© 2019 by Franck Labat.

My demo is named “Symbiosis”, it’s a Narrative Infiltration First Person Shooter that takes place in a Tech Noir Sci-Fi Universe.

 

It's entirely imagined and realized by myself under Unreal 4.17.2 (using Unreal Demos as basic material).

 

You can find links below to download the Executable, plus a video capture.

A short Game Design Document is also following this link below and explains my design intention for this demo.

Video Capture of the Demo

Backstory:


The year is 2185, all major cities across Europe, Asia, and Africa have merged into one giant megalopolis. Africa is now the heart of this new world, and the hub of the New Road Silk.

 

The main character is Szymon Nakamura, he’s a former augmented mercenary.

Nakamura is totally broken. Recently he gathered intelligence about the legendary Baron Kromer (who is allegedly an AI Merchant).

 

Kromer treasures one of the most valuable ancient artifact in his mansion. Nakamura has decided to break into Kromer’s Mansion in Kinshasa, and steal the artifact.

Nakamura owns a symbiotic companion AI called Syry loaded into his neural implant since he was born. She grew up with him, she can see what he sees, she can speak with him (like in the movie Her), she's like his little sister.

The game starts at dawn, Nakamura has managed to get to the dock of the mansion by hacking a flying car.

Plot: Who is really Baron Kromer? What is the nature of this ancient artifact? What is the truth behind the symbiotic relationship between Syry and Nakamura?

Gameplay Mechanics:

The game is a First Person Shooter, you can basically walk, run, sprint, jump, and look around you. 

Plus you can open fire, and also reload your gun, grab up munitions and MediKits.

The 3Cs are inherited from ShooterGame, which is an Unreal Demo provided and distributed by Epic Game as a project example.

It’s an infiltration game, so you have the choice by either sneaking behind your enemies or killing them.

I also designed AI guards opponents, who have the same capabilities than the player. They have two modes: Patrol mode and Alarm mode.

While Patrolling the guards are following a designed path through a succession of waypoints placed into the Level.

If one of them see the player they switch to the Alarm Mode for 10 seconds, all the guards are then chasing the player. When the Alarm Mode shuts down, all the guards return to their patrol paths.

I've also added camera encounters. If the player enters the light beacon of the camera, the Alarm Mode is triggered as well.

You can kill the guards but can’t deactivate or shoot the cameras.

Level Design:

Macro Level Design:

 

The mansion is on the top of a skyscraper above the clouds.

 

The level is a bottom-up closed area essentially with a succession of Big To Small areas.

 

So far you can explore the Docks and the Garden.

 

But I will add the Maze and the Mansion (indoor area) very soon.

Micro Level Design and flow:


 

The Garden is the core experience. It's a simplified version of a garden following 

It’s composed of 5 closed areas (called chambers) around a safe area (the hub).

I used units and metrics to rationalize my layout, to adjust the ramping of difficulty, and ensure a good challenge and a good pacing.

Mainly my space unit is a 10x10 meters floor square. The Main Character needs 2 seconds to run along 10 meters (100m in 20s, Usain Bolt world record is 9s58), that was my principle unit to define an experience that takes about 10 minutes to be completed. 1 chamber is generally measuring 30x30 meters (area of 3x3 = 9 space units).

About the metrics, the idea is to progressively densify the chambers. By slowing down the progress of the player, essentially by increasing the spawning of the enemies (guards + cameras). But also narrowing down the space by blocking the way following what would be visually a Tech Noir garden.

Breakdown of the mission:

Here are the 3 main objectives:

  1. Enter the mansion

  2. Hack the Main Panel

  3. Enter the Maze

Before actually beginning the mission a tutorial takes place on the docks when you are learning the controls. You can also get some munitions, and learn to shoot and kill the first guard too. It's also introducing the first camera of the demo.

Then you're entering the Garden, and get to the entrance of the mansion. So you realized the door is closed, and opening it is gonna be much more difficult than expected.

Then begins the 2nd objective “Hack the control panel”. You have to go through the 3 most difficult chambers of the demo before getting to the control panel.

But when you finally get to the room of the control panel, and activate it, you realized it's opening a door to a maze, when you will find the actual mansion entrance opening panel. Then starts the 3rd Objective "Enter The Maze"

In this control panel room, I also introduce 3 elements, the rocket launcher, a destructible wall and a shortcut to the hub.

 

You can then blow up the cracked wall in this room, and access to a 3D platform sequence that is a shortcut to get back to the Hub / Mansion Entrance.

The demo ends when you get to the entrance of the maze that is next to the hub after accessing the 5th chamber.

I also added a checkpoint system and placed checkpoints along the level to avoid very long back and forth between the beginning and the last point when you died.

Rational Level Design:

I fine tuned many other game metrics/variables like bots health points, pickup ammo/clips, medikit, vision angle of the cameras, speed and health of the guards (slow or fast guards).

 

Combinations of these metrics can leverage considerably the challenge for the player. It leads me to create a synthetic Rational Level Design Table for each chamber.

 

It also helped me to tune a quite smooth ramping of difficulty during the demo.

My Level Design Intention is to push the player to study the layout, and the patrol paths, and to figure out the optimal path, and ultimately feeling cunning when figuring out a sneaky strategy.

You can also fight and rush into your opponents, but triggering the alarm in chambers 2, 3 or 4 is almost suicidal, because you'll have too many encounters to escape or to fight.

 

Also if the alarm is triggered the Gate Number 1 is closing immediately, prevent the player to rush the level by sprinting to the 2nd objective directly.

Narratives: 

All the narratives are in block-out dialogs between Nakamura and Syry (Information bubble with line of dialogs inside).

 

The idea is to uncover step by step the plot and the backstory by using in-game dialogs.

Visual References:

I created vista into the game, essentially the city above the clouds and the mansion.

I also added some landmarks to help the player to provide a good world awareness.

My main inspiration in terms of universe and aesthetic is the Netflix TV show Altered Carbon.

Post-Mortem:

It was a very interesting exercise. I did this demo in 10 days (+ 2 days of polish), I was really productive and try to keep good quality even though I had to rush many steps in my process.

I'm working now on a road-map to extend the demo (adding Maze + Mansion essentially).

 

Plus I know I can improve the AI, fine-tune my RLD by getting feedbacks from players testing my demos, refine a little bit the layout of the garden, and also optimize technically the level to improve the overall performance.