would now directly go towards the roof. In order to maintain a health level of challenge for the player throughout the level, I increased the number of obstacles in both paths after the lobby. Another change made was adding healing items to the rooftop. At the point of reaching the roof the player would already be at low health, and therefore needed some healing in order to get through the puzzle in time. The original map did not have enough feeling of realism, so I added more elements to make the rooms look like actual rooms. I took time to add more terrain objects to better shape the level to help guide the player from objective to objective. Finally, I added more sample images to put a general idea of what my vision for each area should look like.
Initial Level Block Out
Following the map laid out above I went to work in Unity to bring the level to life. For this initial block out the goal was to get everything roughly shaped into the maps design. The player object and its mechanics, health, movement, and grabber, were provided to us, the rest we were on our own. Sculpting the terrain was the done first to serve as a foundation for the rest of the buildings and objects. Building the garage was relatively simple as it was a single room and floor. Where I struggled was the large hotel. Making sure the building was able to fit all of its internal content and line up with the stairways and the adjacent building took time and patience on my part. At this point I had not yet figured out how to incorporate a ladder in game and had to use simple stairs for the player to scale the side of the building with. The other building came together smoothly but I had to learn how to create an elevator script before it would be functional. The rooftop was a quick design from primitives, that captured the player's attention even from the crash site. The green blocks provide messages to the player when collided with. At this point these messages were similar to the objectives listed in the flowchart/map.
Final Level Block Out
At this point I had improved the overall feel and look of the level into a cleaner and more interactive design. The first change comes in the garage. Instead of accessing the hotel lobby from an open and empty area, the player now has access straight from the garage. I added a door that had to be opened in order to proceed. The key for the door was a solar battery that has to be placed in a terminal. There are audio cues for both success and failure when using the door terminal. The lobby now properly had an ice floor and much of the empty space was filled. Lights were added to guide the player to hidden objectives. Outside the weather effect was working as intended, the player's health slowly decays. Icicles were added to the stairwell, when the player stood too close under them they would fall and inflict damage. In the other building a thin ice floor was added to deceive the player. This room now also had its ice floor and items making maneuvering them a challenge. I mentioned earlier that I wanted the player to interact with the ice floor as well, however, that was unfortunately not an option available to use as it'd be interfering with the given player unit. Nonetheless the ice areas proved sufficiently challenging, even to the point of frustration at times. The elevator was now working properly and the player could reach the other building's top floor. There the player was required to grab three gears from around the ice filled room and place each in a key hole, right of the door. Doing so would lower the barrier and give access to the rooftop. Unfortunately for this build, any 'phys' object, objects that could be interacted with and including the gravnul the player held, could serve as a key. This meant that simply swiping the gravnul across each keyhole would open the door. On the rooftop, the platform that held the radar was lowered and centered for easier access. Stacking ice objects on ice turned out to be too difficult of a task, especially when faced with a decay health pool. Like before the player would have to grab all four heat cells and use a solar re-director to melt the ice around the radar. This is where some of the stacking now takes place, but while challenging it is not frustrating.
Beta Team Build
From this point onward we would be working in groups to mesh our levels together to create a fluid zone. Originally our group consisted of four people, but after the first day of class one of our member's had to drop. The three of us carried on through the first week Alpha build, but at the start of the second week another member dropped out of the course. Cory and myself were the only two remaining, but we were still determined to make an engaging experience together. Cory's level was intended to be the first while mine was always intended to be last; the other two levels were meant to fill in between ours. This meant we had to adapt our atmosphere and feel.
At this point in the development cycle we began to use the Unity store and other online sources to find textures and assets to fill our levels with. Now the game started to look and feel more real. The player character got an updated look as well. The first design change the player would find in this build was the removal of the ice floor in the lobby. Overall, this made the lobby an uninteractive and fairly boring room. The largest change came in scrapping the other building altogether. The reasoning for this was two fold: I was unable to properly code the door on the top floor without messing with the functionality of the player unit, and overall the other building was a more difficult option than the stairway. Flowing straight from Cory's design, which is simple in nature to ease the player into the game, the other building would ask much of the player's ability to use the controls. Given these reasons and general time crunch, I had to make a tough decision and make the cut.
My last contributions in this build affected both our levels. I added an over ambient sound to help sell the icy wasteland. This was accompanied with a snow weather effect, which could go through buildings at times. Finally, we needed a way to connect our two levels. I added a large mountain terrain to serve as a visual barrier. Then I went to work on learning how to use Unity's animation system to make a cut-scene. This took a while, but by the end I had created a functional and thematic way to bridge our levels.
Gold Team Build
After receiving feedback on our Beta build, we began work towards the final product. This slideshow demonstrates the key points of a basic playthrough.
A reoccurring complaint from previous builds was that the fog effect could get in the way of the camera, therefore, I changed it to an overall muted grey rather than thin clouds. While the fog boxes are jarring in the overview, from the player perspective the fog effect is unobtrusive. Throughout the level I improved the assets used to bring about a more realistic style. The major design changes I made in this build centered around the lobby. As I mentioned above, cutting the ice effect made the room boring. To address this I designed and coded and barrier that had to be brought down via two pressure plates. In hindsight I would have liked to introduce pressure plates somewhere in Cory's level to familiarize the player with the basic concept before reaching a door that required two. Finally, I added an animation for the rescue helicopter arriving on top of the building to help clarify that the end of the level was reached.
In the future this build could use improvements to the objective system first and foremost. I would also like to add voiced lines for the player character. Both of these would help clearly communicate to the player what the design is asking. Taking damage from the cold could also use a voiced line to give the player more tactile feedback. From the rooftop the player can look around and there isn't anything notable in the distance, only voids of empty space, reducing the immersion. I would like to add more abandoned buildings in the distance to help further show that the player is lost in a desolate area.
If you want to play the game yourself, you can download it here: