Rebirth Facility Level Design Foundations and Basic Blockout

Introduction

In this blog, I will be breaking down the process I underwent to build the foundational blockout for the Rebirth Facility level, intended to be a Strike in Destiny 2.

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

Level Streaming and why it was used

Before building the blockout, I made a development decision to use Level Streaming for building this level.

This decision was made because the use of Level Streaming would allow me to break the level down into smaller chunks. This meant that I could edit individual rooms without affecting other rooms and areas in the level. Furthermore, this would help to optimise the level’s performance.

The video below shows a very basic Level Streaming setup in action.

Floor Blockout

After getting the Level Streaming set up for the level, it was time to build the floor plan and doorway placements of the entire level, using the level streaming volumes to contain the individual rooms. This was the very starting foundation for the rest of the level building for this entire project.

Wall Blockout and Spinning Platforms

After doing the floor blockout, I built the walls for the entire level. I used three different wall sizes to create variety in room height based on how tall storeys would be. In addition to the varied room heights, this could lead to possible ways to create alternative routes within the level later on to avoid the level design becoming extremely linear later on.

The video below shows a variety of wall sizes being used for different rooms.

Also in the video was an experimental use of rotating platforms. One in the form of a large fan with blades large enough for the player to jump on and use, the second being a board-like rotating platform which was inspired by a game from the old Japanese game show, Takeshi’s Castle. At this point, no final decisions were made for which spinning platform would be used to help the player to jump super large gaps. For the time being, this is just an experiment to see which platform would better fit the environmental storytelling of the level in addition to what would be more fun to play.

Fan Platform

The “Takeshi’s Castle Wipe Out” Platform

Object Placements

Elevator Section

One of the biggest objects used for this basic blockout was the Elevator. This was used to transition the player from the initial part of the level, where they are first introduced to the level’s mechanics, to the rest of the level where they will explore the ruins of an underground hospital for Exos.

A noteworthy thing about the elevator is that it has the potential to really build up tension, subtly telling the player that the level is about to get much harder and that they are heading deep into enemy territory.

Doors

As shown in the video below, different coloured doors were used to communicate whether the player could walk through it (Yellow) or had to take a key from an enemy before they could go through (Purple). The door placements are not final at this point and mimic the original plan in the 2D map from the previous blog.Any changes and final design decisions would be taken much later in the project.

Natural Environment for Ice Mound

As the beginning of the level was planned to be a small section of exploring a harsh, wintery environment until the player found themselves at the entrance of the Rebirth Facility, I used Unreal Engine’s built-in BSP geometry to create the basic blockout for this natural environment. I felt as if this method allowed for more freedom to create more natural looking environments due to the ability to edit objects at vertex level in addition to experimenting with different sizes for objects for the same reason.

Future Plans and Possibilities

What is next for Rebirth Facility?

Now that the basic blockout is done and is working, it’s now time to start building a more detailed blockout for each part of the level individually. This will mainly consist of larger details such as room shape, additional floors in taller rooms, making the level appear less uniform (particularly the parts of the level that will show the damage caused over time by nature), communicating doorways that the player can’t use and placement of gameplay elements such as the shielded enemies and so on.

This is the part I’m certainly very exited to do as this is where I can really flex my creativity.

Potential Issues

Level Scope

It’s been acknowledged that the scope of the Rebirth Facility level is very large despite not being mechanically heavy. As of right now, I will be sticking with what I have in preparation for further development. If it turns out that the large scope of the level has a negative effect on how fun the level is for the player and/or causes the player to not fully explore the level, I will look into cutting parts of the level out that are not necessary.

In a future project, the scope will be taken much more into consideration, trimming anything that isn’t necessary early and before going into full development.