28 August, 2010

Little City Update: map scale and progression

Note: I’m switching to mostly present tense. Writing these posts in past tense, while chronologically accurate, feels weird; like referring to oneself in the third person. Nathan had a substitute teacher in third grade that did that. He found it unsettling.

So, with the basic layout settled, I am dying to visualize things a bit. I also want to get a feel for the scale of the environment. My main concern is verifying the scale of the central skyscraper versus the triangular park to the north. I fired up UDK for a basic scale test using BSP and stock materials. The layout is a good start, though the scale may be too small. This map will later serve as a jumping off point for greyboxing.

(Perspective view - Click image to enlarge)

(Top orthographic view - Click image to enlarge)

Now it’s time to start thinking about flow and traversal. Since I don’t yet share payroll with writers, concept artists, and programmers, my goal is to design and build a mechanically solid level while introducing minimal story or complex gameplay.

In terms of drama, here’s my starting line: the theme, an abandoned city under automated lockdown; a plot goal, escape the city somehow; the level objective, Get To Point B. To help myself focus, I brainstormed very simple mid-level objectives for the player that take advantage of the map’s topography and fit with the dramatic elements listed previously.

Here’s the list:
1. Emerge from starting alleyway (Ground level)
2. Take Police IFF device find (Ground level)
3. Take elevator to skyrail metro station (Ground level to mid elevation)
4. Jump from Track 1 (broken track) to Track 2 (Mid elevation)
5. Follow Track 2 south into the building (Mid elevation)
6. Take the elevator from the platform to the roof (Mid to high elevation)
7. Cross from that building to the central building using the skybridge (High elevation)

Step 2, the Police IFF, will be expanded on in a later post. Step 4 was in my head from almost the beginning when I was thinking of how to gate the city streets without duplicating the same police barrier or car crash. Forcing the player to drop down or fall is a classic gating technique that I’m approaching from the perspective of this story world.

Here is the flow mapped out in Illustrator as a green line:

(Click image to enlarge)

It’s a work in progress. I still haven't decided on how to gate the player from traveling north on Track 2. Possibilities include track damage, a stopped train, a physical gate on the track (perhaps a Stop sign for the train operator,) or rubble from the collapse on Track 1.

The next post will talk about issues of level flow (mainly critical path and action curve.) Also coming soon: design comments on Kane & Lynch 2.

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