Role: Level Designer | Team Size: 7 | Engine: Unity | Sept 2021 - Nov 2021
D.A.V.E. is a single player puzzle platformer in which the player controls a humanoid plant experiment named D.A.V.E. The player has recently escaped from a secret government facility, in the city, which was conducting many plant type experiments. When there is an explosion in the facility, the experiments scatter across the city making it a literal urban jungle. With the large canopy above, sunlight is very limited on the ground level. D.A.V.E. is able to utilize these sun spots to grow specialized seeds that can get him around many obstacles. The player's goal in each level is to reach a weaker escaped experiment and help them escape the city! Please enjoy the trailer below or download the build from Itch.io!
The first level of D.A.V.E. was meant to act as a tutorial level of sorts. If this game had gone through greenlight and we continued working on it, this level would've been the third or fourth level in the game. It was an interesting and fun challenge to teach players quickly some mechanics they would've learned in previous levels. In order to help teach the players the ins and outs of the gameplay, I designed the level to progressively get harder as they made it to each new puzzle section. This was as a means to quickly challenge the player on skills they have just learned as well as combining different skills together such as shooting seeds and then grappling. There was also a heavy use of tutorial colliders that when activated would show the player what next mechanic/system they would need to use.
The second level of D.A.V.E. takes place in the same location but at a later time in the day. This time change has allowed the mutated plants to change locations rapidly which changed the flow of the level. In this level there was one new seed for the player to utilize and learn about. Its use was integrated into the level and was quickly combined with the other mechanics to help give a sense of how the rest of the game could possibly look like with multiple new seeds being added if we had gone further into production.
One key roadblock that we were hitting with this capstone project was that we were very stressed for time. D.A.V.E. was meant to showcase an urban environment that has been overrun with plants, and that would mean a lot of time would need to be put into decorating said environment. At the beginning of the project this didn't even occur to us, but we had the chance to talk with some developers over at Rockstar. They helped us recognize the actual amount of work that would be done though and shifted our mindset.
We realized that realistically that only one level would be able to be decorated to an adequate amount, but we needed two levels to fit in with our original vision. To combat this we figured why not just use the same level twice, but shift around pieces of the environment/the angle that the sun was shining in from. This allowed us to utilize the same first level's overall geometry and decorations, but to use the various puzzle spaces in different capacities. This allowed for our environment artist to only need to go in and decorate the first level (on the ground level) and the ground plants could be moved to the other level right away. On my end, I created clumps of plants that worked together for the rooftops, and decorated the rooftops to provide pathways for the players. When it came time to put together the decorations for level two to fit in with the modified prop placement, the process was really easy as most of the ground decorations could stay where they originally were. If there were conflicting areas, I was able to delete or modify a small section of plants to make it look better instead of needing to start from scratch. The rooftops needed a little more work done as their pathways needed to be remade, but the rooftop areas that the player couldn't normally access were able to stay fully decorated with no additional changes. This change in how our levels worked drastically changed the amount of time we would have spent near the end of the project.