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"Another Day, Another Dollar"

Steam link to Another Day, Another Dollar level

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Project Summary

The Project: (2023)

"Another Day, Another Dollar” is a single-player, Dying Light quest that takes the player through a day in the life of a security guard working in an office high-rise where a top secret lab lies in the depths of the basement. In this level, the player responds to a power-outage which turns out to have been initiated by bandits trying to steal valuable antigens from the lab. The player must restore the power, rescue their supervisor, and secure the antigen while warding off escaped biters and volatiles from the lab and eliminating the armed intruders using a variety of melee weapons, firearms, and explosives. 

Focus: Linear Quest Design, Combat Scripting, Skill-Progression

Role: Level & Quest Designer

Genre: Survival Horror

Editor: Dying Light Developer Tools

Platform: PC

Process: Level Design Document, Map Diagram, Whitebox, Gameplay Iterations, Aesthetic Pass, Launch

To complete objectives, multiple conditions must be satisfied. Click image to see full script.
gh_edited.png

Postmortem

WHAT WENT WELL

  • I was able to meet all of my scripting goals for this project which was my main focus going into this project.
     

  • I prototyped the most difficult scripting elements first to make sure they were doable before doing a ton of work that might have to be cut later. 
     

  • I was able to construct a rather sizeable building within my time constraints. While I have built structures in the past, this one was more complex in many ways on purpose in order to show my ability to create realistic spaces.
     

  • I made smart project cuts where needed to ensure good gameplay at the time of launch.
     

  • 57 people have rated this level on Steam with an average of 4/5 stars. 984 people have subscribed to this map.
     

  • At the time of launch, no major bugs were being reported due to bulletproofing I conducted. 

EVEN BETTER IF

  • It would have been even better if I planned my quest structure in conjunction with a bubble map before creating my map diagrams for my level design document. This would have allowed for stakeholder feedback on my quest structure earlier and  it would have saved me time because I would not have had to redo or add large portions of my blockout.
     

  • It would have been even better if I addressed performance issues earlier. Initially, the combat sequence in the lab was much more involved and exciting. I had to cut several dynamic enemies and particle systems from this area in later milestones because of performance issues that made the game rather unplayable in the final area. I was not able to fully debug the culprit before the launch deadline; therefore, I had to limit the number of entities in the scene instead to make the area more playable.

WHAT I LEARNED

  • The scripting in the Dying Light Developer Tools was very different from other quest scripting I have done in the past. I I learned how to create a more complex structure of quest elements without a graphical interface to make that process easier. I also learned how to setup an objective that required multiple conditions to be satisfied before the objective was completed, I did this in numerous different ways to test the boundaries of my knowledge, and I found unique ways to display each objective on the screen. 
     

  • I learned that when making an interior of a building, it is sometimes helpful to plan for the possibility of an exterior view of that building later.  

Design Goals

Build Realistic

Structures & Spaces

Script Multi-Part

Objectives

Incorporate Dynamic Combat & Verticality

Build Realistic Structures & Spaces

From the beginning, I was trying to evoke that feeling of being afraid of the dark -- a sense of suspense. To achieve that player experience, I designed the quest to revolve around the power going out in a large building. for example, once the power is out, the player uses a flashlight to descend a dark stairwell with numerous walls the player cannot see behind enroute to a dingy, dark basement.

 

I began the design of this level with a level design document that included map diagrams, narrative beats, contextual information, aesthetic references, and a skill progression chart. In the image, I show one of the earlier detail maps of a floor in my multi-floored building the player progresses in. During this process, I was looking for ways to reuse space wherever possible with dynamic changes.

Initial Detail Map, Floor 3
Initial Blockout

Once I had a map diagram and a level design document in place, I created a blockout using simple shapes in the editor and rudimentary lighting to test player flow and scale. I also spent a little time seeing which editor assets snapped together by design, and I planned out what pieces could be used in each visually distinct space I had planned on implementing (i.e., basement, garage, lab, business offices, etc.). During this stage, I also scripted a simpler prototype version of the power going out to test if the player experience of suspense was on track.

After meeting with my stakeholders and reviewing play-tester feedback, I iterated on the building until my stakeholders and play-testers were more satisfied with the overall design and progression of the space. I also made sure that structural supports, hand rails, and other architectural considerations were implemented in natural ways often serving as cover or parkouring opportunities.

Once the space felt good, I whiteboxed all of the representative gameplay in the level. This included enemy encounters, level teleports, interactable objects, NPC interactions and dialogue, and quest object and objectives. Because lighting was so important in this map, I also did another lighting pass to better represent the gameplay as intended.

Whitebox

Script Multi-Part Objectives

I wanted to incorporate objectives that had multiple components. So, instead of requiring the player to get one item to complete an objective, for example, they would need get several items to complete the objective. ​ I included several of these kinds of objectives in the level:

  • Flip 3 Breaker Boxes

  • Locate 2 missing vials

  • Clear the area of all enemies

  • Acquire the key card and rifle

Incorporate Dynamic Combat & Verticality

After listening to playtester feedback, I continued to iterate the map further. I added vent shafts and side areas for the player to explore, take cover, or get a better shot at targets. This allowed the player to choose how they approached each space and allowed for different player styles. Each area had differing types of cover and movement as well. 

 

I also made the lab area more complex by adding metal, semi-opaque walkways that added a lot of verticality and circular flow to the space. 

I made the combat dynamic in a few ways. First, I was specific about weapon availability to the player at various stages of the quest. With this in mind, I scripted enemies to appear with varying degrees of verticality and weapons based on what items the player had available to use. From start to finish, I paid special attention to skill progression and increased the number and variety of enemies as the player furthered in the quest. Lastly, enemies were scripted to spawn dynamically as the player explored different areas or completed tasks. 

Level Conveyance

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