Halo 2 Mausoleum of the Arbiter

Halo 2 Mausoleum of the Arbiter

Role: Level Designer

Responsibilities

  • Analysed and recreated the Mausoleum of the Arbiter from Halo 2 in Unreal Engine 4
  • Iterated on the original level to create a more sombre version of the level using lighting elements
  • Built Level Blockout using BSP Geometry Brushes and a Blockout Tools plugin for Unreal Engine 4
  • Polished the Level Design to improve upon the original work by adding more cover and aesthetic additions

 

Feel free to Download and play the Mausoleum of the Arbiter for yourself!

Relevant Blogs

Design Intention

The Level Design objective is to recreate and improve upon a segment of the level Gravemind from Halo 2, specifically the ending of the level where the Master Chief is caught between warring Covenant factions in a special place known as the Mausoleum of the Arbiter and is suggested to sit out the conflict and finish off what’s left.

In the original level, the player enters Mausoleum of the Arbiter in the middle of warring Covenant factions, effectively making them a pig in the middle of the war that both sides want dead, but the player can avoid being caught in the middle of the conflict by staying back and letting the Covenant factions fight each other and the player finishing off what’s left of the battlefield.

Following a deep analysis of the original level, I wanted to create further ways for the player to traverse the level through object placement, creating additional areas for the player and enemies to use as cover and/or use to gain an advantage in combat (i.e. getting on the higher ground). A further improvement I wanted to make was to create a much darker, sombre scene using lighting methods.

Moodboard showing the original interior of the Mausoleum of the Arbiter from Halo 2

Design and Development Process

Weapons

Prior to designing the level, I created the gameplay using an analytical, breaking-down and reconstructing approach, to allow the player to use different types of Covenant weaponry. To see the creation of the gameplay, view my blog post from September 2020 where I break down the gameplay mechanics of the Covenant’s Plasma Weapons and recreate them using Blueprint.

Level Design

After completing the gameplay, I analysed the original Mausoleum of the Arbiter level, noting down the level flow, breaking down the layout of the environment, including looking at places for cover and/or possible places for the player to navigate the level, and critiquing the original level for possible improvements to be made, such as looking into creating a version of the level with darker lighting. View my blog post containing a detailed analysis of the original the the process of making the level blockout here.

Following the analysis and listing out the requirements, I began to create the level blockout in Unreal Engine 4 using BSP Geometry brushes and a Blockout Tool containing primitive shapes. Afterwards, I worked with the level lighting and adjusted it in terms of brightness, light range/distance and colour until I achieved a dimly lit environment where it was still possible for the player to see without difficulty while maintaining the illusion of a much darker environment. This was followed by placing physics-based objects, specifically primitive objects such as cubes, and weapon pickups for the player to use and interact with as they play the level.

Level Design Progression

To start with, I made an initial layout using Brush Geometry to create the initial foundations for the level.

The Starting Geometry of the Mausoleum of the Arbiter Remake

I then used created an inner ring using brush geometry to start blocking out the level layout.

Adding to the initial level layout

With the inital layout done, I then moved on to adding large pillars which would act as cover for the level. These pillars are also a big part of the original level design. In addition to this, I blocked out the centrepiece, which was part on the level’s environmental storytelling (that being a pod where the Arbiter got his armour).

Adding the Centrepiece and Side Pillars to the Level

Now that the foundations were in place, it was time to start working on finer details. I started by adding the doorways the communicate the entrance and exit of the Mausoleum.

Adding the Entrance and Exit Doorways

I then added walls and basic clutter to the entrance bridge.

Adding and Basic Cluttering of the Bridge the Player crosses to enter the Mausoleum

I then added the roof/ceiling for the Mausoleum and started to implement basic lighting.

Starting the Lighting of the Mausoleum’s Interior

After seeing that the level had a lot of darker areas that limited the player’s vision, I made the decision to add lighting to hidden areas in the level, such as the pillar interiors, to help the player to see while inside the rooms as well as seeing the rooms from the outside.

Adding additional lighting to improve visibility of hidden areas to the player

I continued to add more lighting and cover areas, as well as adding physics objects for the player to interact with, to form a first pass of the level.

Full First Pass with Lighting

Upon review of the first pass, I decided to iterate on the level to create my own improvements from the original level as well as fixing any issues that were found. To start with, I wanted to give the centrepiece the illusion of being raised higher than before, so I created a layered raised platform, which combined the use of cylinders and ramps so the player didn’t need to jump onto the raised platform and get close to the centrepiece.

Adding a more layered structure for the centrepiece

Something that was missing from the first pass of the level was areas for the Player and AI to use as cover, so I added some static objects, the red cuboids, to act as cover.

Adding Cover for the Player and AI to use

After making practical fixes, I cluttered the level with physics objects, cover objects and so on to populate the level and avoiding the player just walking forward in a straight line, as shown below.

Final Mausoleum of the Arbiter Exterior

For the interior of the Mausoleum, I made further iterations to the layout which added more pillars, as shown below, which provides more cover for the player and AI to use.

Final Mausoleum of the Arbiter Interior

What Worked?

Deconstruction of the original level to work out how the level should play and inform the base blockout

➤ Achieved improved lighting that created the intended effect of a darker level without having a negative effect on the player’s ability to navigate the level

➤ Making use of blockout tools to recreate the original environment in addition to making further additions to improve the level feel

➤ Achieved the intended reflective recreation of the original level and added further additions to the level for the player to use as cover

➤ Placed objects in ways that the player could use to open new paths in the level, an example of this is the use of two physics-based objects placed by a wall that the player can shoot down to create a new ramp up to higher ground

What could be Improved?

➤ Looking into alternative methods of blocking out the level, such as making more use of blockout tool plugins and/or primitive shapes built into Unreal Engine 4 due to risks of performance issues when using BSP geometry, particularly when running builds on older hardware, however, this shows abilities in optimisation and making the level more accessible to a wider range of hardware and audiences.

➤ Creating a level mockup using image manipulation software such as Photoshop or GIMP to plan the level before building it in engine to better plan out object placements and working out the level’s exact scale.

➤ During the polishing stage, I found that the level had a lot of wide-open spaces in addition to potentially boring scenarios where the player is walking in a straight line at the beginning and end of the level. This was resolved by placing additional objects to use as cover and/or obstacles for the player to navigate around

➤ Progress on the level design was slower than anticipated due to putting attention on programming elements, but this is not an entirely bad thing as it demonstrates my ability to script gameplay elements into my level designs.

Screenshots