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Flooded City - Third Person Adventure

Level Design | Storytelling

Project Summary

With this personal project I wanted to create a level that tells a story through the environment. Something that draws the player in and creates an interest in exploring the environment.

I wanted to have challenging combat encounters where the player can choose how they approach each encounter depending on their preferred style of play.

Project Breakdown

  • 3 weeks 

  • ​Created using Unreal Engine 5

  • Focus on creating narrative experience

  • Scripting Enemy and Player shooting

  • Marketplace assets used

    • Advanced Locomotive System 4​

    • M5VFXVOL2 (VFX)

    • Modular Industrial Area

    • Industry Props Pack 6

Overview

Level Sketch

FloodedCityTopDownMap_Colored.png

Level Flowchart

Design Techniques

Design Techniques

Funnel before reveal

To make the reveal of the setting more impactful I wanted the path leading up to it to be narrow and limit the players view of what's up ahead.

Seeing some hints of destruction builds interest while not showing too much to take away the impact of the reveal.

Foreshadowing_NextEncounter+Library_edited.jpg

Foreshadowing

Here I wanted to reveal to the player that there are enemies in the next building so they can prepare for an encounter.

I also wanted to show that they are getting closer to the library so they feel a sense of progression as well as help them navigate themselves.

Style of play

The player can approach each combat encounter as they wish, either sneaking up on their enemies behind cover or running in guns blazing.

This is to promote different styles of play and elevate the sense of replayability.

5 second rule

All interactions with obstacles that involve climbing or crouching under geometry will take at maximum 5 seconds before it is finished.
This is to ensure that the game flow is maintained.

Cover Shooting

When designing the different combat encounters that the player will face I made sure to give the player sufficient cover to hide behind while fighting.

I set up the encounters like this because the players are often outnumbered and at a disadvantage, the cover allows the player safety while also giving them the choice of how they take on the encounter.

Faster Descent

I wanted the player with a quick way to descend and exit the building once they have completed the main objective.
I present this to the player as a natural path to take that leads them to a broken staircase that leads the player down and in the direction of the next descending staircase.

Sections

Deteriorated Apartment Complex

DeterioratedApartmentComplex_Exterior_PS2.png

Deteriorated Apartment Complex

Former apartment complex that's deteriorated over time, a building with broken down walls together with floors and staircases that has collapsed.

DeterioratedApartmentComplex_Basement.png

Floor 1 & Flooded Basement

The player enters the building through a broken hole in the wall that leads them into a flooded basement, they will need to wade through the waist high water.
 

Broken Exterior

The corner of the building has collapsed and water has flooded the basement. The player is able to enter the building through this opening and wade through the water.

BasementEntrance_edited.jpg
HallwayEntrance_edited.jpg

Lobby Entrance

Once the player has waded through the murky water flooding the basement they will reach a set of stairs. These stairs take them to the lobby of the building that's connected to all the apartments.

DeterioratedApartmentComplex_Floor2.png

Floor 2

Coming up the stairs from the first floor the player will find that the next flight of stairs is blocked off so they will have to navigate through apartments to find the way forward.
 

Blocked Path

The staircase leading up to the next level has been blocked off by rubble, the player is forces to navigate through the building to find an alternative path.

BlockedOffStaircase.png
HoleInWall.png

Hole in wall

There's a hole in the wall that separates the two apartments. 

The hole is just large enough for the player to be able to squeeze through into the other apartment,

Changing up flow

The ceiling has collapsed leaving a large pile of rubble that the player can climb up to get to the apartment above.

DeterioratedApartmentComplex_Floor3.png

Floor 3

Once on the third floor the player will see the broken exterior that reveals the enemies located in the building across the street. The burning barrels flickering light indicates that there's something on the other side of the wall.
 

Show, don't tell

Here the player can see what caused the blockage in the stairs leading up from floor 2.

There is also a large hole in the wall that attracts the player and will reveal what's to come.

BrokenWallReveal_edited.jpg
Outlook.png

Foreshadowing

The player is shown that they are moving closer to their goal, the library.
They're also shown armed enemies that they will soon come across.

This is also meant to teach the player what the enemies looks like and that where there is fire there is enemies.

Point of No Return

Here the player will be forced to jump down to the floors bellow in order to get to the bottom and exit the apartment complex.

When the player reaches this point they're done with the area. Once the player has jumped down then there is no way for them to get back up again, this is to help the player find their way by limiting the amount of paths the player can take.

DropDown.png
DeterioratedApartmentComplex_BrokenFloor1.png

First Floor - Building Exit

Coming down through the collapsed ceiling from the third floor the player has traversed through the building and will now be back at street level and can exit the building
 

Outlook

Vantage point, get a view of the enemies in the building on the opposite side of the road.

Outlook.png
LibraryView.png

Closer look

Player gets a closer look at the Library, their end goal. From here the player can get a better view of what's to come.

A hint of what the player will be faced with once they've reached the location

Leading the player

Taking the alternative path through the small hole in the wall the player will be lead by the geometry towards the alleyway where the player might see a hint of what's to come or a peak at a collectable that's just out of reach

LeadingThePlayer.png

Ruined Store

RuinedStore_Exterior_02_edited.jpg

Ruined Store

Broken down four story building where only 2 floors are now accessible from the floor level as a result of stairs collapsing.

This building has been overtaken by marauders that use it as shelter.


