Project: Ambushed
Position: Sole Designer
Duration: 2 Months
Engine: Unreal Engine 3

Ambushed is a survival-horror Gears of War level based in a rickety old haunted mansion, with an emphasis on environmental scripting and gameplay scripting. The focus was creating a horror theme and designing imaginative encounters.

Project Highlights

Ambushed was built with the main goal being to create thematic and fun gameplay, and also to create a survival-horror feeling. The process to accomplish this was to whitebox the encounters and iterate on the gameplay until it was fun on its own, then build a survival-horror environment around each one. The environment was built using environmental scripting techniques that allowed for a weather system and an ambient sound system. The haunted mansion environment was built with the idea that the lighting must always be sufficient for combat, but contrasting colors can be used to still give the feeling of darkness. The goals accomplished on this level were designing fun encounters, creating a survival-horror theme, and implementing a boss fight incorporating advanced AI and destructible cover.

Designed Encounters

The encounters were designed in a gameplay-only environment, and haunted house’s architecture was designed to support them. After the 2-D map was laid out, the gameplay was whiteboxed, and through iteration and feedback, the gameplay was polished up before laying out the environmental scripting and audio/visual polish.

Created an Atmosphere of Fear and Anxiety

The level was designed to evoke a sense of fear and anxiety using a passive and active ambience system, and by having the encounters tailored to the haunted house theme of the level. The lightning and rain audio and visuals were scripted into the weather system, and active ambience events were scripted such as phantom footsteps, doors creaking open, and enemy noises foreshadowing encounters. Each encounter was also tailored to the horror theme by having enemies literally coming out of the woodwork. One encounter has a Wretch pop out of the ceiling and crash down onto a piano before jumping at the player. One encounter has attackers jumping through a window at a seemingly safe location. One especially creepy encounter had a Wretch hanging on the ceiling and slightly out of sight, just watching the player until he or she takes notice of the Wretch, at which point it drops down to the ground and attacks.

Wrapped up with a Finale

Once the player gets to the end, they have to fight a Boomer in a fully destructible library with his partner, Dom. The player can hide behind the rows of books and use them to take pot-shots at the Boomer who is unfortunately, armed with a rocket launcher that blows up the bookcases. This resulted in a Space Invaders-esque scenario where cover is constantly being whittled away by the enemy, while the player whittles away at the enemy. Using a complex, custom-built prefab bookcase, cover nodes and collision were dynamically deactivated and the grid reset to make the destructible cover mechanic functional. That prefab was cloned to create an entire playground of destruction in a relatively short time to allow for quick iteration and more polish time.


The level is definitely linear. Gears of War’s level design, while being linear, offered a lot more gameplay-relevant side areas and different ways to approach each fight. That’s something Ambushed was lacking. I’m happy with the quality of most of the scripted sequences, but the overall level design could be better if more options were available to the player.

Playable Level (Requires a fully-patched install of Gears of War for Windows) (ZIP):