I follow some brilliant Level Designers on Twitter and after seeing some of their The Last of Us inspired blockouts, it inspired me to create something similar. So, for the last few days I've been messing around with the same blockout pieces and tools to create a Third-Person Stealth Level, not directly focused on a particular game, but inspired by such as TLOU, Uncharted, and Hitman.
In this 3-Part series I will go through the level and point out the design decisions / concepts and use of Level Design practices as I go along. This level of course won't touch upon every single practice, but the ones I saw necessary during the level.
Ok, let's begin!
Part One: The First Encounter
Starting on a roof-top, the player's gets their first view of the cityscape in the distance containing the level's end. (the orange sky scraper).
Some games may draw the attention to the landmark with methods such as: a button prompt like in TLOU, or perhaps a voice line simply saying "Look at that!"
The landmark helps navigate the player through the level and provides a visual point of reference. Events could happen on or around it which will give anticipation for future level events.
The benefit of beginning a level or encounter from high ground is that it allows the player to carefully plan out their next move. I highlighted the main pathways to accentuate the choices provided in this scenario. The left-hand route is longer and provides access to the upper floor of the building. The right-hand route is more direct, but closer to the enemies.
As this would be designed for a Stealth / Combat game it is always beneficial to give time for the player to decide what they want to do and how to do it. Though it's always key to be wary on providing too much power -- If you have easy access to guns / ranged weaponry, this highground may be too strong.
Of course, a way down without splatting the players body on the hard tarmac is always a plus. After taking a few ladders down, the player will enter a small alleyway on the ground floor. This again gives the players their options, but then occludes the enemies behind the cover pieces. If the player analysed their paths, it may be easier for them to encounter.
At this point, it would be the time to show the enemy nearest the lower floor door to lock the door and take the key with them.
If the player has chosen to avoid combat they will need a little breathing room after getting around the first batch of enemies After entering the building they are offered another choice; to continue their path to the upper floor, knowing it leads to the window they need, or they can peek through the window in the other room.
Retrospective: What this area might need is another enemy if the pacing feels like it breaks too much here, we still want the tension to feel consistent and not drop too much during this encounter.
The lower floor offers the player another option, to engage back into the enemy with the key to the building. Perhaps they patrol back and forth, giving the player ample time to vault over and get a takedown attack.
If the player chooses to take the riskier stealth option, they will access the target building from the upper floor. An enemy stands at the end of the corridor and walks to the left and down the stairs, signifying the direction the player must go. Boxes cover the corridor leaving the door to the left as the only option.
Just when the stealth player though it was an easy ride, we can add another enemy here that patrols this room. As we want the player to have some choice, they can take this enemy down, or ignore the enemy and use the cover to go around.
What if they fail, and the enemy alerts the others?! Well, unknownst to the player are enemies on the lower floor. This means they will naturally follow the cause of the disturbance, which is why these crates can also act as ample cover if the player needs to retreat back, and has a decent headstart if they wish to run.
Always give your player some way to retreat fairly.
When heading down the stairs at the other side of the corridor, the player can easily sneak out of the door using the darkness of the corner of the room. Unless stealth has been broken, then the players have to fight their way out.
Option 2 would be to steal the key from the enemy and go through the front door. This other option provides a more direct approach. Some games may have pickpocket skills or a non-lethal takedown, but for this example the goal is to assassinate the targets. The cover provided works well with any pathing the AI may need. The goal would be to separate the two to take them out quietly.
Upon opening the door, a few enemies stand in the center of a large room all looking at a table.
If the player snuck in, the enemies will continue their un-alerted behaviours allowing the player to either engage by waiting for them to break sightline of each other, or take the riskier way around to avoid conflict.
If the player has failed to keep the element of surprise, they will take to the cover and begin firing at the player.
So that concludes part one of this Level Design analysis of a small project I put together. The next part will cover the next section of the map. I hope you enjoyed this small look into my design process and I welcome any feedback / suggestions.
Until next time!