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Ubisoft Next 2020 - Level Design | Sukhraj Johal

Hidden In Plain Sight 

AAA Open-World Campaign Mission set in London, England.

Team: Solo Project 

Timeline: 4 Months

Tools: Unreal Engine 4, UE4 Blueprints, Maya

Design Challenge

Given by Ubisoft Toronto,

 

“Your mission takes place in a futuristic city where robotic security systems are commonplace. The player’s goal is to reach an objective that is deep within a facility protected by one such security system”.

Deliverables

  • Produce a comprehensive MDD (Mission Design Document) outlining the layout and player experience

  • Develop a functional level blockout, with scripted gameplay ingredients that players can interact with

Short Gameplay Video

Contributions

  • AAA Campaign Mission Design: Designed, pitched and prototyped a campaign mission from paper concept to playable implementation of the design. 

  • Documentation: Level maps, mission pacing diagrams, etc. 

  • Level Design/3D Blockout: Used Maya and Unreal Engine to block out the 3D level layout.

  • Integration of Gameplay Elements: Tuned Al combat encounters, event triggers,  player collectables, etc.

  • Custom Gameplay Scripting/ Puzzle Design: Used UE4 blueprints to script custom gameplay systems for interactive puzzles and memorable moments in the level. 

Core Design Challenges

Early in the project, there were many level design hurdles that I had to overcome in order to make a compelling open-world mission. The three core challenges included:

How Did I Tackle These Challenges? 

The Design Process

1. Mission Design Document

2. Structural Level Blockout

3. The "Curveball" 

1. Mission Design Document

Mission Narrative

The British Library, situated in London, England, is one of the largest libraries in the world. In the future, it is purchased by a corrupt communication and security company called Val-Tech.

 

Intel suggests that they have used the library as a front and Val-Tech has repurposed its underground book archives into a high-tech research facility. Sophia Bailey, a controversial AI researcher, has been spotted multiple times walking in and out of the premises. Your trusted source says that she has been funded by Val-Tech to develop an experimental military AI robot. 

 

The player's goal is to successfully infiltrate the library and retrieve the robot and its schematics before it gets into the wrong hands!

Player Objectives

1. Infiltrate the library

2. Find a way to access the basement

3. Locate the robot and its schematics

4. Get to the extraction point

Playstyle Pacing Diagram

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Mission Flow Diagram

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Map Layouts

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Map Visual References

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2. Structural Level Blockout

Translating 2D Concepts into a 3D Playspace

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Revisions and Playtesting

Frequent playtesting sessions were held to test the layout, sightlines, cover, and player paths. These sessions were useful in observing the actions of playtesters to see about where they got frustrated or stuck in the level. 

3. The "Curve Ball" 

Imitation of a Real World Studio Production 

During the mid-point of the competition, we were given a curveball. It is was given to simulate the dynamic production schedule of AAA games, where the Creative Director wants to implement a new feature based on internal playtesting. 

The level must include two new features: 

1. A new puzzle sequence: the CEO has built an elaborate puzzle that is used to break mission pacing. 

2. The extraction sequence must include a new 'Kill Lasers' gameplay ingredient.

Puzzle Sequence - The King's Betrayal Exhibit

To have the puzzle fit the library theme and the “eccentric inventor CEO fantasy”, the CEO has converted priceless Roman statues that were once owned by the British Library to create an elaborate laser puzzle that hides a secret entrance to the underground research facility.

Puzzle Goal: players are tasked to find the correct sequence to unlock the hidden passage by manipulating a laser beam that gets reflected off of mirror surfaces. 
 

Extraction Sequence: Kill Lasers

Upon receiving the schematics and robot drone prototype, you get double-crossed by a fellow agent and the basement ceiling collapses which reveals the hidden trap of Kill Lasers!

Full Level Walkthrough

Outcomes

What did I learn? 

  • Went through a full AAA production cycle to bring an early on-paper pitch for a mission to an interactable block out.

  • Scripted custom interactive sequences that broke up mission pacing. 

  • Rapidly Iterating on a level based on critique and playtesting feedback

  • Deliver a polished experience under external deadlines

© Sukhraj Johal 2020