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HYENAS

I previously worked as a Level Designer on Creative Assembly's recently cancelled Multiplayer Sci-Fi FPS title, HYENAS. HYENAS pits five teams of three against each other to heist pop culture merch from Earths past and escape the plundership alive. But beware, only one team can emerge victorious and make it out alive.

 

HYENAS is built on three pillars. Engage, go in loud and proud and take on the ships security forces head on. Evade, its not all about going in guns blazing, work your way through the bowels of the ship to find your prize. But beware, many routes are covered by a plethora of traps made to hinder and detect you. And finally, Exploit. No matter what path you choose, you are able to exploit the ships many traps and systems to your advantage.

Roles & Responsibilities

  • Production of Multiplayer PvPvE Maps from blockout stages to final release. Taking into consideration multiple teams, playstyles and opportunities for player expression and mastery.

  • Ownership of maps at different stages of development.

  • 2D Map Design and Documentation.

  • Iterating, balancing and adjusting of gameplay levels based on peer to peer feedback, team wide playtesting and needs of the project.

  • Encounter Design in the form of Enemy AI and Trap based encounters. 

  • Implementation of Gameplay Systems such as Extractions, Random Events, Permutation Systems, Enemy AI Etc.

  • Presentations to the Level Design and Wider team.

  • Worked closely with Environment Artists, Lighting Artists and integrated QA as one cohesive "World Team".

Level Design of Hyenas

Hyenas is an objective based multi-team game so a level has to support and encourage many different elements and systems; the game mode, five teams of three, NPC's, random events, systemic gameplay, theming and the narrative of the universe were all things we had to consider while building complex interior maps. The key to this is Clarity of Space.

Clarity of Space

Gameplay

  • What is this space?

  • What is the gameplay objective?

  • What actions can the player do here?

  • How do these benefit the game mode?

Environment

  • What's the function of the space?

  • Who or what uses this space?

  • How does this space fit into the world?

  • How does the space feel to be in?

Asking these important questions throughout every stage of development and using Clarity of Space as a foundation we created better gameplay spaces.

Map Structure

Hyenas maps are comprised of four key areas:

  • Service Core - The primary Zero-G space, used for high-speed navigation across large portions of the ship.

  • Transition Spaces - The connective tissue between key gameplay spaces, primarily built for map pacing and control as well as optimizing level performance.

  • Hubs - Large open spaces built to accommodate multi-team skirmishes due to being a key convergence point in the game mode. Visual resonance also plays a big role in Hubs, making them easy to call out (Eg. The room with the Statue of Liberty) and orient the player. 

  • Camps - Key POI's designed to house most of the games gameplay encounters and the main objectives. Camps come in two different permutations:

    • Supply (Teal) - Supply camps help players equip themselves with better equipment and gadgets (Eg. Shields, Grenades etc) when a camp doesn't contain an active vault it will default to its supply permutation.

    • Vault (Gold) - Vault camps contain the games core objective. Within them is an active vault protected by enemy AI and detection traps made to impede the players progress.

F01 - We Took Manhattan

When I joined Creative Assembly I inherited the map 'We Took Manhattan' which we dubbed 'F01' during development. Hyenas maps all had a specific theme that we had to take into account when designing them, with the theming primarily presented through the Hubs and their adjacent camps. The density and specific sub-theming depended on whether that area of the ship was classed as "Customer Facing" or "Back of House"; customer facing meant the space was more heavily themed and clean, while back of house meant the space was more generic and dirty.

Hubs

In this section I'm going to breakdown the design of Hubs. I'll be using the Brooklyn Bridge Hub for the breakdown with clean images of the Hub and other Hubs I worked on at the end. 

Hyenas Hub Breakdown.jpg

Hubs are large cavernous spaces where much of the gameplay converges, due to this, hubs have to consider and balance Key elements of the games design:

  • Icons - These are the key assets that emphasise the theming of the space and support the overarching theme of the ships. They provide visual resonance by orienting the player within the world and helping with call outs. The Icons also have to provide gameplay benefits by acting as cover and supporting the extraction point.

  • Extraction - Once the first team reaches Threshold, one of the extraction points around the map activates. These are located within the Hubs in a primary position around or near the Icon, ensuring they're easily visible, have plenty of space around them for team skirmishes and enough surrounding space for enemy AI to spawn. Extraction points can vary in size and defensibility, most hubs are designed to support two extraction locations. 

  • Events - Random events that provide the player with loot also have the ability to spawn throughout the map. Positioned on the main player path but away from the centre, they also need room to support smaller skirmishes and a smaller group of enemy AI. These locations also double up as team spawn points.

  • Camps - The key entry points into camps are accessed via the Hubs. Key information such as camp permutations and entry highlights are communicated to the player from outside the camps. Enemy AI is also positioned to spawn outside the main entrances when a team heists a Vault camp.

  • Entry Points - All Hubs have multiple entry points and are positioned such that players are able to get a good "lay of the land" when entering a Hub.

