Overhauling the Blockout of Rebirth Facility


In this blog, I will showing some radical changes to the overall level design of Rebirth Facility in addition to experimentation and iteration on the Elevator section of the level.

To view the process for Level Design Documentation, Design Context and planning with 2D top-down maps, click here!

To see the Foundation Level Design work which translates the 2D Maps to a 3D Blockout, click here!

To see some additonal details being applied to the level, click here!

Before I dive in, I’d like to give a shout out to Max Pears, who’s mentorship has really supported me with this project so far, and to Tonic U, a programme set up by Mediatonic to help up and coming game developers to network, collaborate and show off their work, for sharing my videos of this project on their Flex Fridays via Twitter.

The Elevator

A More Complex Approach

The original elevator (shown in the images below), was a major section of the original level design as it transistioned the player from the introductory part of the level to the more challenging and dramatic part of the level. Descending the elevator provided a dramatic and tense sensation for the player as they were taken down to a new section where the later level beats would take place.

An issue with the original design for the elevator was it went down a very long chute rather than latteing the player view multiple floors before they reached the bottom, which didn’t fit the theme of being in an abandoned hospital, so I decided to take a more complex approach where the player would have the opportunity to explore multiple floors before reaching the bottom and continuing the level.

In addition to the feedback I got from my networking (shown below), I realised that the more complex series of smaller elevators completely stripped the level of the drama it used to have. Furthermore, it had negative effects on player progression as the player had to go up and down, in addition to being forced to wait for the elevator or they would be trapped at the bottom with no escape.

Back to the old, dramatic elevator

Responding to feedback from myself and other, more experienced, level designers, I made the decision to revert the elevator back to the original version, but replacing the shaft-like appearance with multiple floors where enemies will be stood, waiting for the player to reach their level, making the elevator section both dramatic, and a meaningful combat section in the level.

Radical Layout Overhaul

Why do this?

In the original level design, I found that the level’s scope was very large, in addition to this, it was very reliant on corridors and was at risk of not fitting the theme of being a medical facility for the Exo race in the Destiny universe. This had the potential to lead to possible issues in making sure the level fun for the player due to having to make a lot of edits that risked rooms and/or corridors becoming claustrophobic when later polish is added. As a result, the old layout for the later part of the level (shown below) was removed and replaced with a whole new layout.

The 2D Map

Before the new layout could be built in Unreal Engine 4, a new 2D map needed to be created to plan the layout and provide a guide for building the level. The focus for the new layout was to reduce the number of long corridors, provide more opportunties for combat and create room for platforming elements that occurs frequently in Destiny 2.

The Blockout

After removing the old level layout for the later part of Rebirth Facility (by hiding the sub-levels and removing the old streaming volumes), a whole new blockout was created, using the Elevator section as a centrepiece. Significant changes were made from the 2D map such as the shape of ice walls and holes, adding some raised areas and creating some opportunities for platforming. At this stage, the focus was to get a basic layout blockout out before deciding on any additional details.

The video below shows a playthrough of the blockout prior to the addition of BSP ice walls. This was to get a very basic idea of the blockout prior to adding in more natural elements to the blockout as well as testing the metrics of the level to ensure that the rooms are scaled correctly.

Once I was happy with the initial blockout, I moved on to dividing up the rooms in preparation for when I start to add details and creating some jumping challenges in the form for broken floors and holes in natural walls.

What’s Next?

With the layout being radically changed, now is the time to stop focussing on the larger, overall level and to begin room-by-room details and bringing life to Rebirth Facility.

The first part I will be working on will be the opening part of the level, the icy exterior, which will aim to become an area that could possibly be linked up to the open world areas in Destiny 2’s Europa location. To do this, I will need to carry out some visual research, both looking at the exterior parts of Destiny 2’s Europa location in addition to icy exterior levels in other games and real-world icy environments such as images from Antarctica, the Arctic and other famously snowy regions in the world. From there, I will need to plan the Ice Mound to have less-boxy appearance and to populate it with opportunites for the player to explore, learn more about the environment surrounding the Rebirth Facility and find extra loot.

The images below shows the currecnt state of the Ice Mound section of the level in engine, which I’ve nicknamed the “Box Canyon” in reference to the fact it has a subtle rectangular appearance at present. This will likely be changed dramatically throughout the course of August and September.