Project: The Chronos Project
Position: Level Designer
Duration: 6 Months
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
The Chronos Project is a single-player third-person shooter that puts the player in the role of a 1950’s military science experiment with the ability to manipulate gravity. The player uses his gravity powers to escape the research facility before its destruction. Standing in the player’s way are hordes of robot security forces and a series of environmental hazards.
For The Chronos Project, I took on ownership of the final boss fight level, and worked with another designer and a programmer to build it. As the main level designer for the hangar, I pitched and drove the design for an encounter which was meant to use the new game mechanics in a cool, complex way. My biggest contributions were designing a thematically consistent encounter, designing complex gameplay, and tweaking the difficulty over several iterations.
Designed Within a Theme
When designing any level, I ask myself 1- What are the mechanics? 2- What is the setting? 3- What is awesome about them? For The Chronos Project, the answers were: 1- Flight and gravity pushing. 2- A military base overrun by robots. 3- Bombs, explosions, giant robots, and flying. After answering these, I decided to design the final boss fight in a military hangar so the player has access to a munition storage facility (Throwing bombs and making things explode!) with a giant open space (Flying!) big enough to fight The Eisenhower (Giant robot!)
Designed Complex Gameplay
For the Hangar level of The Chronos Project, I set out create gameplay that uses all the game’s mechanics. During the boss fight, the player has to use his flight ability to fly up to the second floor and fight through robots to flip a switch to temporarily deactivate the boss’ shields. The player then has to fly down to the hangar floor while dodging the Eisenhower’s howitzer cannon and missile volleys, position himself behind one of two munitions platforms on the first floor, and launch giant bombs at the Eisenhower while it’s shields are malfunctioning.
Iterated on the Design
I scripted my level in such a way that all the metrics were easily available at the click of a variable. This enabled me to iterate quickly and home in on the best metrics. On the flipside, some problems could not be solved through metric-tweaking such as that playtesters would sometimes spend too much time on the fight and have their health whittled away with no way to regenerate. I solved that particular problem by adding some smaller robot spawn points in the level. Doing this allowed players to fight smaller robots and regain their health from the pickups they dropped. It was a simple solution, but the important bit is that it was effective, stable, and thematic.
I don’t think I took enough advantage of the flight mechanic. Giving the player the ability to fly anywhere in the game opens up the opportunity for multi-level construction which I definitely could’ve done more with. I was happy with the bomb-throwing idea, so if I was going to design this level again I would run with the bomb-throwing, build a multi-level area, spawn the bombs in random spots one-by-one, cue the player when a bomb spawns, and make the player fly there within a certain time to throw it at the Eisenhower.