Defiance (Xbox 360/PS3/PC):
As the first level designer hired on I helped to form most of the playable space of the game world working alongside the environment artists using Trion’s proprietary terrain editor. It was my responsibility to get in there and really mold the world according to how we wanted play to flow. We had a handful of generic props that I would drop down to created the basic POI’s in the world and in no time at all we could run the game and drive around and see what our travel paths were like and how the flow between them worked out. As a finishing touch I would put down all sorts of visual markers for the art team that they could identify as various different game play locations. Once we were happy with things on the design side, I would put together detailed zone documents that would get passed over to the environment artists containing all our notes about the area so they knew what spots were more for decoration and what spots needed to stay as is for game play reasons.
As I mocked up the areas I also populated them to test game play using Trion’s proprietary population editor and once Art was ready to start their beautification passes, I moved over to polishing up the game play for many of the mission locations. 11 of the major POI’s in the game contain population done by me. At some point in production the decision was made for the Art team to build a handful of generic templates rather than fleshing out all the unique areas that I had made. Over a years worth of time went into that before they finally realized that game play suffered because of that (something I repeatedly told them was going to happen) and the level design team was allowed to make a handful of unique spots to give the world a bit more flavor. Unfortunately the large majority of the POI locations that I had built had gotten replaced with the templates so there are only a handful of spots in the world that still have my stamp on them. Those are called out in the video above.
I’ve also included two videos below that show how two of our zones used to look before we did the artistic shift. Both videos are great examples in showing the terrain I deforming to define the landscape, and the usage of temp props to block out game play spaces. The first shows a previous incarnation of Madera (I actually rebuilt that zone three times during my run at Trion) when it was a still a bit marsh like had more to do with oil and mining. The second is Quadlake which is what Mt. Tam used to be called. You can see it is quite different as originally it was a snow capped mountainous area showing of the remnants of abandoned military outposts as well as terraforming gone wild.
Along the way I also picked up the task of creating the majority of what we call “emergencies” (pockets of dynamic combat content found all over the game world). These are essentially quick encounters that try to tell a bit of a visual story. I did not get any special support for doing these so I just kind of had to hack them together using whatever props I could and whatever bits and pieces of generic dialog and character animation that were fitting. I’ve created 75-80% of all the emergencies that can be found in the game.
We are now focusing on post launch content and currently I have been creating just about all of the emergencies for our TV Tie In content as well as designing and populating one of the combat arenas that will be in an upcoming DLC pack.