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The Mysterious Misadventures of
Mollie and Mordecai

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Epic Games link to the Mysterious Misadventures of Mollie and Mordecai!

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Project Summary

Project Summary

Role: Level Designer; QA Lead

Genre: 3D Action Adventure

Editor: Unreal 4

Platform: PC

Process: Remote Meetings

Tools: Redmine, ClickUp, Discord, Google Docs

The Game: 

"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!"

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

Quality Assurance Contributions:
 

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

  • Monitored Redmine for bugs, feedback, and other issues
     

  • Managed production documents and tables in ClickUp
     

  • Optimized assets for performance and gameplay
     

  • Enhanced levels with set dressing & lighting
     

  • ​​Served on several strike teams to collaborate with other departments
     

  • Led a core group of deep-dive QA testers
     

  • Served as a resource for general game testers and developers as needed

Main Contribution Areas

Design, Scripting, &

Implementation

Terrain Sculpting &

Aesthetics

Quality Assurance

Design, Scripting, & Implementation

Design, Scripting, & Implementation

Goal conveyance; Torch switch, pressure plate, & gate puzzle
Goal conveyance; Torch switch, pressure plate, & gate puzzle

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Activated platforms and gate puzzle
Activated platforms and gate puzzle

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Syncing the level start view with the level end view of prior level
Syncing the level start view with the level end view of prior level

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Goal conveyance; Torch switch, pressure plate, & gate puzzle
Goal conveyance; Torch switch, pressure plate, & gate puzzle

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1/4
Goal conveyance; warp portal puzzle & environmental hazards
Goal conveyance; warp portal puzzle & environmental hazards

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Goal conveyance; scripted gate lowering
Goal conveyance; scripted gate lowering

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Platforming & torch switch puzzle
Platforming & torch switch puzzle

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Goal conveyance; warp portal puzzle & environmental hazards
Goal conveyance; warp portal puzzle & environmental hazards

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1/5

Originally, I designed "The Mausoleum" level (boss fight) as part of "The Conservatory" level. Later, during implementation, I decided to load the player into a new level called "The Mausoleum" to help with performance. I crafted this level as close as possible to the ideas from our narrative team, and with restrictions from our software developers.

  • In the first section of "The Mausoleum," my goal was to separate the two characters and force the player to use each character in different ways. Where "The Conservatory" allows Mordecai's skills to shine, "The Mausoleum" allows Mollie to use her ranged abilities in order to help Mordecai who would be melee-fighting the boss below. The idea behind this split came from the narrative team, and I implemented it into the engine using a spike pit and doors/gates.

  • 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. 

Landmarks & goal conveyance
Landmarks & goal conveyance

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Critical path conveyance
Critical path conveyance

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Loot conveyance (light on side of house highlights a crumbled wall opening)
Loot conveyance (light on side of house highlights a crumbled wall opening)

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Landmarks & goal conveyance
Landmarks & goal conveyance

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1/4

"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 in a space like this naturally (the how it was before layer)

    • Then I disheveled those objects and used clutter props, decals, and readable lore notes (the what happened here layer) to create obstacles and leading lines, terrain differentiate spaces, and assist with environmental storytelling

  • I also assisted in the set dressing of multiple rooms in this level including the side room to the library, the tavern area, the dungeons, and various other hallways. 

Pathway contrast and lighting; stone wall and foliage placement
Pathway contrast and lighting; stone wall and foliage placement

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Pathway contouring, angled lamp post, and stick placement as arrow for player guidance
Pathway contouring, angled lamp post, and stick placement as arrow for player guidance

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Valley in non-playable space to suggest a winding path outside of the player start
Valley in non-playable space to suggest a winding path outside of the player start

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Pathway contrast and lighting; stone wall and foliage placement
Pathway contrast and lighting; stone wall and foliage placement

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1/4
Framing critical path
Framing critical path

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Framing goals
Framing goals

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Framing pathways and lighting key points of interest
Framing pathways and lighting key points of interest

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Framing critical path
Framing critical path

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1/3
Landmark (mansion)
Landmark (mansion)

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Contrasting path coloring in darker spaces; lighting to guide player to POI
Contrasting path coloring in darker spaces; lighting to guide player to POI

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Landmark (mansion)
Landmark (mansion)

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1/2

I was tasked with designing and implementing a rest level -- a precursor to a boss fight -- from start to finish. I was given the general shape that the building should be based on the exterior appearance of this building that the player would see off in the distance in the prior level.

 

Unlike previous levels, I was asked to make it interesting without combat, because it was intended to give the player a break between the prior level and the boss fight to come. 

  • In the first section of "The Conservatory," I created a puzzle involving sliding doors, gates, pressure plates, torch switches, and moving platforms. The player must use both characters (Mollie and Mordecai) to solve the puzzle and open the gate to the next section of the level. This is also where the player must collect a specific item to proceed to the boss fight.
     

