top of page

Hex Rally Racers

>>Steam Link<<
Steam link to Hex Rally Racers

// Click here to download on Steam!

------------------------------
PROJECT SUMMARY

Project Summary

Role: Level Designer

Genre: 3D Kart Racer

Editor: Unreal 4

Platform: PC

Process: Iteration, Scrum, Prototyping, Testing, Strike Teams

Tools: Jira, Monday, Slack, Zoom, Perforce, Miro

Development Time:  3.5 months (15hr/week)

The Game: (2022)

"Hex Rally Racers is a 3D arcade racing game for PC where players race on flying brooms through wild twisting and turning tracks, combining ingredients to craft potions to be used against other players. Race through six stunning tracks in a chaotic race against seven other witches, or against three friends at the same time in multiplayer split-screen!

Focus: Track Design, Technical Level Design, Collision, Splines 

Shroomshire track split
POSTMORTEM

Postmortem

WHAT WENT WELL

  • I was able to share prior research and experience with the production team to aid in their decision making process on whether or not to use a spline system for the track.
     

  • I was also able to bring in prior quality assurance experience and really help the team make the game more robust near the end of the project.
     

  • I had the opportunity to directly work with terrain, collision, and the spline track on Shroom Shire  -- all things I was experienced with from prior projects -- and I think this helped bulletproof the level and raise the quality bar for the project overall. 

EVEN BETTER IF

  • I came to this project having led teams in the past; however, I was able to exemplify what it means to be a quality team member by following the leads' requests, letting leads lead their team, and also empowering or uplifting others to be the best leaders and developers they could be. That being said, there were some things in the project that I believe would have benefitted from me pushing back on a little more than I did. It would have been even better if I requested a meeting with the lead producer and lead level designer to discuss some of my concerns and potential solutions. 

WHAT I LEARNED

  • This was my second shipped kart racer; so, I wanted to explore other areas of design on this team. This project ultimately provided the chance for me to dive into tasks that were a little outside of my immediate comfort zone. In the process, I was able to hone my technical skills and learn some new engine features while also benefitting the project in the long run.
     

  • I learned that just because something is logged in Jira, with high priority, it does not mean that it will get addressed or even seen. I learned that, in time-sensitive matters, it is best to log the issue and then notify the proper parties to ensure that it is at least seen and that its time sensitivity is known. 

CONTRIBUTIONS

Contribution Summary

Level/Technical Design Contributions

  • Designed "Shroomshire" map
     
  • Researched and developed proxy materials for proxy assets

  • Designed and implemented functional proxy pickups with blueprints

  • Playtested levels, UI screens, and UX, and reported bugs to Jira

  • Created umaps and sublevels for teammates

  • Co-Implemented and modified spline tracks in "Shroom Shire" track

  • Placed art props and blueprint assets into multiple tracks

  • Modified terrain and collision in "Shroom Shire" and "Portobello Pond" tracks

  • Collaborated with software developers to address performance concerns

  • Implemented blocking volumes into several tracks to create robust gameplay

Special Assignments:

  • Served on a strike team of 5 to research other games and game elements to assist in the game design process

  • Served on a strike team of 4 to research media capture and camera controls

Playtesting team

Main Contribution Areas

Prototyping

Game Mechanics, Features, & Tools

Map Design

Bulletproofing

Levels

_Prototype Design

Prototyping Game Mechanics, Features, & Tools

During the first half of the project, I researched and prototyped game mechanics such as projectiles, traps, ramps, etc. I spent the most time working on the web throw mechanic and ramps.

 

For the web throw trap (and ground goo trap), I created a static mesh in a bubbly shape because there was originally going to only be a spilled potion that operated as a road hazard to slow the enemy down. I created animated proxy materials for both the web goo and the web versions to resemble the type of trap it was for early prototype testing. I created blueprint assets for each trap and scripted the initial programming. I included nodes for audio SFX and VFX and I gave each element proxy audio and VFX for feedback testing.

