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The Mysterious Misadventures of
Mollie and Mordecai

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PROJECT SUMMARY

Project Summary

Role: Level/World Designer

Genre: 3D Action Adventure

Editor: Unreal 4

Platform: PC

Process: Remote Meetings

Tools: Redmine, ClickUp, Discord, Google Docs

Development Time9 months (20hr/week)

The Game: (2021)

"One fateful Halloween night, Mollie falls into the claws of The Wizard. Now, she must use her wits to escape his twisted estate - but she's not alone! She teams up with Mordecai, another victim in The Wizard's grasp. Together, this young duo teams up to achieve their ultimate goal: escape the estate and undo the magic that has cursed them both!

 

This single-player campaign for pc introduces an original story set in a unique fantasy universe where the player controls two unique characters with distinct skillsets in order to overcome elaborate puzzles and persistent enemies.

As a player, you will 

  • explore the corrupted estate from the attic, to the basement, to the graveyard outside!

  • battle a cursed legion of "The Stuffed!"

  • collect items and engage in alchemy to make your character more powerful and dangerous!"

Focus: Linear Level Layout, Exterior & Interior Aesthetics, Bullet-proofing Gameplay

Framing and Goal Conveyance
POSTMORTEM

Postmortem

WHAT WENT WELL

  • I collaborated well with other designers to enhance the level design and conveyance in numerous levels. Some of those changes included outlines on interactable items, camera popups when interactable objects triggered puzzle/environmental changes, and reduced post-process effects in the dream level to reduce motion sickness. In other cases, I took ownership of entire levels or areas of levels to redesign the areas for more interesting gameplay.
     

  • In many ways, I was able to step in and help where I could to ensure this game shipped and was a quality product. I worked closely with the art, narrative, and programming leads to ensure that 3D models were being developed for key level design needs, and that mechanics were being scripted to enforce the level and narrative designs already implemented. I was able to contribute to art passes on several levels. 

EVEN BETTER IF

  • One of the big lessons that I took away from this project was how important it is to work in project management cycles. We had major milestone deadlines that we worked from, but we didn't have sprint cycles or smaller deadlines. I believe having 2-4 week deadlines with specific tasks to be completed in each would have helped to keep the team in communication and better focused on the critical things that were need at those times.
     

  • We had a list of bugs and issues, but not necessarily a list of actionable tasks to resolve those issues, nor did any of them really have a deadline. By taking the time to create tasks with priorities and deadlines in a separate table in order to resolve the documented issues, I think the team would have been better prepared for the time commitment and tasks ahead.

WHAT I LEARNED

  • As a designer, I learned how to better use the foliage and terrain painting tool in Unreal 4.
     

  • I modified database entries for dialogue and learned a little about AI patrol pathing in the engine – things I had never done before in Unreal 4.
     

  • Often, I would work with colleagues over Discord in voice chat. Usually, the programming lead would livestream his screens as he worked. By watching him work in level zoos, I was able to learn how programming gyms were constructed for testing purposes, what his workflows looked like, and how he went about making changes or fixes to current mechanics. Sometimes, I would learn entire new features as he would show them and explain how they worked to other developers on live stream. I found this incredibly valuable.

CONTRIBUTIONS

Contribution Summary

Level Design Contributions:

  • Designed, implemented, and modified multiple levels
     

  • Prototyped gameplay actions in blueprints
     

  • Edited cameras, database entries, & properties for vfx, blueprints, and other assets
     

  • Utilized terrain sculpting, painting, and foliage tools
     

  • Participated in remote meetings & small group discussions in Discord
     

  • Modified materials and optimized assets for performance and gameplay
     

  • Reviewed and implemented collision blocking volumes and assets​​​

Quality Assurance & Production Contributions:
 

  • Led a core group of QA testers
     

  • Managed production documents and tables in ClickUp
     

  • Enhanced levels with set dressing & lighting

Main Contribution Areas

Level Layout &

Gameplay Scripting

Terrain Sculpting &

Aesthetics

Bulletproofing

Levels

_Design & Implementation

Level Layout & Gameplay Scripting

There is not a level in this game that I did not work on in some way (15 total).

 

I designed and implemented "The Conservatory" level based on a 3D model of an exterior building being used in another level. Unlike previous levels, this level would not have combat because it was intended to give the player a break between the prior level and the boss fight. I designed the level to be puzzle-based and it challenges the player to figure out how to use both characters' skills to progress. The level makes use of pressure plates, switches, moving platforms, environmental hazards, quest objects, warp portals, and matching symbols. Additionally, there are opportunities to read lore and earn achievements. 

In the first section of "The Conservatory," I created a puzzle involving sliding doors, gates, pressure plates,  switches, and moving platforms.

 

The player must use both characters to solve the puzzle and open the gate to the next section of the level.

 

This is also where the player must utilize Mordecai's climbing skills to collect a specific quest item to proceed to the boss fight.

In the second section of the level, the player learns about warp portals and engages in climbing to avoid environmental hazards. Both characters must work in tandem to progress to the third area.

I spaced out lattice walls to force the player to jump over the hazards while climbing from lattice to lattice which created more suspense and challenge for playtesters. I set the hazards to give the player a split second to jump off of the plants and back onto the lattice to avoid being eaten; falling on the spikes in the water resulted in instant death.

