Dagon's Mouth

UDK Level

Fall 2011
Role: Level Designer
Music: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Dagon's Mouth is a single-player UDK level set in an underwater environment. The player traverses a series of underwater volcanic vents in search of a great treasure. Developing this project occupied the entirety of ITGM 741, during which it underwent many different iterations. The focus was on creating interesting encounters using the Unreal-based bots and kismet, as well as creating an underwater atmosphere.

Since this project was built I have learned to script my own AI and have a more flexible range of tools.

The original design was meant to imitate the design style of Far Cry, with an emphasis on bots taking patrol paths and the player having some leeway in creative problem-solving. The initial design was unsuccessful due to both limitations in the bots' ability to conform to the design as well as the player's freedom of movement being too significant and overpowering the bots' ability to maneuver against the player. Simply put, the player could moon-jump over the bots and easily mop the floor with them. Additionally the original design spread itself too thin, as a design directive of the assignment was to create multiple routes to the end of the level, and these routes increased overhead on the design without adding anything significant to the player's enjoyment. It was essentially a "flip a coin" decision, with the player making decisions without fully understanding what each direction entailed.

The second iteration of this level re-focused the design on a single environment and a simpler risk-reward scheme, with the player being put under a pacing mechanic in the form of an oxygen meter. Mobility was restricted, but the player could use their air supply to jet around and gain additional mobility, enabling them to take advantage of shortcuts. The shortcuts outweighed the added pressure, however, and the restriction of air was found to be stifling. Additionally, the encounters with the bots were still poorly structured due to AI limitations and an overreaching scope on the environment. However, several environmental elements were found to be more successful in engaging the player with the concept of the underwater environment than the bots, namely the use of underwater jets and volcanic vents.

The third iteration of Dagon's Mouth thus focused on creating an interesting flow using these environment-based mechanics. The elements of jetting and oxygen were removed to give the player leeway in experimenting, and the entire environment was made to incorporate and focus on maneuvering around volcanic areas and directional "jump jets." The kismet-based AI was simplified to environment-specific, pre-scripted encounters and behaviors, with bots reacting to different zones and triggers that the player steps into in order to create ambushes and strategic "puzzles." This proved the most successful design by far, though shortcomings still existed in that aesthetic elements in the environment suggested paths that were not taken into account, mis-leading players. Also, the jump jets used a physics volume setup. This was unreliable, as the jets' strength depended greatly on the player's framerate and required more control than should have been necessary to make an ascent.