  • In the second section of the level, the player must figure out how to use the characters' unique skills and the environment to get both characters over hazardous waters and into the third section of the level; this involves using parkour and teaches interactable warp portals. The player can also find notes that contain lore in this area. I was involved in prototyping blueprints for this level and assisted with modifying database tables

  • In the third section of the level, the player must figure out how to access certain rooms in the conservatory through a warp portal puzzle. I was careful to include magical symbols on the walls to help convey how the player should solve this puzzle. When the combination is correct, the player gains access to a mini game (bobbing for apples), and the mausoleum gates are lowered to allow the player to progress to the boss fight levels.

Spike pit & valve system
Spike pit & valve system

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Boss arena & gating system
Boss arena & gating system

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Goal conveyance: framing & contrast
Goal conveyance: framing & contrast

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Spike pit & valve system
Spike pit & valve system

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1/3

There are two graveyard levels in the game that are back-to-back; this was mostly split due to performance concerns; the other distinction between the levels is that the first is combat intensive, while the second is a wind-down of combat before a rest level. I was tasked with designing the staircase to the conservatory and designing the overlook area behind several buildings. Additionally, I was asked to create a realistic transition zone at the beginning of this level and at the end of the prior level.

  • I began work on this level by carving out a pathway to the conservatory using the terrain tool. I then used stone stair and archway meshes to create a stone-walled and lit, winding path to a gate that loads the next level ("The Conservatory").

  • Behind one area in this level with several buildings, there was a flat terrain patch and a building that served no real purpose in the game. Rather than cut it entirely, I built a puzzle into the area requiring the player to rotate a tombstone to activate a gate. It also served as an overlook of the entire level which helped the player see their goal at a better angle. 

Loot & lore (making hallways interesting)
Loot & lore (making hallways interesting)

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Obstacles, lore, & enemies (making hallways interesting)
Obstacles, lore, & enemies (making hallways interesting)

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Obstacles (making hallways interesting)
Obstacles (making hallways interesting)

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Loot & lore (making hallways interesting)
Loot & lore (making hallways interesting)

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1/4

"The Village" level was originally designed by other team members, however the level needed better conveyance, and the second half of the level needed to be redesigned for the story and for conveyance. One suggestion I made was to start this level at sunset, the ideal time for trick-or-treaters (which is what our player starts out doing) which would allow for lights to stand out more.

  • In the first half of the level, I added conveyance obstacles to the opening tutorial area of the village, and made sure that these elements looks like naturally occurring scenarios in the world. I also did quite a bit of set dressing inside of the village walls and in the tutorial area. Lastly, I 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.

  • In the second half of the opening level (after leaving the village and entering the forest), I was responsible for redesigning the gameplay of the space and aligning it with new narrative changes.

    • First, I used terrain painting to carve a distinct path through the forest using contrasting colors.

    • Next, I added differing heights of grass to subtly guide the player through the forest.

    • I added angled lamp posts, sticks, and bright colored foliage to draw the player forwards through the level.

    • I collaborated with the art team to ensure vfx smoke, animated characters and cinematics were appropriately placed to grab the players attention; when the space opens up, Mordecai runs across the players view in the distance.

    • Angling the trees in the level helped to create leading lines for the path and also suggested to the player that they should ascend the mountain.

    • A fallen branch was used to perfectly funnel and frame the archway in the distance that the player should pursue as their next immediate goal. 

    • The team was looking for a way to extend the level playtime without using more physical space. With the landmark of the mansion in the distance...

      • I created two deep ravines with the terrain tool and rock meshes and created a way for the player to escape. On one side of the first ravine, I created a path and a broken bridge to the framed archway and on the farther side, I made a second useable bridge, used lower height grass to make a path, and placed a lantern on the bridge to draw the player's attention to the far side of the area; at the bottom of the ravine, underneath the broken bridge, I placed broken boards and a tipped over lantern.

      • In the second ravine, I added traces of water in the bottom area with effect volumes for splashes and audio, and I used one bridge in the center forcing the player to travel back down the side of the ravine before crossing the bridge.

    • Lastly, I added paths and foliage to the 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 2 graveyard levels. 

 

  • In "The Village," the basic terrain was already in the map, but was predominately flat with a basic painted path to the mansion at the end of the level; two proxy ravines existed in rough form.

    • The first thing I changed was adding hills to the flat landscape and creating bumps and curves in the pathways.​

    • Secondly, I enclosed the map with mountains and sculpted flat areas in the mountain sides where trees could tower above the other trees in select areas. 

    • Third, I sculpted a distinct valley outside of the opening gate that looked (to the player) like a pathway outside of the playable space.

    • Lastly, I made all steep slopes have rock texture terrain painting or rock meshes to seem like a more naturally elevated area.

  • I utilized three types of terrain paint: grass, dirt, and stone pathway. I used dirt along the edges of grass before the dirt turned into stone paths in many cases.

  • I also used the painting layers in conjunction with the foliage tool to really bring spaces to life with assets such as animated grass, colorful trees with falling leaves, mushrooms, flowers, and small pebbles.

