Leander Burger

Unreal Tournament Level

CTF-mining-town | First Person Shooter | UE4 | 8 - Week Solo Project | 2019

The Level has been published to UnrealPugs and can be played here:
Download

Research

1 - visual reference collection

To gather architectural reference, I took pictures of various locations around Breda and compiled them into a collection.

– analyzing architecture
– gathering inspiration from real world locations
– creating a mood board for the level

2 - understanding the translocator

Part of the Design Challenge with the CTF gamemode is the translocator – a teleportation device available to all players at all times. It was important to really get the right feel for this piece of equipment as it greatly increases the players’ movement capabilities.

 

3 - analyzing existing maps

To get a better understanding of the existing maps in Unreal Tournament, I took a look at other Capture the Flag levels and analyzed their layout.

– researching Unreal Tournament maps & metrics
– understanding gameplay moments created by other designers
– working & designing for pre-existing mechanics

 

4 - Gym level

I built a gym level to practice with the level editor and define metrics such as the length of the jump or the height of a vault / slide.

– measuring gameplay metrics to eliminate guess-work
– create gameplay moments
– fully explore the game mechanics

Documentation & Planning

1 - paper sketches

I used pen and paper to quickly sketch out concepts and to come up with ideas for specific moments in the level.

– course on technical drawing and architecture
– sketching top down maps and node maps
– creating ideas for landmarks

 

2 - node maps

Node maps are helpful to map the gameplay flow and create a quick overview of the main areas of the level.

– sketching various node layouts based on Capture the Flag research
– iterating on item locations and balance

3 - level Design Document

The Level Design Document was invaluable during the creation of this map.
I spent a lot of time on it, trying to document as clearly as possible what my thought process was and how I got from the first idea to the final result.
 
You can take a look at the full document here:
Level Design Document – Mining Town

4 - One Pager & level breakdown

To create a clear overview of the level during and after planning, I created this one pager outlining the intended gameplay and setting.

– writing design documentation
– creating top down breakdowns
– defining gameplay moments & USP
– ideation of theme and intended gameplay

 

Building & Iteration

1 - First blockout (Blender)

After creating the nodemap, I added elevation in Blender and started to block out the surrounding structures.

– Creating Block-out in Blender
– Testing various node layouts
– Experimenting with verticality and creating interesting gameplay
– Block-out environment in Unreal Engine

2 - Progress GIFs

After creating the basic node layout inside of the UE4 Editor I made sure that my measurements are correct and started building.
This was a highly iterative process with lots of testing in between, to make sure the timings are right.

– blocking sightlines
– improving player flow
– placing gameplay items
– creating unique moments

3 - playtesting & Heatmap

To gather playtest data, I used a playtest form as well as heatmap data recorded during gameplay.
 
Responsibilites:

– Creation of Playtest form & conducting various playtests
– Using the heatmap tool to optimize player routes
– Balancing the level based on feedback.

playtest form

4 - detailing & polish

To further improve the player experience, I added decals and small art assets to the level. This was mainly a goal for me to improve the visual polish of the map to make it stand out.

– Lighting Pass
– First Asset Pass (placing foliage assets)

 

5 - Blocktober

During #blocktober our teachers encouraged us to post about our work on twitter.

Turns out this was quite a useful way to get feedback from an active and positive level design community.

This was one of my first posts on the platform and I’ve started using it more regularly since to share progress of my work and build a little bit of hype around it.

A lot of great Level Design tips and tricks can also be found on twitter under #leveldesign.

 

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I learned a lot by making this level. It taught me how to go from idea, all the way to end result and all the necessary steps to get there. This was one of the most fun projects I had during my time at University and is one of the projects I am most proud of.

As a next step, I would have loved to see this level get an Art pass by our Artists.
There are also some issues with the gameplay I would like to fix, for example smoothing out corners to improve player flow.

Compared to some of my class mates, I could have done more iterations of the level. I was quite confident with the base that I created, so I shied away from changing the core much. After playtesting the earliest version, more iteration could have helped to eliminate some of the issues that players reported towards the end.

Still I am happy with what I was able to achieve in 8 weeks, and players quite enjoyed my level.