// This code describes what should happen when the thrown web hits the ground (right-click/hold to move in blueprints)

Ramps were changed during multiple phases of the project. I prototyped a few different types of ramps in Unreal's blueprint system and added appropriate meshes onto them for each type of track that we had. 

 

It was critical that we exposed the variables for the ramps so that designers could tweak the values based on their track designs. In the end, the racers' physics changed several times over the course of the project from the software development side. In each case, designers would alter these ramp values (velocity, speed, etc.). I was responsible for swapping out ramps as they changed, and adjusting their values in the "Shroom Shire" track.

Additionally, I helped research and prototype other game features and tools such as:

  • Tunnel systems that prevented the player from descending to the terrain below the sky track jumps

  • Terrain-based tunnels in an effort to minimize the burden on our art teams

  • Cinematic rails that could be used to play fly throughs before the player begins each map

  • Because I had prior experience using spline systems for our tracks on Snowpainters, I assisted the leads in order to get them acclimated to the spline tool, what it could be used for, and the pros and cons of using splines for our project.

_Design & Implementation

Map Design

In the early stages of the project, I co-designed the "Shroom Shire" map. We planned our design on a whiteboard and then whiteboxed a track in inside of Unreal.

 

I placed some of the spline track and modified several ramps while my team mates placed other parts of the track and sculpted the terrain. I placed the initial trees and mushrooms in the scene to differentiate spaces and begin to block sightlines. I was also responsible for placing the initial art cards surrounding the level.

Most of the fences we placed were part of a spline system; I initially suggested using this spline system while working with the Snowpainters team. I suggested the spline system again on this project; I shared a complete wiki that I built for the Snowpainters team with the Hex Rally Racers team, and gave them the same risk analysis sheet I created for the Snowpainters team. 

 

In some cases where the fences did not look correct in size, shape, or angle with the spline tool, I removed the mesh from the spline segment and hand placed and resized a fence mesh in its place that looked more naturalOnce the landscape was in a semi-final form, I went around the entire "Shroom Shire" map and made sure that the bottom of every fence was perfectly lying on the terrain in a natural way. Sometimes this involved lowering a spline point and other times this involved re-sculpting tiny parts of the terrain -- a task I became skilled at while working on the tracks for Snowpainters.

Later in the project, I assisted the team by modifying the terrain to look more natural while also solving other gameplay concerns. At the start of the map, we faced two problems in the alpha version of our game: First, the player could fly off the track and into later parts of the track. Secondly, the player could see out across the entire map which tanked performance. I created a raised edge on the terrain which blocked the player's sightlines and kept the player to the right of the track during this area. If the player jumped over the raised edge on accident, a kill volume respawned them back into the track via a checkpoint system we implemented.

_Bulletproofing Levels

Bulletproofing Levels

In the last stretch of production, I was asked to be heavily involved on the quality assurance team; it was a good role for me given my knack for breaking games, attention to detail, and my experience as Lead QA on The Mysterious Misadventures of Molly and Mordecai team. Since I had spent most of my map implementation time in "Shroom Shire," I was fairly confident about that map's quality and decided to focus most of my time on other maps; regardless, by the end of the project, I had checked all 6 maps thoroughly for bugs and I reported a ton of feedback/suggestions for improvements. 

In many cases, I was able to identify and fix many reported issues myself in the engine (i.e., blocking volumes, kill volumes, floating objects, missing asset collision, repainting terrain and foliage, etc.). In rarer cases, I'd report the bug to Jira for the art, programming, or other teams to address. In all of my reports, I always tried to include annotated images or video clips.

On several occasions, I would watch others playtest the game, and I'd create Jira reports as I saw things or I'd take notes and put those reports in after their playtest. On other occasions, I'd playtest the game and call out issues as I was playing and have several other folks in the room report the bugs in Jira. I worked closely with one of the producers in order to have an effective quality assurance team with effective results.

CONTACT ME
bottom of page