  • I used hand-placed pine trees among the leafy trees to diversify the forest and also to use their pointy nature to guide the player. I also hand placed stones, stone walls, light fixtures, wooden structures, and water features to fully refine the space.

Grass, prop, and tree placement; terrain painting
Grass, prop, and tree placement; terrain painting

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Grass, prop, and tree placement; terrain painting; lighting
Grass, prop, and tree placement; terrain painting; lighting

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Sculpted natural terrain hills; Lighting, mesh placement, terrain painting, and foliage tool
Sculpted natural terrain hills; Lighting, mesh placement, terrain painting, and foliage tool

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Grass, prop, and tree placement; terrain painting
Grass, prop, and tree placement; terrain painting

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1/4
Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting
Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting

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Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting
Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting

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Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting
Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting

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Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting
Tree placement, lighting, foliage, terrain painting

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1/4
Terrain sculpting, terrain painting, mesh kit-bashing rocks, foliage tool, tree placement, lighting
Terrain sculpting, terrain painting, mesh kit-bashing rocks, foliage tool, tree placement, lighting

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Terrain sculpting, terrain painting, large stone mesh placement, foliage tool, tree placement and pr
Terrain sculpting, terrain painting, large stone mesh placement, foliage tool, tree placement and pr

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cobwebs, fallen leaves, fence kit-bashing, angled statues to show ground erosion
cobwebs, fallen leaves, fence kit-bashing, angled statues to show ground erosion

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Terrain sculpting, terrain painting, mesh kit-bashing rocks, foliage tool, tree placement, lighting
Terrain sculpting, terrain painting, mesh kit-bashing rocks, foliage tool, tree placement, lighting

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1/3

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

  • Most of the landscape sculpting was done in order to construct a pathway leading up to the conservatory on a mountain top. I stuck stone staircase meshes into the preliminary sculpture, mashed boulder meshes into the sides for walls, and blended the terrain into the stairs to create a weathered look on the staircase overall.
     

  • There was an area behind several buildings that had a straight and flat path leading up to a house. I added hills to this area and a curve in the landscape, and I placed large stone meshes towering over the player to create a smaller ravine leading up to a staircase to the house.
     

  • Using the foliage tool, I covered the entire grounds with grass foliage and sporadically added flowers in patches. I placed trees all over the mountain tops and on the borders of the playable space. I also used mesh mud pile 'cookies' as grave sites, making sure to diversify their shapes and sizes. 
     

  • Refinement of this level included precision placing fallen leaves on the ground and on select props, adding cobwebs in corners and in caves, and placing fog vfx in a few specific places.

Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance

While I was a level designer on this project, I was also lead quality assurance; I began after the gameplay was set in stone and worked with the quality assurance team through the beta milestone.

 

Most of my quality assurance time was spent...

  • playtesting

  • improving level conveyance

  • checking levels for places to escape the map

  • trying to break the game entirely

  • looking for places that did not feel realistic to the world's physics

  • watching out for stretched textures and landscape visual bugs

  • seeking ways to enhance the player's experience through inexpensive methods.

Blocking volumes in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in
Blocking volumes in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in

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Prop placement in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in th
Prop placement in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in th

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Prop placement in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in th
Prop placement in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in th

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Blocking volumes in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in
Blocking volumes in the level with oversized assets; creating realistic collision for the player in

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1/4
Elevating the fences and adding blocking volumes
Elevating the fences and adding blocking volumes

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Ensuring landmarks were visible and bright from multiple areas of the map
Ensuring landmarks were visible and bright from multiple areas of the map

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Elevating the stone walls and adding blocking volumes
Elevating the stone walls and adding blocking volumes

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Elevating the fences and adding blocking volumes
Elevating the fences and adding blocking volumes

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1/3

Some of my key contributions to the quality of this game included:

  • Managing a small team of interns

  • Suggesting to add feedback cameras to interactable switches that opened doors.

  • Requesting outlines on all interactable objects

  • Placing blocking volumes around the edges of the playable space in believable ways. In some cases, adding meshes to walls to make this more believable.

  • Speaking with the leads on how levels should progress in difficulty, skill, and challenge while reusing existing mechanics in new ways

  • Ensuring that props had proper collision, especially in the level with oversized objects. 

  • Ensuring that all stretched textures were replaced

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

  • Suggesting animated windy grass, falling and colorful leaves, and fireflies

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

  • Countless hours playtesting this game

  • Sculpting landscape to make things more natural 

  • Adding realistic borders to exterior maps

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

What I Learned

What I Learned

One of the big lessons that I took away from this project was how important it is to work in 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 also
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 and deadlines to resolve the issues in another table, I think the team would have been better prepared for the time commitment and tasks ahead

As a designer, I
learned how to better use the foliage and terrain painting tool in Unreal 4. I modified database entries or , changed parameters in the details pane, and learned a little about AI patrol pathing in the engine; things I had never done before in Unreal 4.

I also learned something so simple, but useful --
Unreal Engine hot keys! The "G" key turns off all the lines in the engine and "alt" + "s" simulates the environment so you can take better screenshots! 

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