 

First Floor

On this level the player will face two enemies guarding the floor, there is also some loot that is hinted to the player when they enter the building that they can collect if they explore.
 

Foreshadowing

When entering the building the player will be introduced to the enemies that they will have to get past. 

The entrance places the player behind cover so they are not forced to act but instead can take their time and assess the situation.

The player can safely wait for the enemies patrol pattern to favor them before engaging.

Foreshadowing_02.png
LootBehindWall.png

Collectable

Soon after the player has entered the building they're shown a collectable that's out of their reach to promote exploration.

I use this to teach the player that there are objects that the player will need to go out of their way in order to find them.

Changing up flow

Part of the staircase has been blocked off by the collapsed staircase, this is done to break up the player's movement and prevent them from just sprinting past the enemies and up the stairs. While also preparing them for their next encounter.

RuinedStore_Floor_1_EnvironmentalStory_edited.jpg

Second Floor

On this level the player will face two enemies guarding the floor, there is also some loot that is hinted to the player when they enter the building that they can collect if they explore.
 

Foreshadowing

When coming up the stairs to the second floor the player will see a shadow cast on the wall from an enemy on the other side of the wall.

This is to hint what's to come and to prepare the player for their next encounter,

Foreshadowing_Floor2_01_edited.jpg
RuinedStore_Floor_2_Storytelling_edited.jpg

Blocked Path

The player's progression is hindered by the collapsed staircase, they will have to find another way to continue forward.

This obstacle helps with immersion and makes the player look for alternative ways fowrard.

Point of No Return

Once the player has cleared out the enemies on the second floor and explored to see that there is no way to continue further up the building they'll be forced to jump down into the alleyway if they want to continue forward.

and the only way forward is jumping down into the alleyway,

RuinedStore_Floor_2_PointOfNoReturnBrokenStairs.png

Overtaken Library

FrontView_PS.png

Overtaken Library

A 3 story library with balcony and a large courtyard located at the end of the street. The library has been overtaken by marauders and serves as their HQ, one of the few places with electricity still and a large gate that can only be opened from atop the library.
 

TopDown_Courtyard.png

The Courtyard

On this level the player will face two enemies guarding the floor, there is also some loot that is hinted to the player when they enter the building that they can collect if they explore.
 

Landmark

When entering the courtyard the player can clearly shown the landmark to help them navigate and to indicate that they have reached their destination.

EnteringCourtyard.png
ShownGenerator.png

Power Generator

When the player enters the courtyard they'll see the power generator that's connected to the electric gate
 

Guiding cables

The large cables leading from the power generator to the electric gates and then up top of the Library shows to the player that the gate is electrically controlled and that there is something further up in the building that's connected to it.

LeadingCables2.png
TopDown_Floor1.png

First Floor

On this level the player will face two enemies guarding the floor, there is also some loot that is hinted to the player when they enter the building that they can collect if they explore.
 

Choose your approach

The player has the option to take the more heads on approach with less cover and things to hide behind or the route with more cover that leaves them less exposed and makes it easier to sneak up on the enemy.

ChooseYourApproach.png
GuardedCollectable3.png

Guarded loot

Behind the glass of the receptions desk there's loot that's out of reach for the player.

The door on the right is blocked off but the door on the left is open. However there are multiple enemies  that roam around that area and there is little cover if the player decides to go for it.

Show, don't tell

When the player makes their way up the main staircase they'll see a large pile of books at the lower steppes.

This is to draw the attention of the player to make them look up the stairs so they can see that the path is blocked.

It's also meant to help with immersion and give the player a sense of being in a library.

BookHints.png
TopDown_Floor2.png

Second Floor

On this level the player will face two enemies guarding the floor, there is also some loot that is hinted to the player when they enter the building that they can collect if they explore.
 

Style of play

With multiple objects knocked over the player has plenty of cover to hide behind or sneak under.

This opens up to different styles of play and allows the player to take different paths depending on how they want to approach the enemy.


 

UnderFallenBookcase.png

Hidden Path

The geometry leads the player to help them navigate, but those that look around and goes against the current are rewarded.

The players that explore a bit will be be able to find hidden pathways or collectables.

Show, don't tell

When the player makes their way up the main staircase they'll see a large pile of books at the lower steppes.

This is to draw the attention of the player to make them look up the stairs so they can see that the path is blocked.

It's also meant to help with immersion and give the player a sense of being in a library.

BookHints.png
TopDown_Floor3.png

Third Floor

On this level the player will face two enemies guarding the floor, there is also some loot that is hinted to the player when they enter the building that they can collect if they explore.
 

Hidden enemies

There are two enemies standing behind a tall wall that are hidden to the player, however their shadows are visible to the player to alert them of what's hiding around the corner.

If the player isn't aware of their surroundings they might quickly find themselves stuck between multiple enemies with no where to hide.

Foreshadowing_edited.jpg

Fast Descent

Once the player has completed their task on the balcony they have a fast way back down to the floors bellow.

This is to keep the pace up and not make the player waste time running through already cleared areas.

TopDown_Balcony.png

Library Balcony

Final encounter before the player reaches the power switch that opens the gate and allows the player to complete the level.

Last stand

The last enemies standing between the player and the power switch that will allow them to continue on from this flooded part of the city.

Balcony_LastStand.png
LibraryBalcony_OpeningGate2.gif

Power Switch

Once all the enemies has been defeated the player will reach the power switch. This switch opens up the locked gate at the courtyard and will allow the player to complete the level.

Combat Encounters