Leander Burger

Til Nord

Open World Driving Game | UE4 | 8 Months | Team Size: 15 | 2020/21

Still in progress...

Til Nord is a free open-world driving game where you explore the world on your snowmobile, Doing odd jobs to pay back the debt of your gap year.

Research & Documenation

Level Design Document

Link to Document

As the main Level Designer on the project, I had the responsibility to create detailed documentation for the Open World environment.

– Created Level Design Documentation
– Analysis of Level Design in AAA Open World titles
– definition of Level Design Pillars according to Design Pillars
– defining Level Design Ingredients

 

Conditions of Satisfaction

Link to Document

To keep track of the goals for the Level, a Conditions of Satisfaction document was created, to be filled out by all Level Designers.

– Document creation & maintaining over the production phase
– Weekly feedback sessions with Level Designers
– plan playtest sessions to verify changes

Tech Design

Day and Night cycle

One of the requirements was the creation of a dynamic day and night cycle.

Responsibilites:
– creation of dynamic Day & Night cycle in UE4 Blueprint.
– integration with weather effects
– implementation of Aurora Borealis

 

Optimization

We wanted to create a smooth Open World experience for players, so optimization was important to think about early on.

Responsibilites:
– optimization of trees using octahedral imposters based on this tool.
– Creation of LOD assets
– performance testing

Deformable & Destructible Objects

The player feedback was important when driving around the world, so I created dynamic objects the player can destroy when driving into them.

– Creation of destructible meshes in Blender
– Implementation of Destruction in Unreal Engine
– Fixing bugs

Skin Coloring system (Proof of Concept)

I experimented with a system that could let players decide on the colors for their snowmobile. It uses the base skins provided by the game but each of the colors can be tweaked.

– Breaking skin textures into masks
– Creation of dynamic Unreal Engine material

Level Design

First blockout in Blender

To get a better sense of the environment composition and where the large features would go, I created a block-out based on a sketch. This allowed me to define important features and the structure of the environment.

– level design sketching & prototyping
– creation of key features and landmarks
– terrain sculpting in Blender to use as base for World Machine

World Machine

To create a more realistic Height Map, I had to use World Machine and modify the base terrain.

– Using World Machine with custom Height Map to create Terrain
– set up of Level Streaming
– Terrain iterations in World Machine
– creation of Landscape Materials

Level blockout

Inside of Unreal Engine, I used BSP brushes to block out the points of interests in the world. I thought about the placement of assets and the story in the world.

– blocking out major features and landmarks
– block out of town & road network
– creation of gameplay moments by setting up interesting jumps and creating interesting, vehicle based traversal

Iteration & Set Dressing

Over the next 8 weeks, the level was regularly iterated on and improvements were made to every aspect of the level.

– Set dressing of foliage and detail props
– improvement of house placement
– improved lighting and post processing
– testing & fixing level issues (floating props and holes in environment)

Downscoping

To improve the quality of the level and to manage scope better, we decided to cut a large part of the map. Everything above the red line was cut from the game. This allowed our Level Designers to focus on the remaining landscape and create a more detailed level.

Even with the remaining size, Players can easily spend an hour in the environment, exploring all it has to offer.

Top Down Overview & Conditions of Satisfaction

As the Level Design Supervisor, it was my responsibility to keep an eye on the work which was distributed between 4 level designers.
To aid with this, I created a Conditions of Satisfaction Document.

– Reviewing & giving feedback to other Level Designers
– Set dressing environment with nature assets (rocks & foliage)
– improve player guidance & gameplay opportunities in the Open World.
– Collaborate with Mission Designer to create interesting encounters.

Closing Thoughts

Through this project I learned a lot about Level Design for Open World games. I managed to explore new workflows, like using Blender together with World Machine to create good looking environments. I was able to experiment with a lot of ideas and had almost free reign over the level design.
In my free-time I helped out the Artists with some technical implementations, like the Day & Night cycle and Imposter Meshes.

Driving games were completely out of my comfort zone before, but thanks to this project I learned a lot about them.