The Monolith

An FPS level made in Unreal Engine 4 inspired by Titanfall 2 by Respawn Entertainment

Introduction

Play as a marine who has to take the path through a mining plant in order to reach the mysterious monolith.

Goals

  • Create a level with focus on combat encounters

  • Use composition to establish player goals 

  • Use visual scripting to recreate the movement system of Titanfall 2

Specifications

  • 7 weeks half time (4h/day)

  • Made in Unreal Engine 4

  • First person perspective 

  • Used assets from Advanced Village Pack by Advanced Asset Packs, Blocking Starter Pack by Xavier Loux and assets from Cloudheist.

  • Some additional assets made in Maya

Overview

Pre-production

I began looking at the movement system of Titanfall 2 identifying how jumps, wall running and sliding worked together. Then I made estimates for how long it would take and how I could script these systems. I started with the paper design and blocking in UE4, going back and forth until the layout felt right. I also decided to use AI soldiers we got from our educators during a course to save time for other parts of the project.

Early paper design

References

Scripting

I started setting up a system that handled the different movement states the player was in and how they transitioned between one another. It was important that the movement felt smooth. I setup a short obstacle course where I had other designers test it, taking their feedback into account and tweaking the movement system further.

Wall running

Slide

Double jump and slide on landing

Weapon demo

Next I created an automatic projectile based weapon with unlimited ammo. However, the weapon will overheat if the player keeps holding down the trigger leaving s/he vulnerable for a couple of seconds until it’s cooled down.

From Blockout to Whitebox

The cave was the first area I blocked out and it was intended as a tutorial for the movement controls. This area was quite straight forward in the translation from paper design to actual blockout in Unreal whereas the other parts went through a lot of iterations.

Cave progress 1

Cave progress 2

In my first paper design there was only one large area after the cave where the idea was to create a large combat arena where the player would fight through waves of enemies. This changed as the player was able to run straight through and not engage in combat at all. By splitting the area into two smaller, more defined, spaces I was able to make more focused combat zones as well as give each zone a good flow for the player to use the movement capabilities in.

Site One progress

Site Two progress

It was important to establish the goal for the player in every area as well as the overarching goal (reaching the monolith). In order to achieve this I used composition techniques and scripted events.

Combat encounters 

The general idea of the combat gameplay is that the player has the advantage as long as s/he is moving. I wanted to promote a style of play that was more aggressive rather than passive. Each combat area also had to empower the player’s movement capabilities so that the player can move around without any difficulties.

Site One

This is the first combat encounter of the map and it gives the player a lot of advantages from start, e.g. a good vantage point to plan the approach. The player can either take the top lane which provides more cover or the bottom lane that's more direct but leaves the player quite vulnerable due to the enemies elevated position. Buildings in the area are good for cover but also limit the player’s movement, making the player more vulnerable if rushed by enemies.

Site One combat

Site Two & Loading Bay

This encounter starts with the player seeing the loading bay building and the elevator going up to it. There are five enemies guarding the ground area that the player needs to take out before calling down the elevator. Once in the elevator the player will go up to the level's final challenge, inside the loading bay. The player is thrown into the area and must act as soon as the elevator door opens. The loading bay has a fairly large layout but is much more close quarters than the earlier combat encounters, which keeps the pressure on the player.

Loading bay combat

Closing thoughts and improvements

This project has been a considerable challenge and ultimately a bit too large in scope. Despite this I am very happy with the movement system and gun play. However, if I would have had more time to work on this level I would:

  • Iterate further on the combat encounters and have more playtests. They have been a bit difficult to do recently due to the current state of the world (covid-19). The ones I had before all of this were very valuable. I would have created an exe of the level and sent it around, taking in all the feedback I could to improve the feel of the encounters.

  • Communicate more clearly about which surface the player can wall run on. At the moment the player can wall run on designated rock walls and all man made structures. This could be more intuitively communicated by having all of the smooth wall surfaces runnable and uneven surfaces not wall runnable.  

  • Iterate further on the loading bays layout, as it's not as interesting or logical as I would like it to be. It's also not as satisfying to move around in as it feels like the environment is working against you at times.

  • Make the end more interesting. Currently the player only gets a nice view and that's it. An idea would be to have a final wall run section where the player has to board a space carrier before it takes off.

Full playthrough & screenshots

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