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About

Website: game.colum.edu/projects/spacerace/

Genre: First-Person Competitive Multiplayer Runner

Description:

The Metacosmic Earth Race is a first-person competitive LAN foot-racing game. Up to four players race through a course that is littered with what remains of a crashed alien ship, a diner, and the desert terrain of New Mexico. Players will encounter different obstacles and even gravity shifts along the way. Not only are players racing to the finish line - they are also collecting artifacts as they run the length of the course. Whomever finishes the race fastest, AND with the most artifacts, shall be declared the victor.

Number of Players: 1-4



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Interested in checking out the project on your own? Download the game below!

'The Metacosmic Earth Race'


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Development Information

Role:

Level Designer

Responsibilities:

As a Level Designer for The Metacosmic Earth Race, it was my responsibility to design/iterate upon a multiplayer level design for the 2015 Senior Capstone Project at Columbia College Chicago. My responsibilities included coordinating/collaborating with the gameplay team and the art team, executing level design tasks, assigning level design tasks, implementing art assets into the level, scripting obstacles, and updating my team on a week-by-week basis.

Tools/Technology:

Unity3D Logo

Hansoft Logo

Hansoft Logo

Development Time:

DevTime
~30 Weeks

Team Size:

TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize TeamSize
(30)

Challenges:

Most of the problems we encountered during the development of TMER stemmed from the fact that everyone on the team was a student, and as much as it pains me to to admit it, even as Seniors in college, we were still in the learning process.

The following are a few of the more specific challenges we came across along the way.

Cross-Discipline Communication

Whenever you're working with people, communication can be difficult. The more people that are working on a project, the more people have to be communicated with - thus making upkeep in general, somewhat of a challenge.

The Metacosmic Earth Race is without a doubt the biggest project that I, or any of my team members had ever worked on. Working on a 30+ team member project, comprised entirely of students, is almost unheard of - however it's something that I learned to value over the seven months of development. Learning to communicate effectively to each and every discipline can definitely be a hard thing to manage.

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Screenshot of a few of the task assignments in Hansoft

Solution:

Our solution to this problem was to communicate as often as possible and as clearly as possible through multiple channels. Our team used Hansoft, private email systems, and direct communication throughout the entirety of development in order to stay on top of this project and keep up-to-date.

As the Level Designer, it was my additional responsibility to have open communication with the Lead Game Designer, the Lead Environment Artist, and the rest of the level design team. Communication is a must-have skill in this industry, and I think that through this project experience, and many others, it's something that I have gained a lot of insight in to and practiced over and over again.

Level Design Iterations

As you'll see in the 'Development Progression' Section of this project, there were quite a number of level design iterations that happened as this game continued to develop.

Re-designing/shifting pieces of the level around (especially if it's already a particularly fun space) is not always a particularly enjoyable task to complete - it's never easy to tweak and adjust a level to what is seemingly perfection, only to have to change it later on due to developments in other areas of the game. Looking back, this rather frustrating experience also challenged me to really dig into the design of each and every section of the level and think of all the different ways the level could still be interesting to playthrough.

Solution:

GET OVER IT! Never get married to a particular idea or design, because it may have to change later down the road, and whether that change is drastic or miniscule, the design will still have to be fun.

Development Progression:

This has been the biggest and longest-running project that I have ever been a part of - whenever you're in development for longer periods of time, you learn a lot about the game as you go, and it gradually morphs into something that is, sometimes, very different than what you started on.

The following is a tracking of that progression, from beginning to end.

In the Beginning...

Like most level designers, we decided to start on paper....sort of. We spent the early days of the project mocking up different top-down map designs and worked on those for at least two weeks before actually diving into the engine. This allowed us to really focus and be ready for grayboxing when it came time to take that step.


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Initial Topdown Map - Overall Map

Our level design went through multiple iterations after receiving more feedback from the team. Since our game gives players the ability to walk on different walls & surfaces when inside certain structures, the level design itself was rather complex - even in the simplest of rooms. This style of gamepley makes level design a bit tricky, because we had to think about all of the different route options that we were giving players for each surface, how the player would get from one surface to another and how we could still give players the freedom to choose their own route through the level.


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Initial Interior Topdown Maps - Shipwreck Sections 1 - 4

Topdown maps become increasingly difficult to make when the player is able to walk on more than one surface, which resulted in top-down maps that were complicated and had to be sort of "unfolded." After deciding on a "final" level design, we moved on to grayboxing the environment.


A Gray Box Here, A Gray Box There...Moving to 3D

As we grayboxed our level, we learned a lot more about the space - we took our player controller that we had at the time and ran around in the space to get a feel for it. After all - it's nearly impossible to completely understand what a 3D space will look like on a 2D piece of paper. After testing it out, we gradually began to adjust the space as needed - everything from drastic interior changes, to simple terrain editing.


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Graybox Section 1 - Engineering Deck - Version 1

This first graybox was our attempt to get the geometry of the level into the scene and test our player's movement throught the level. We learned a lot from this graybox - such as avoid putting sharp turns in the level, because it doesn't give the player as much time to comprehend the area that they're about to go through.

Slowly, but surely...

In this second graybox of the same section, you'll notice that we began implementing early art assets, as well as more functionality to the level design. We also added checkered flooring in order to really feel how fast the player was moving - which, in a racing game, is quite important.

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Graybox Section 1 - Engineering Deck - Version 2

Once we got our grayboxes finalized, we began receiving more finalized art assets from the environment art team. This is where the final level design iterations took place. It was also probably one of the more frustrating times during development.

Art assets that we received would be misscaled, missing textures, etc. My level design team was also frustrated that, throughout development, the level design had to shift and change a number of times, due to any number of factors - whether it was to better fit the art, or changes to the player movement - every single change seemed to have a domino effect - although - it's worth noting that most of the changes that occurred during production were definitely necessary in making the final game feel good.


Preparation for GDC 2015

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GDC Build Screenshots

While the game was not quite finished at this stage, this project had already come a long way from its beginnings. It was at around this time in development, that we were given the opportunity, to showcase The Metacosmic Earth Race on the Expo floor at the 2015 Game Developer's Conference. We received lots of great feedback that we then took into consideration for the last few months of development that we had left.

Polish, Playtest, & Present

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Final Build Screenshots

For the last few weeks of the semester we focused entirely on how we could continue to improve the game and the player experience solely by adjusting what was already in the game. This phase of the project was no easy task. As the level designers, the levels were final - however, small adjustments had to be made in order to truly accentuate the feel of the game. After weeks of polishing, and playtesting, it finally came time to break open the floodgates and show the game to the community.

Two of the main events that we showcased the final project at were Manifest 2015 and Industry Night. These showcases were great ways to hear from professionals and the community on what they thought about the game - it was also great to take a step back and appreciate all of the hard work that went into this game.

Postmortem

This project was huge. I was (and still am) amazed at the number of people that we had involved on it and of how much we got done. We finished out the project properly by conducting a postmortem in which each and every member of the team was able to give feedback on the project. This gave us all a great opportunity to really take a step back and think about what went right on the project, what went wrong on the project, and why did it all happen the way that it did? Had we known what we know now, what would we have changed during development?

These are just some of the many questions that we found ourselves answering. The great thing about this opportunity is having the ability to take what we learned working on this project and apply it to any and all of our future projects.