Lead Level Designer
September 2021 - November 2021
Team Size: 15
Fight your way through an underground ruin killing anything in sight! Evolve your gun to build crazy combos and devastate your enemies.
While working on Symbiotic, I took on the role of Level Designer for the duration of the two-semester development cycle. My duties were to design the arena playspaces, create blockout spaces that accurately portrayed the final product, iterate based on testing feedback, communicate with Artists on how to fill out the spaces, and keep documentation up-to-date for future additions to the team.
Halfway through development, my role changed to Lead Level Designer as new members joined and we received a second Level Designer. Along with my previous duties, I was now in charge of overseeing the new Level Designer and making sure that he was able to provide for the game while making sure his voice was heard in discussions.
Design Philosophy (Then vs. Now)
In the beginning, we as a team all agreed that we want large, open-ended arenas for the player to fight and explore. While designing for this type of level, I took major inspiration from traditional Deathmatch Maps from games like Quake or Doom. I borrowed many of their design choices for the level design, such as all paths leading into each other and prioritizing vertical movement. Given our time frame, I decided to culminate this into one large arena instead of several smaller ones. Scale was also a major consideration while designing, since we wanted to make the players feel small compared to the alien threat to make their victory all the more satisfying.
Through testing and multiple rounds of iteration, we realized several issues with the design of the level as a whole. These being:
Players only seemed to be using about 20% of the overall arena space, tending to let enemies funnel to them instead of searching (Seen in diagram to the left).
There would often be large gaps in fighting while players waited for enemies to spawn and come to them
Players wanted even more verticality in the level design
Since we didn't have time during the first semester to combat these issues, we decided to wait until the second semester when we would have much more time to plan for the future. Based on the feedback, several major changes were made to the design of future levels:
Prioritize smaller, more condensed areas for the player to fight in to always keep them engaged
Make enemies more powerful, but in lesser amounts to increase their perceived threat to the player.
Prioritize verticality by making it a key part of the environment that works in tandem with the upgrades (Resulting in the addition of the Grapple Hook Active Upgrade).
Unique Boss Rooms
Early on due to time constraints, I decided it would be best to design an all-in-one boss room layout that could encompass all boss types. This room would be large and open, with lots of room to move around in, having the bosses at the forefront of the experience. In reality, we discovered midway through development that the 4 types of bosses used the
To combat this, I quickly prototyped and implemented new boss layouts that utilized the unique characteristics of the boss to make the playspace an extension of the boss itself. Each boss could be deconstructed into distinct features that made them different, and I tried to use the level design to accentuate those features specifically.
One of the distinguishing features of the Crawler Miniboss was it's large explosion that's able to hit the player from far away and deal massive damage. Since destruction was a major theme of this enemy, I wanted the level to reflect that, so I made specific environment assets get destroyed when in radius of the explosion. Areas of the floor that were destroyed gave way to acid that would damage the player. This made the room bombastic and fun, while also adding more strategy to play.
Since the Flier Miniboss was a flying boss, it made sense to set the room to take advantage of the verticality that offered. I designed a new type of level to excentuate it's flying by having it set inside a room that constantly pushes the player up with acid. This means the player fights the environment just as much as the flier, and makes their explosive shots much deadlier, as they can now propel you into acid.
The final boss of the build needed feel stronger than any boss before, so I wanted it to be able to effect the enviornment in a similar way as the Crawler. Since most of it's attacks were blunt based, I designed an event system that would trigger whenever the boss would hit a wall. This would shake the area and drop debris from above that would damage the player. The environment itself is flat and smaller than the others to make sure the boss is able to hit the player at all times.
Each arena was designed around a specific playstyle that we found players preferred to use. During playtesting, we found out that players preferred areas with clear circular pathing and verticality in the environment. All the arenas can be clearly mapped out with all areas leading back into each other with no dead ends. This adds to the circular movement options that players liked, and makes it so they can keep moving and never have to backtrack through portions of the area.
Created to experiment with environmental hazards, this level has acid that rises and falls, making certain platforms unreachable.
I created this arena to look as though it's an updated version of the "transitioning areas" that separate rooms, with it acting as if it breaks off into several distinct arenas.
I really liked the statue design of an old enemy model we had, so I re-purposed it to be the centerpiece of it's own room. The platforms branching off it are meant to imply it's being built or repaired, like scaffolding.