Platform:

TBA

Tools:

Unity 3D, Probuilder, DIscord, Dungeon Scrawl, Plastic

Role:

Level Designer

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BACKFIREWALL_

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Backfirewall is a First Person Narrative Puzzle game about exploring the User's phone and completing the new update! You play as the Update Manager, a program tasked with carrying out the new update for the phone you call home. This causes the end of the current OS (OS 9) and the rise of the new OS (OS 10), but something in the update has gone awry.

Make your way through the phone with both OS's on your shoulders. Solve puzzles, learn about the User, and complete the update to save the phone!

Duties

  • Concepted levels in 2D, and then converted the concepts into 3D whiteboxes using ProBuilder

  • Worked with the Narrative lead to create Levels that helped guide the vision, flow, and mechanics of the project while in the Prototype stage

  • Used components and visual scripting to script puzzles, hazards, and environmental events

  • React, adapt, and iterate based on frequent changes to prototype design

  • Participated in design meetings and discussions with a team that is spread across the world

  • Worked with my lead to make sure tasks were done efficiently, thoroughly, and on time

Design Pillars

  • Environments draw from real world concepts fused with components of the phone

  • Puzzles make the player feel like they are changing or fixing the world they move through

  • Narrative events have far reaching effects on both the main story and side story

  • Mechanics support and influence the main and side narratives

Battery

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Batteries rely on manipulating particles to create electricity. To fuse it with a real-world location, I used nuclear power plants as references to create a space that feels dangerous and industrial. Pipes, catwalks, and deadly liquids provided a base structure to expand upon. 

 

I built Battery to be a quicker level, one that takes place during a high-action narrative moment. Because of this, the player doesn't stay on each island for long. Puzzles are quick and relatively easy to solve to keep up the pace.

One of the challenges when designing The Battery was how to introduce two new concepts in the same level: a new set of Interactables, the Plug and the Outlet, and a new "hacking command" called Duplicate. Both of these mechanics will be seen throughout the game. They are taught on this first contained space, even though the player only has immediate access to the Plug and Outlet. Players will find two pressure plates, but nothing to weigh them down with. After they grab the Plug from the small outcropping and plug it into the nearby Outlet, the player can ride the platform to the upper area to meet a personified character, Battery. She demonstrates Duplicate by duplicating the cube she has, and players can then proceed to the next area. The player will then obtain the Duplicate command later in the level already understanding how it functions.

Wi-Fi

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Wi-Fi at its core is a way for phones to grab file packages so they can sort and present data.  A perfect real-life counterpart was a space similar to a post office, filled with luggage-sorting equipment.

I wanted to give the feeling that the facility was still operational, but only just, with significant inefficiencies due to a problem with the update. Stuff was still getting done, but with the place held together by duct tape and digital bubblegum. 

 Wi-fi is a chaotic place and the crossing, winding pipes, and places for packages to drop from one to another helps give it a sense that one thing out of line would cause everything to explode.

Wi-Fi introduces a level specific tool called Oscillators, so instead of going directly from the Reception Room to the Sorting Area, I wanted something in between to really demonstrate the new tool. I designed a climbing area that would introduce the Oscillators as you climbed to the Sorting Area.

The first floor had players manipulating the Oscillators with "hacking" commands, the second had players moving and directing them, and the third had a combination. This way, players would be more confident when using the new tool in the final sorting event.

Data Pipes

The Data Pipes area is based on circuit board traces and wires. Traces and wires carry electricity like pipes and sewers carry water. This level is where all the data pipes in the phone meet, and the collection of data is similar to the collection of water in a storm drain. These similarities created base for the design of the Data Pipes area.

The player must lower the data that's flowing from above by finding and turning valves to vent the excess data to proceed. The "water level" makes it impossible for the player to jump all the way down and abuse possible mechanics or physics to skip the entire level. The venting creates a feeling of discovery and transforms the level as you progress. 

Quite a few levels have a lot of focus on going up so to add variety I wanted this level to focus on going down.

 

The biggest challenge when it came to designing this level was figuring out how to create a space that felt precarious and open while still having coherent puzzle designs. The data flow was instrumental in giving me the ability to break up the space. When the "water level" lowers, the player is extra focused on the new area, making it easier for them to figure out which newly uncovered elements will connect with what they've already encountered.

To give a sense of it being a more lived in and less sterile space I added Processes in boats. They help to flesh out the Collector character, as they help him collect user data, and provide a small visual pun as they are technically Phishermen. The player might worry that one or two to of the little guys could get moored on a walkway, but as the player progresses they will see that the boats are anchored in the perfect position to never have a problem. Along with this little bit of added tension and release, these Phishermen become the lynchpin to the final puzzle on the lowest level of the Data Pipes, with each one knowing part of the code the player needs to progress.