A DECADE OF LEVELS
HOSPITAL SHOOTOUT - FALL 2018
Hospital Shootout was my attempt to focus solely on level design, emphasizing dynamic combat. This time, I left out the art to make sure all that mattered was gameplay. This project has its own page; click right here if you'd like to learn more.
SEWERS - WINTER 2017
The Sewers was initially part of a larger project that I had to cut short when school began to pick up. For this level, I wanted to play with the idea of repeatedly returning to one large chamber. I also wanted to focus on horror and a dark atmosphere instead of action.
I think the level suffers significantly from being punishingly dark for most of its runtime. At the time of creation, I thought this would contrast nicely with the bright exterior and make the level spookier, but in the end, it's frustrating, and it hides the incredible amount of detail I put into each space.
Something I love about the level is the way its events unfold. The player often solves a problem by introducing another, such as turning off the gas to find they trapped themselves in a rut or deactivating a combine shield just to be greeted by a wave of zombies. I think this keeps things interesting.
CANAL - WINTER 2017
Canal was initially part of a larger project that I had to cut short when school began to pick up. For this level, I wanted the gameplay to center around navigation and puzzle-solving with minimal combat encounters. Note: various bugs occur due to corrupted files caused by a hard drive failure.
Traditionally, this level suffers from being too dark. Many details are lost, and navigation can be confusing because of this. Puzzle solutions are also obtuse, and I don't point the player to their solution well enough.
Aesthetically, I like this level. While it may be too dark, most spaces look great with lots of detail and environmental storytelling.
MAINTENANCE TUNNEL - WINTER 2016
Maintenance Tunnel is an environment art piece I created to gauge how far I had come. I aimed to recreate a hallway that I created for my mod Iron Horizon back in 2010, seen as the last image in this slide. I'm thrilled with how it turned out; I plan to recreate this space again in the future to set another milestone.
ALPHA SEWERS - FALL 2016
This map was created for my mod mentioned above, but it was canned when I didn't think it was up to par in terms of design. The level looked nice, but the gameplay was blank, and the navigation felt unnatural. My skill had significantly improved at this point because of lessons at SCAD, and I decided to leave this level unfinished and try my hand again. After this, I created the Sewers level above.
ALPHA CANAL - FALL 2016
Alpha Canal was the original start to my mod, The Canals. Like I mentioned above, for Alpha Sewers, I tossed this map when I realized I could do better. That said, at the time, it was a huge milestone - a complete map with minimal bugs, and it was fun to play.
WATER PLANT - FALL 2016
I initially created this map as a one-off hobby to keep my level design skills sharp between projects. However, I thought this level went so well that I was ready to make a mod myself and started The Canals.
This level has all of the issues that seemed to have become a staple in my work - minimal variety, too dark most of the time; it's in a sewer/canal, etc. Maybe one day, I will stop making this type of environment. One day...
COMPLEX - SUMMER 2016
Complex follows a similar vein as Hospital Shootout. I wanted to create a level without bells and whistles, just level design. I wanted to experiment with enemy placement and how lighting affects gameplay and level navigation.
This map taught me that, while exciting on occasion, enemies ambushing the player quickly becomes frustrating and disorienting. This caused my playtesters only to be able to complete the level on the second or third run once they had learned of all the enemy locations.
I also learned about downtime while working on this level. Up until I created it, my levels had almost no downtime. If there is one single lesson I've learned in all my time designing levels, it is that players need time to relax between encounters and that almost half of a level should be dedicated to pacing alone.
VISUAL INTEREST TESTS - SUMMER 2016
The Visual Interest Tests were a series of single-space maps where I wanted to concentrate on maximizing the visual fidelity of the space without significantly altering its design. I did a lot of research while creating these environments, from learning how to maximize the potential of Hammer Editor's brush and material tools to gaining a greater understanding of the many settings in the lights. I think the improvement in my work is significant after these tests.
FLYING TOWN - WINTER 2015
Flying Town is an environment art piece with a slight steampunk twist. This would later inspire my Visual Interest tests as I became more confident and familiar with the engine.
I created numerous maps between 2011 and 2015. Unfortunately, I didn't understand the importance of documentation during this time. What I have posted below is the result of finding online archives of my old work. This only counts for work that, at the time, I believed was worth posting online. Since My work between 2011 and 2015 was not for any projects, I didn't post them anywhere, document them, or save them. They have been tragically lost to my immaturity.
UNNERVED PRISON - WINTER 2011
Unnerved was a short horror mod where the player attempts to escape a prison in Central America. It featured many jump scares and sequences where the player had to run from enemy gunfire.
IRON HORIZON: CITY - FALL 2010
The City was the final map I worked on before Iron Horizon was canceled. It was my first attempt at using prefabs in Hammer - I would create buildings on a different level, save them as a single actor, and I could import them as one piece and place them accordingly in the world.
IRON HORIZON: MINES 2 - FALL 2010
Part 2 of the Iron Horizon mines was my crowning Source achievement for years to come. With solid visuals, exciting puzzles, and threatening enemies, it was a well-rounded map that I still remember. Players would ascend a massive mineshaft one puzzle at a time as they climbed towards the surface and out of the mines. It pushed my limits at the time, and it would take years of work before I could create a level that I'd say matched this one.
IRON HORIZON: MINES - FALL 2010
While part 2 was the exciting finale to the mines, this level was the first. Note: part 2 was just the second map I created for the mines, but it was the fourth map in this setting.
Looking back, these maps were very short; this one took less than ten minutes to complete on average and offered very little gameplay to the player. While part 2 pushed my limits, I think I was still too unfamiliar with level design at this stage and failed to think of gameplay first beyond navigating a series of rooms. Still, comparing this to what I made just a year earlier blows my mind; the amount of progress in just a year is impressive; I wish I could still improve at this rate.
IRON HORIZON: DESERT BRIDGE - SUMMER 2010
The Desert Bridge level takes place immediately following a train crash, at it leads the player into the mines. Being my first exterior level, it was quite a mess. The player easily escaped the level, the gameplay was flat, and I didn't understand how to make the level feel like part of a larger world.
SOVIET SEWERS - WINTER 2010
Return of the sewer levels! Before my friend and I kicked off Iron Horizon, we wanted to make a mod that took place in an abandoned Soviet bunker. We didn't plan for this mod to have much gameplay; we wanted players to explore a spooky environment and solve some minor puzzles. We dropped this project when our egos got too big, and we wanted to make something more grand - Iron Horizon.