Aftermath of the Singularity – Tunnel Section
This is a brief walk-through of the section I created as part of a larger level made with a team of 4 other classmates. This was my second level design project, and first time collaborating with a team to build a persistent level in Unity using our individual sections stitched together.
The idea for our level came in the form of a post-apocalyptic world after the singularity occurs, where AI rise up and mankind is forced to detonate a global EMP to save themselves. Only certain electronics work in this world, and it’s the players job as a scrapper to collect some of these rare electronics left behind.
For this walk-through, I removed some of the gameplay elements, such as the various pickups and interactive props, so that I can discuss more of the design intentions within the architecture and the flow of the level itself.
My section is a maintenance tunnel, with pipes and valves as the primary decoration prop. The flow of the level is somewhat linear, offering some dead-end branches for gameplay. I used textual decals for narrative purposes, so there’s a slight sense of environmental storytelling about the world and some of the characters. Since the EMP wiped out modern electricity, self-sufficient lights and power mechanisms are installed in the tunnel. I used the lights to lead the player, and the power mechanisms to block progress until certain conditions are met.
I tried incorporating a small degree of verticality to my section so that the player wouldn’t get bored running along a flat surface the entire time. To do this, I put smaller areas where they need to jump over pipes and run up ramps and staircases to higher or lower elevations.
For the interactions, I introduced picking up and carrying objects, as well as the three-way switch puzzle which was the primary objective the player needed to complete in order to progress from my section into the next.
The generators work in a binary state, where each generator has an on and off states. The goal is to keep all three generators in their on states simultaneously. When the player turns on the left generator, it subsequently turns off the right generator. Likewise, turning on the right generator turns off the left and middle generators. Turning on the middle generator turns the right one off, so the only correct activation sequence is: Middle, Left, Right.
Once all three generators are on, the exit door is opened and the player is free to proceed outside through the exit tunnel and into the town square.
Once the player exits the tunnel, they fall into a trigger zone which systematically disables the mesh renderers of most of the art assets in my section that the player won’t be able to see. This is to help with keeping the game running as efficiently as possible while still preserving the architectural landmarks of the tunnel.
You can view my postmortem on the collaborative level design project here.
In this postmortem walk-through video, I present the result of my first experience at designing a playable level inside of Unity. During this month, I taught myself the basics of C# and wrote scripts to handle player interactions with pickups, objective states and animation triggering.
The pipeline to create this level started with creating a top-down level mockup that depicted how the level would flow, what and where player objectives were placed, prop and mesh placement, and so on. I created an initial Level Design Document, which covers narrative goals, triggered events, the mockup, and several screenshots of the first art pass. Below is the mockup:
As art assets became available, the next step in the workflow was to replace our blocked-out design with the meshes we’d be using as the final pieces. I spent a lot of time testing different textures with different meshes, because the texture names didn’t match the mesh names. Once this initial art pass was complete, I continued to tweak the location, rotation and scales of all of the meshes in my scene in order to keep things believable.
In the following week, we worked on implementing camera cinematics for the intro and ending of our scene. To do this, we used Unity’s animation system to plot various points in space and adjust the travel speeds. This was the first time I had done any kind of cinematic creation, so it certainly took some time getting used to.
Art assets were provided by the instructor, many of which from the Unity Asset store and other miscellaneous assets from UDK packages. I practiced using Unity’s build-in lightmapping feature to generate static shadows for the objects that wouldn’t be moving in the scene, and continued to tweak the shaders on all of my materials in order to fine-tune the appearance of my shantytown.