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Separation Anxiety

Game: Doom 3

Description:  Separation Anxiety is a single player level set in the Doom universe during the events of the original Doom 3 campaign.  While Bravo Team was moving through Sector 3 of the Alpha Labs, an explosion left one of the marines (the player) separated from the rest of the squad.  Alone and armed with only a flashlight and pistol that marine must make his way through the dangerous maintenance passages under Sector 3 in order to reach a maintenance lift that will allow him to rendezvous with the team in Sector 4.

The focus of this project was to create immersion and tension without the need for a significant enemy presence throughout the level.  Instead of  constantly bombarding the player with monsters in order to maintain tension, the level uses environmental storytelling (level decoration, scripted events, lighting, and audio cues) and limited resources to achieve that end.  Environmental storytelling keeps the player wary of a large (and mostly illusory) enemy threat while the limited resources keep the player feeling vulnerable.  Together these mechanisms ensure a high level of player tension, which the player relieves through the level’s climactic boss battle.

Development Time: 8 weeks

Download: Separation Anxiety (ZIP)

Documentation:
Level Design Document, Level Deconstruction




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Sanctuary

Game: Gears of War

Description:  Sanctuary is a small, one-room single player level set in the Embry Square environment of Gears of War.  Separated from the rest of Delta squad, Marcus and Dom must make their way through the hall of an old abandoned church. Marcus and Dom start on one end of the hall with the goal of reaching the door on the other side. The church is in a poor state of repair and many of the ornate columns that once adorned the hall have collapsed into piles of rubble. The debris scattered throughout the hall provides cover for Marcus and Dom as they approach the door and later on when they must defend it.

The focus of this project was to gain additional experience with the Unreal 3 editor and create a production quality portfolio piece in Gears of War with a limited investment of time.  Another important goal of the project was to create a fun and interesting play space within the somewhat limited context of  a one room level.  The level features three substantial combat encounters with plenty of cover points, a wow moment where a Boomer blows through one of the church's walls, and a definite feeling of progression as the player moves through the level.

Development Time: 8 weeks

Download: Sanctuary (ZIP)

Documentation: Level Abstract



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Nightfall

Game: Half Life 2

Description:  Nightfall is a single player, survival-horror style level set in Ravenholm a few weeks after the outbreak of open hostilities between the Resistance and the Combine.  A Resistance convoy carrying equipment, supplies, and civilians out of City 17 recently lost contact somewhere near Ravenholm.  Short on resources and time, the Resistance sends Gordon out on a search and rescue mission to find the lost convoy.

The focus of this project was to create a unique experience in Half Life 2 that still felt appropriate to the Half Life 2 universe.  The survival-horror theme fit in perfectly with the Ravenholm setting and allowed for several unique features.  Nightfall's primary objective (i.e., rescuing the surviors) is to help people instead of hurt them, which gives the level a distinct feel.  In addition, the level featured a new enemy, the exploding headcrab, created entirely through scripting.  The exploding headcrab, though easy to kill, really increases the tension of the level because they are so dangerous at close range.  Finally, the level had a unique inventory and objective system (handled through scripting and on-screen messages) that gave the level an additional roleplaying quality as well.

Development Time: 3 weeks

Documentation: Level Design Document



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Extraction

Game: Half Life 2

Description:  Extraction is an action-oriented, single player level that takes place in and around an abandoned office building on the outskirts of City 17 about a month after the beginning of the Combine-Resistance War.  The Combine captured several Resistance members operating near City 17.  The squad that captured the rebels has moved the captives inside an abandoned office building while they wait for extraction.  The Combine intends to move the captives to a safer location, torture them for information, and eventually kill them.  The Resistance has asked Gordon Freeman to intervene and save their captured soldiers before it is too late.  The player takes on the role of Gordon as he makes his way through the building to locate the captives and escort them to the roof.  After reaching the roof, the player must defend the captives from the Combine until the Resistance chopper arrives to evacuate them.

The focus of this project was to take a simple, straightforward level design and use scripting to make it a more dynamic and exciting play experience.  The general layout of the level is a linear critical path with a number of small side paths for the player to explore (to support my thesis objectives).  To make the level more exciting, the level features many scripted events and AI behaviors that make the level feel more dynamic and reactive to player actions.  In addition, the actual layout of the level changes dynamically as the player progresses, so walls explode open revealing new paths and stairs collapse preventing backtracking.  These changes occur in real time, making the level feel more real and alive to the player.  These scripted elements take the drab, generic interior of an office building and change it into unique and engaging play space.

Development Time: 16 weeks

Documentation: Level Design Document