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Castle Run – Level Design

This is an Unreal project I made in two weeks. It’s main focus is level design but I also prototyped all the mechanics through Blueprints.
Here’s the build of the level.

Location and Theme

The theme of the level is a medieval castle. The main inspiration is the “Terrain” Map in the “Infinity Blade: Castle” pack in the Unreal Marketplace. The main take away from this map is the theme of a magical castle in the middle of nowhere. This allows to reward the player with gorgeous vistas with long lines of sight without creating the negative space that would require immersion breaking obstacles and invisible walls. The main feature of the castle is a circular keep or donjon. This massive tower is the main focus of the level. The geometry and architecture will emphasize the central role that this feature has in the level.

Reference and Inspiration

  • The numerous spires and towers convey a magical and labyrinth like feeling to the environment, hinting to the player the kind of gameplay he will face.
  • The courtyard made me think of some sort of hub point. The player will return to the courtyard multiple times, going from one objective to the other.

I wanted the main feature of the castle to be a big tower, drawing the player’s attention throughout the level. Inside the tower then, I wanted there to be a final setpiece, containing some sort of climb under time pressure. So if we’re talking castles and big towers it had to be a donjon.

  • The 3rd and 4th images represent how I wanted the tower to doinate the landscape around it. Imposing a feeling of importance and centrality in people’s everyday life.
  • The last picture, the drawing, is more or less what I wanted the tower to look like, apart from the spire, which didn’t make it in the final design. The access points on the sides are what drew me to this design, because it easily translates into gameplay, allowing climbing on the outside of the tower too.

Goals and Main Idea

The main idea of the level is a buildup to a climactic escape from the big tower. The layout of the level will emphasize the importance of the tower and draw the player’s attention to it. The level has three distinct segments of gameplay.  

  • An approach to the castle 
  • An exploration of the castle 
  • The escape from the tower

Each has a “vista” or view connected to it. These vistas are a central feature of the level. They serve both as an incentive and as a reward for the player. On the right two poorly drawn early sketches for the blocking of two vistas. One from the approach to the castle and one for the exploration of the castle.

Map and Progression

The player spawns on an island connected to the castle by a broken bridge. And is presented with the first important view.

This view wants to frame the donjon as the main feature of the level as well as hinting at the kind of gameplay that is going to be featured. The towers on the sides frame the donjon, while the various platforms and moving platforms suggest verticality in the gameplay.

After crossing the broken bridge the player is tasked with entering the castle through some broken architecture on the left side. Having done that he is presented with the second important view that will present to him the features of the castle’s courtyard.

This view shows the player the main objective (the door in the bottom left) and the intermediate objectives (two keys he will need to open it, top left and on top of the tower). Also the attention is supposed to be drawn to the negative space behind the tower where the path to one the objective starts. (The two keys can be collected in any order).

After finding the two keys the player can access the donjon where the final sequence begins. The player will need to climb the inside of the tower under time pressure (the water is rising). In doing so he will encounter most of the mechanics presented during the level and will be introduced to a new one (a bounce platform). The last checkpoint is before the start of the sequence, so the sequence has to be beaten all at once.

After the sequence there is one final view that rewards the player.

Mechanics

  • Jump
  • Double Jump
  • Health
  • Moving platforms
  • Damaging obstacles
  • Gem collectables
  • Coin Collectables
  • Checkpoints
  • Keys
  • Door opening cinematic
  • Dynamic camera systemEscape sequence