In the third section of the level, the warp puzzles become a little more complex and the player can make use of the symbols found on walls, floors, and ceilings. I also gave the player opportunities to use the swimming mechanic which made the area feel more interactive to playtesters.
 

I also prototyped blueprints for this level (and assisted with modifying database tables (for narrative lore notes).

Due to the transparency of the glass in the level, I worked closely with the technical art team to ensure performance was balanced with immersion and aesthetics. 

I designed "The Mausoleum" as a separate level from "The Conservatory" to help with performance. I crafted this level as close as possible to the description of the area from our narrative team, and with restrictions from our software developers. The level's main purpose was to separate the two characters into different rooms and prepare the player for a boss fight in an arena. 

Once the players are separated, the two characters enter the arena in different areas and are only able to help in specific ways. I originally implemented obstacles in the arena to provide cover for the player, but these were later cut for concerns surrounding AI pathing.

I began working on the Graveyard level to add three main areas to the map that my colleague initially designed. 

 

  • The first area I designed was an upper cliffs puzzle area behind a set of buildings to give the player a bird's eye view of the level and landmarks.
     

  • The second area I designed was mostly for immersion purposes; I designed the area behind the player start which looked realistic from where the player loaded in from the prior level.
     

  • The third area I designed was the segway to the next level, "The Conservatory." I began work on this area by carving out a pathway to the conservatory using the terrain tool. I then used meshes to create a stone-walled and lit winding path to a gate that loads the next level. Finally,
     

I also assisted with conveyance, aesthetics, and quality assurance for the entire map.

"Servant's Passage" was a level designed by another team member. I was tasked with making hallways and the central room more interesting for gameplay and aesthetic purposes, rather than empty long hallways. I achieved this by using a layered approach to design

 

The first layer was the addition of bookshelves, tables, chairs, and other elements you might find naturallyThen I disheveled those objects and used clutter props, decals, and readable lore notes to create obstacles and leading lines, differentiate spaces, and assist with environmental storytelling

I also set dressed multiple rooms in this level including the library, the tavern area, the dungeons, the underwater area, and various other hallways. 

I redesigned the opening tutorial area of the game ("The Village" level) to make the learning feel more natural and immersive.

 

I also redesigned the second half of "The Village" level to fit the updated narrative, lengthen gameplay time. and add goal conveyance for the player. I also did quite a bit of set dressing inside and outside of the village walls, enclosed the entire level in mountain ranges, and made the entrance to the level (nonplayable space) appear as though a path existed between mountain valleys on the outskirts of town.e final area and left the gameplay and art of that last little section to other teammates to finalize.​

_Terrain & Aesthetics

Terrain & Aesthetics

I was involved in the aesthetics for every level of this game, and spent a great deal of time collaborating with the composer and VFX artists to elevate the atmosphere of each level with music, vfx, and specialized materials for the conservatory's glass windows.

 

Most of my work with terrain sculpting and painting was in "The Village" and the "Graveyard" levels. 

In "The Graveyard" levels, I spent most of my time sculpting landscape, adding various foliage, and placing smaller props.

 

In all levels, anytime in the game that players see fallen leaves, grass blades sticking out of the ground, small pebbles and sticks along pathways, cobwebs, trees in the distance, dirty floors or walls, puddles, or any other decorative elements, I had a large hand in those efforts. 

_Bulletproofing Levels

Bulletproofing Levels

While I was a level designer on this project, I also led our quality assurance interns; I began working with the team after the game design / mechanics were set in stone, and I worked with the quality assurance team through the beta milestone. My lead role was to direct the interns, review their video submissions and tickets, and adjust or create tickets for the development team to review. In some cases, I would just assign a ticket to myself and take care of many small things in one small burst to save time; sometimes, I would team up with another designer to take these on with a strike team approach.

I also playtested the game frequently myself with a design lens. Most of my own personal quality assurance time was spent on improving level conveyance, checking levels for places to escape the map, trying to break the game entirely or tank performance, looking for places that did not feel realistic to the world's physics, watching out for stretched textures and landscape visual bugs, and seeking ways to enhance the player's experience through inexpensive methods.

 

I also was instrumental in adding blocking volumes to every map's playable space boundaries to ensure the game would not break and the player remained immersed. 

My key contributions to the quality of this game included:
 

  • Managing a small team of interns
     

  • Suggesting the addition of feedback cameras to interactable switches that opened doors
     

  • Requesting outlines as a post-processing effect on all interactable objects for item conveyance
     

  • Creating natural player boundaries and removing game breakers
     

  • Speaking with the leads about skill progression between levels
     

  • Ensuring that props had proper collision
     

  • Ensuring that all stretched textures were replaced
     

  • Requesting hero art assets for key pieces of the game's scenes and narrative
     

  • Suggesting animated windy grass, falling and colorful leaves, and fireflies for juice and game feel 
     

  • Angling lamp posts and sticks in the direction the player was supposed to travel for path conveyance
     

  • Refining landscape to make everything look and feel more natural 
     

  • Requesting audio assets and zones for special spaces (i.e. underwater, stone interiors, caves, forest, etc.) for immersion

CONTACT ME
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