The Bloodless Reign
An 8 week senior game design project I worked on with a team of three others.
The Bloodless Reign is a short game I worked on in a team of four for a senior game design project using the Unity engine. We had 8 weeks to put it together, starting from the basic concept: a first person dungeon crawler game with elements of survival and resource collection. Of course we had many more ideas for the game at the start, but the short time span forced us to narrow down our scope. Fortunately we still ended up with enough to give us a playable game. It really ended up being more of a prototype for something that could have been much more, but we still put plenty of effort into it and I believe it paid off.
For the most part I was in charge of all environment art and level design. I had some great concept art drawn up by another team member, Kalin Hanninen (you can see the 2D work he did for the project here). It definitely helped set the tone for the art style and it was just enough for me to expand upon in 3D. To keep things simple we decided to stick with a fairly primitive look, meaning low resolution point-filtered textures and simplified geometry. I made all of the textures for the game in Substance Designer/Painter which resulted in a nice library of procedural materials I could use and easily modify. Given their procedural nature, I could theoretically bump up the resolution of everything and still keep things looking decent. Despite the low resolution nature of the assets, I decided to incorporate normal maps into the materials to help give surfaces some more definition. I thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition to use a fairly modern shading technique alongside the otherwise dated look. I often used a high to low poly workflow in order to make it easier to define my own surface details (such as beveled edges) when baking normal maps.
To construct the general layout of levels, I created sets of modular architecture pieces that could be arranged seamlessly in a multitude of different ways. This gave me freedom to create basic features such as rooms and hallways or combine different pieces for more complex and varied spaces. I took heavy inspiration from Bethesda games (e.g. Skyrim and Fallout) in terms of how they achieve a great amount of modularity in their level design process. You can really do a lot with just a few essential parts. Add some variants to the mix and your options start to increase exponentially.
In addition to the large architecture segments, I also created a good amount of medium sized furniture, shelves, and rubble piles to help break up the open spaces. Finally, a decent selection of finer set dressing elements such as candles, sconces, urns, and pots gave some life to the environment. Lighting was also a trick as I was restricted to small candles and large fire sconces. Fortunately I was able to make careful use of them in order to give rooms some more individuality depending on where and how shadows are being cast. To accentuate the light sources, I put together some matching fire particles to add some much needed motion to the environment. Of course I would have loved to go even further with more clutter elements and variation, but our limited time window was the all-restricting factor here.
Above are some screenshots of my aforementioned work on the project, with all other game elements removed in order keep the focus solely on my contribution to the project.