Hub layouts are also affected by the games signature 0g mechanic. As all Hubs have the potential to be 1g or 0g, considerations for switch locations have to be made as well as prop placement in both these permutations, some props also have the ability to move positioning when 0g is turned on. 

Camps

Camps are the space where the core loop of the game mode took place. As such, Camps were designed with strong foundational elements to their layout to both support the game mode and the players chosen playstyle:

  • Vault - The primary gameplay objective, players are tasked with breaching this to secure loot and reach the threshold. Active vaults are highlighted with gold holograms.

  • Bunker - Bunkers are designed to be clear-cut, defensible locations housing the entry to the Vault. Players use this point to defend against enemy AI and opposing teams during the breaching stage.

  • Engage Space - The engage space is built with combat and rotation in mind. During PvE gameplay, the space is designed to be the shortest, most visible route to the Vault yet its the loudest and runs the risk of activating the ships systems. During PvP combat it is designed to favour rotational combat. 

  • Evasion Space - Evasion routes encourage mastery of movement and act as a pseudo stealth branch of gameplay. These routes are often laden with traps that detect and impede the player by damaging them and alerting enemy AI and other teams to the players position. 

  • Threshold - Connecting to the Hub, the Threshold is designed to be a clear cut section of the camp highlights the main entry/exit point. It also acts as a bumper space between the entry point and the engage space so players are able to stop and assess before they decide upon an approach.

We used multiple methods to help direct the player towards the Vault and make sure they couldn't loop back on themselves. Firstly, geo and prop placement is used to point towards the Bunker/Vault location and frame it. Second, enemy AI is peppered along the path to both impede the player but also direct them. Finally, gold AR is used in engage spaces in the form of arrows on the floor, while in engage spaces, golden signage is intermittently placed to remind the player where to go.

In this section I'm going to breakdown the design of Camps. I'll be using the Camp SA3 dubbed "Transport Processing" for the breakdown with clean images and an expanded look at the end. I will also highlight a few of the other camps I have worked on. 

Hyenas Merch Camp Evasion.jpg

When designing Evasion routes, we were encouraged to be creative in how the player moves through them and avoid traps. A good evasion space is designed with a few rules:

  • Make sure traps have a readable behaviour and are clearly visible.

  • Provide safe havens so players have small moments of respite.

  • Make sure the player is always moving forward towards the goal (Eg. Limiting turns to 90 degrees maximum.)

  • Get from A to B in the most interesting way the space allows.

It was also important that we created multiple points of entry between Engage and Evade spaces for both rotational combat against other players and enemy NPC's, and giving the player the option to change tac and alter their playstyle.

Hyenas Camp Supply Breakdown.jpg

When a camp doesn't contain an active Vault, we repurposed the space. These Supply permutations re-use design principles in Vault camps and encourage players to gear-up before engaging with the core game mode. The idea behind placing supplies within the Engage/Evade framework meant players had some form of challenge and reward:

  • Engage Supply - Easily spotted from the Threshold, Engage Supply setups utilise Enemy AI as the primary challenge. These are often placed within the main combat area and the bunker space. 

  • Evasion Supply - Utilising the evasion spaces, these utilise detection traps and movement as the primary challenge. Evasion Supply setups also use discovery as part of the challenge. These setups are also made more linear compared to the Vault permutation; entry points close to the supply crate are blocked with the ability to view the crate from multiple areas, these blocked passages can be opened with the correct abilities and equipment. Primary entry points are highlighted to the player and encourage them to engage with the evasion challenge. 

Other Camps

Service Core & Transitions

Service Core and Transition spaces are the connective tissue between major gameplay spaces. The Service Core is the primary space for Zero-G gameplay and are designed to transport players from one end of the ship to the other quickly. They are large, cavernous spaces peppered with cover. In F01, we used these spaces between Hubs and the cover was designed to reflect their nearest Hubs, as the player travelled down the service core we blended the two themes to emphasise the change in theming.

Transition spaces connect closer gameplay spaces and are built for 1G traversal. Throughout these spaces we provide the player with plenty of opportunities to break line of sight and duck into cover. To aid in call outs and orientation we made a decision late into development to open up the ceilings and signpost the Hubs they are approaching. 

F04 - Undisclosed Theme

When I joined Creative Assembly I was made one of the key Level Designers on F04. Over my 2 years at CA I would jump back and forth between my responsibilities on F01 and F04 depending on the project priorities. The theming of F04 (Which I cant disclose due to NDA) changed over time but still maintained a lot of the core ideas and themes that we built into the map.

Unfortunately, F04 never left blockout phase but early on we began to establish a new pipeline for the map that we wanted to push onto future maps. By taking a more modular approach to developing "customer facing" camps we were able to iterate upon these better without taking as much time or being as destructive compared to the earlier "customer facing" camps bespoke/prefab nature. 

My work on F04 constituted mostly of Camp work with some level of iteration and aid with the Hubs. Spaces had simple, functional gameplay mark-up so we could play a simplified version of the main game mode early for playtesting and iteration purposes. 

Hubs

Camps

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