Aftermath of the Singularity – Tunnel Section
First-Person Adventure


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.

Each section of our level had mockups designed. This image shows how each of our sections are connected and how the overall level flows. Players start in the train depot and progress through the tunnels, into the town square and enter the museum. These mockups were the initial guides for the architectural structure for our sections.
Each section of our level had mockups designed. This image shows how each of our sections are connected and how the overall level flows. Players start in the train depot and progress through the tunnels, into the town square and enter the museum. These mockups were the initial guides for the architectural structure for our sections.

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.

Practiced color theory by using complimentary colors in order to give the dark environment more contrast. Lights used to guide the player around different areas of the tunnel section.

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 large room contains three generators that power large portions of the city outside. This is the primary objective in my section: the logic puzzle, where the player needs to get all three generators running simultaneously. Before that can happen, one generator must have its lever replaced, so the player has to explore to find it. It’s an interactive prop, so this requires the player to have a firm understanding of how our carrying mechanic works.

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.

When the player enters through the exit door, the next section of the level (outside Kenton’s town square) is loaded.

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.

Once the player exits the tunnel and lands on the snow outside, they enter a trigger area that disables most of the assets in the tunnel area. This is to reduce the amount of memory being used and to keep game performance as optimal as we can.

You can view my postmortem on the collaborative level design project here.


First-Person Adventure

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.

The intro cinematic camera moves along this path to show where each hang-glider part is located in the shantytown.
Once the player reaches the hang-glider and repairs it, a camera switch occurs and the hang-glider flies along this path.

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.

The materials for many of the meshes were either setup incorrectly or missing altogether, so I had to create the materials myself using textures provided. The corrugated metal sheets dressing the buildings needed particular shaders to display correctly, since some of the edges were broken and folded.
Instead of using the terrain to surround the horizon, I chose to use about 5 different cliff meshes with different scales, orientations and textures. Because many terrain shaders don’t display textures on steep vertical slopes correctly, stretching becomes apparent. That problem is present in Unity’s default terrain shader as well. So, the cliff meshes acted as a visual indicator that the player would not be able to explore beyond them. This helped reinforce the flow of the level as well as indicate the physical barrier for the bounding walls.