Eira - Making the Levels

Week 4

New Game Name

One of the first things we started last sprint was coming up with a new name for the game, especially since we changed the concept and a lot about the game since it had been dubbed Vacuum Vault. Coming up with a name for anything is incredibly difficult. Normally, I just resort to creating an acronym with peoples’ names, but we needed a better game name so that it can be memorable for recruiters in the future. The content team got together and thought-dumped all possible name and word ideas into a huge document. We had lots of joke names like “Frozen 3” and “Ice Girls,” and we had serious names like “Frozen and Forgotten” and “Arctic Adventure.” No one was completely sold on any name we came up with so we began to look at other game titles for inspiration.

Focusing on kids games, the titles always have a short, punchy title with hard syllables such as “Spyro,” “Ratchet and Clank,” and “Crash Bandicoot.” They are normally named after the main character and followed with a short phrase to identify a game in the series. Although we don’t want to officially name the main character to keep the first person character androgynous and this is definitely going to be the only installation in the series, we wanted to follow this naming convention to create a strong and memorable title.

After much more brainstorming, we found a name for the main character, Eira. Another teammate, Nick Deluzio, had found the name which, derived from Welsh, meant snow. Most people really like the sound of it--something short, has a strong ending, and relatively easy to pronounce. Then, thinking about how the player follows in the footsteps of their grandpa, finding the traces of where he has been, we were thinking about the phrase being Echoes of [Grandpa’s name]. The alliteration helped to make the title more catchy. Finally, to end the title, the project owner and design lead, Andy Pinckney, pitched some names for grandpa, and Egil (pronunciation: eagle), meaning respect was the name chosen by most of the team. With that Vacuum Vault is now called Eira: Echoes of Egil.


Putting Brainstorming Together

While the game name occurred in meeting discussions, I worked on level two throughout the two sprints. Starting out, I had all of the brainstorming and research I had done previously and well as all of the planned systems for the game written out; now it was time to put it together into an actual level. I started by taking some of the experiences I wanted, like breaking down icicles to make platforms, and started linking them together and putting it in a space trying to create a logical progression of puzzles that won't be too difficult for our young audience and a level that's big enough to encourage exploration and keep the kind of sand box feel that the game had previously.

I always begin my level sketches on paper, quickly drawing out ideas, scenarios, and easily changing things around. Although pen and paper can look messy really quickly, I find that I can get my thoughts down quicker and in some odd way the messy organization helps me to better understand the level I am trying to make. Once I create a plan that I like, I make a level design document for it and make a cleaner and easier to read map in Adobe Illustrator. From there, I make a quick blockout to test my idea and then begin iterations on the blockout if the tests go well or go back to the drawing board if not.




Iteration and Research

The first iteration of anything is always the worst version as was the case with level 2. With this as the first level the player has the fire upgrade in, I wanted to focus the level around fire and ice, at least more ice than just the environment and the marching cubes snow. I knew I wanted to include ice blocks as a medium object (one that the gun can collect and hold but won’t go into the inventory) especially after hearing about the mining theme that is going to be included in level 1, so I drew some inspiration from the ice mining scene from Frozen. With this in mind, I had created a small oblong level. I had the ship land in an enclosed section at the beginning so that the player would have to use the fire to move on and I wanted the player to have to break down icicles for platforms. I wanted the player to see their end goal (grandpa's camp) from the start so I placed it on an elevated platform next to the starting area that they'd have to find a way up to. With all this, the first map I made focused simply on the golden path, with side areas added once I was happen with the core of the level.

Once I finished drawing it out, my first level was awful but I at least had a start. From there, I went back and did a bit more research by watching a lot of gameplay videos of mostly Super Mario Odyssey, Ratchet and Clank, and Sypro and began modifying what I already had with new ideas I gathered from those three games again, like hidden areas can be visible through a sheet of unmeltable ice, but players might not know how to get on the other side of the ice. Finally, I had a level that I liked. I got it approved by Andy and moved onto the blockout.


Blockout

With my plan final, I began blocking it out in engine. I decided to start working directly in the engine to speed up the blockout process and be able to get the level to the team as quickly as possible so that they could see it and test it out. Probuilder, Unity’s geometry plugin, was already installed in the project. While it has a lot of helpful settings, it is a very clunky tool to use mostly because it doesn’t have subtractive geometry, the size of the geometry can only be edited when the geometry is made or a face extruded, and a grid system is not built in and is also an external plugin. As a result, I needed to install Progrids that has some bugs when using it with Probuilder. Despite the challenges with the technology, I did a basic blockout with the level mostly to figure out the scale of the space since the programmers are still working on some of the mechanics for the levels to be fully done. For the next week, I will be doing some temporary level events to simulate the actual mechanics so that we can fully prove the concept of the game.


Level 2 blockout without marching cubes

VectorBWLogo2 copy.png
Claire Yeash

Game Designer and UX Researcher