The level is designed to be an enjoyable experience, to be challenging without being distracting, and to tell a story along the margins. The priority, however, is to be as frictionless to the gameplay and to the learning process as possible.
The map has 6 sections.
Phase 1: Instruction
Introducing the player to the vehicle they’re using is done gradually. This half of the map reflects the level of complexity of that instruction as abilities and characteristics are layered on.
Open space, some decorations, minimum distractions. This area is covered in shipping containers, with clearly identifiable features of a dock.
Turret hazard field
This is where most of the first phase of the mission will take place.
At the start, the turret hazard field is inactive. There are more complexities to the terrain — height differences where the player will see themselves climbing over or threading through. This is signaling that height matters, before it matters.
The layout offers opportunities for the players to be skillful with canyons and paths that have been laid out with the capabilities of their vehicle.
As the player gets familiar with the gameplay, the complexity is made to matter, with a very clear indication that there is now a hazard they should be mindful of.
The area also displays a taste of what this place may have looked like when it was inhabited. There are warehouses, an industrial sector, hydroponics, luxury buildings. There are also signs of violence. Wrecks, burnt-out trucks, individual buildings in ruins; these are shadows of a story told quietly.
This is a relatively small feature, but it’s a significant one as far as the gameplay is concerned. It’s one of the tests the player must overcome, using a new ability. It’s not a close-ended challenge, however, but any alternative route will require that the player applies some creativity.
Phase 2: Arena
After mastering the basics and some of the more advanced skills, the second phase of the map actually becomes an open field, without the obstacles of the first phase.
This is because in this phase, the player will be challenged in a way where obstacles would corner the player too much. The challenge will but the player at a disadvantage on its own, and require a level of mastery from them that, with other obstacles, would be needlessly frustrating.
The last feature to highlight is the boss’ spawn-point, the shipyard’s launching pit. It’s a combination of an art asset with a gameplay moment, purposefully foreboding.
I was able to execute the concept I had in my mind, with the level design interacting well with the gameplay. One of the considerations I had to content with is the limit of the map sizes available in this engine. There are ways to get around that, such as scaling, but those answers wasn’t really viable for this project.
In all, I feel like the level plays well, hits the right notes, and introduces the gameplay in a way that doesn’t feel like a standard tutorial. It teaches the player without reinforcing to them that they’re being taught in an artificial way.