This is Columbia College Chicago's large team game capstone project of 2018 and the largest project I've been apart of to date. In this project I was one of two main level designers and three games designers leading the development of a level centered around the character of Trevor. In this level the player is placed in a computer simulation, taking Trevor's body and is tasked to complete his mission of exploring the inside of an asteroid to find a mineral meant to energize the crew's main ship. During the level the player experiences odd out of body experiences, examining Trevor's memories and deals with an unstable environment that experiences glitches all around.
During the development of Trevor level I was given tasks to fulfill such as level planning, documenting the path of the level and how it would flow, build out the white box to hand off to artists to model, populate the environment, making sure it was playable, and collaborating with programmers on how their mechanics would fit in the space I planned.
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When this project is called "Large Team" they mean it, over 40 students, designers, artists, and programmers alike all coming together to make one hell of a game. Getting used to the concept of a large team was very staggering at first. Our meetings followed scrum/agile format. We were broken up into smaller groups among ourselves and had sprints bi-weekly, every sprint we would show off what we were tasked to finish. At the beginning of this process, it was hard to not feel lost or like the project simply wasn't taking off as we started on finding a theme and eventually throwing games mechanics onto blank projects to see what people were attracted to. Eventually we hit this Sci-fi space station theme, about rescuing the crew and choosing who lives and who dies. Upon hearing this, everyone was up for it and that's when the real game began development.
Once the development on this new theme and story picked up, teams were formed around the 3 characters in the game and a team for the hub level found in the game. I joined Trevor team along with a good friend and fellow designer and soon another designer joined us and the level picked up from there. We knew our character was an exo-geologist so we decided to go with a level that shows what kind of work he might do. Soon the main mechanic revolved around this "magnet gun" or Geological Manipulation device as it's referred to in the game and soon I found myself devising mechanics, obstacles, and puzzles around the device. The obstacles found fit all the themes of the level. The actual environment is shown to be unstable with the breakaway floor found early on. The glitchy simulation theme was supported with the fake wall and the addition of unfamiliar objects in the level that would cause the screen to glitch out upon examined. Finally, the GMD itself was supported with the grapple object, allwoing the player to pull themselves across the gap made by the floor that broke away earlier.
As you may notice from looking at the overhead map and playing the level, you may find Trevor level isn't all that long, and you are correct it's not. This was one of the many things I learned on this team, that I was making something that was meant to be a piece of the game, not the entire game itself. This overhead map is only about a third of the whole Trevor level design and while I wish it was a longer level, at the end of the day it's a fine length that doesn't try and outshine the whole game. Only regret I have, is there is nearly not enough obstacles to teach the player how to use the GMD.
Communication was key for getting all of this to work, every week would bring about new tasks to look into or problems to fix. I kept in constant contact with our game play programmer to check the play-ability of our level with his mechanics while also checking in with artists because eventually this level must look gorgeous, and I can proudly say it does.