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What Lies Beneath
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What Lies Beneath

by MatthewAllman on 1 Jun 2022

Our final project for our Bachelor of Creative Arts (Game Design)

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This project was started as part of a studio project for my Bachelor of Creative Arts (Game Design). We had a team of six members, including myself. The project was an underwater horror survival game, where players needed to collect three artifacts in order to open a mysterious door and escape.
For this project, I was the lead level designer and environment artist. My secondary roles included assistant producer, 3d modeller, and texturer.
Through this project I am hoping to make my way into a Level Designer and/or an Environmental Artist role.

3D MODELLING

The following is a few models that I created for the project, I was involved in the modelling, UV unwrapping and texturing of these models.
The programs used were Maya for modelling and unwrapping, X-normal for baking normal and Ambient Occlusion maps, and Substance Painter for texturing.

Barrel

The barrel was a simple model to include as clutter in the level. Due to the underwater environment, I made sure to include a dusting of dust and algae on not only this model, but the rest of the models I created.

Anchor

The anchor was more of a challenge as I was really experimenting with adding additional details to the High-Poly model before baking, but I believe it turned out really well. It also created a perfect navigational tool to direct players

Barnacle

The barnacle was a fun little project to add some details to the environment. Originally they were programmed to open up as players approached, showing eyeballs that followed the player around. However, due to optimization issues, I had to use only the shells as a bit of decoration.

Diving Bell

The diving bell was designed by the producer as a focal point in the original hub design of the game, however, once the level design changed, we used it as a reference point for players to aim towards when traversing the level.

LEVEL DESIGN

The levels went through several iterations. The game was divided up into zones, each one with a unique mechanic and design. There was the starting zone of the hub, a kelp forest, a ship graveyard, ancient ruins, a trench, a sulphur zone, and a cave system with a beast's lair. This proved to be over ambitious, and as a level designer, decided to cut some zones and combine other zones. The hub, ship graveyard and sulphur zone combined into the main area for the game with a small kelp forest for players to traverse through. The ruins remained. And the caves became the nesting grounds.

The following will show early concepts of the zones, followed by completed designs

Old Design - Player Hub

The original starting zone of the game, this was designed for players to be able to move about and access other zones. It was used as a central zone of the game.

Ship Graveyard

The ship graveyard ended up being combined with the player hub to create the current iteration of the level

Trench

The trench was originally designed as a brief platformer that divided the Sulphur Vent zone, the caves and the rest of the zones

Ruins

The ruins were the only zone we didn't cut or merge, but it was also the level design I iterated the most. We wanted to have vortexes that player rode to get to higher levels, and this mechanic was always included in each iteration

Version 1

Version 2

Version 3

Sulphur Vents

The Sulphur Vents offered a unique time based mechanic where players would only have a certain amount of time to find the artifact before they began to take damage from the poisonous fumes

FINAL LEVEL DESIGNS

Halfway through the project, we went through a cull of uneeded features due to the lack of time. This included cutting zones. As lead level designer, I decided that it would also be a good chance to iterate the levels towards the new direction of the game. These are the finished designs of the level zones.

Starting Zone - Ship Graveyard

Ruins

The Ruins still went through some iterations here. Originally the third iteration (see above) was what I originally whiteboxed. But the structure was extremely cube-like and appeared to just be large boxes. So I was inspired by Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings and the tiered city. As we were building modular pieces for the ruins, I used the whitebox pieces to design what became the final design.

Nesting Grounds

Originally a cave system, this slowly became the nesting grounds for some of the enemies encountered in the game. This too went through some iterations before finally deciding on the final design.

Original Concepts

Final Design

Full Level

Level Layout (without lights)

Level Layout (with lights)

IN-GAME SCREENSHOTS

The following are some in-game screenshots of different areas of the level from the point of view of the player. Note that the game takes place in the darkness, and it is only via a small light the player carries that players can traverse their way. Certain glowing plants adds decoration and player guidance through the level as they stand out against the darkness.

Looking out of the small starting area towards the main part of the level

Looking at the mysterious door as the player approaches from the starting position

Looking at the ruins from the outside

Inside the ruins

Looking at the mysterious door from the ancient ruins exit

Inside the nesting grounds looking at a carcass bridge

Inside the end of the nesting grounds looking at an artifact

Inside the sunken ship the player starts


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