Space That Thing
My task was to finish building the rest the ship. I had complete control of the look and flow of two-thirds of the entire ship (the engine room and the core room) and took great care in transforming them from empty gray boxes to aesthetically polished, engaging spaces.
I joined the Space That Thing project relatively late in its development, so I began my task as level designer by getting up to speed with what the game was. I got familiar with the core gameplay loop, pillars of design, character-specific abilities, purpose of each room, and the building tools both at my disposal and in the works by the environment artists.
Anchoring and Brainstorming
I began by giving walls to these massive, mostly empty spaces in order to identify the boundaries of my canvas.
My familiarity gave the context needed to make design decisions that would complement the space. For example, I knew walk space was limited and that the room I was starting with (the core room) was only one of three open spaces on the entire ship. Also taking into account the genre of the project (hidden identity), I acknowledged the importance of players being able to stalk and hide from each other and made the decision to bring the floor down to make space for a second level in the room. This second tier would make use of the room's verticality, create more walk space, and offer hiding/stalking space.
I knew players moved in first person, and that there was an element of tension and insecurity to the game. I imagined a scenario where players rush into the room with the Monster on their tails and try to get to safety. I aimed to add a meaningful choice here, so the room was designed in such a way that players could either:
1. Make a frantic dash across the room floor in an attempt to reach the door on the other side of the room before the Thing Monster catches up.
2. Use the elevator to get to the second level of the Core Room where the Thing Monster won't be able to reach them. This forces them to use the hand-scan, which, in the middle of a crisis, can feel like an eternity. This also traps them on the second floor. If this "stranded" player is an engineer, and the ship experiences an event that would be solved by the engineer's ability, players then have an interesting choice to make. Even if this weren't the case, the loss of just a single crew member could seriously hamper the spacefarers team's ability to win against the Thing creature.
Form and Function
Once the function was identified, it was time to put the actual game objects in place. Players don't notice architectural liberties taken for the sake of gameplay if the space flows well. After whiteboxing the platforms and playtesting, I had a modular set of environment pieces to mix and match patterns with and create the space.
The engine room from start to finish:
3000+ game objects arranged from about two dozen unique assets
What I Learned
What I Would Have Changed