Star Citizen is an ambitious space simulation MMO with a persistent universe, FPS components and a story-driven single-player campaign named Squadron 42. It is crowd-funded and developed live. The company is divided across 4 studios in the US and Europe, as well as multiple satellite studios.
I was the 2nd Level Designer recruited at the Frankfurt studio, and initially worked on a single-player mission for Squadron 42 remotely with the UK team. That level had been previously scoped down till almost nothing remained, and I had to keep the art workload to a minimum (one spaceship) while managing to make it a good experience.
The Frankfurt studio then took ownership of the MMO component, and I started creating hubs for players to shop, meet, trade… Designing locations without a flow of events in mind is an interesting challenge, more akin to architecture than standard level-design. I built the first pirate base of the game (called GrimHex), and split it into tiers so we could build it over multiple live releases.
Creating enough content to fill a universe was going to require a robust modular building set, so I pushed for and designed multiple iterations of that. It also wasn’t clear what players would be able to do to the environment and how we’d ensure some consistency throughout the game, so I took it upon myself to drive conversations, prototype and document such mechanics (power distribution, security, access, hacking, destruction, atmosphere…), as well as drafting a proposal for the mission system. It was important to spearhead those designs early on, as they would greatly affect how we developed new locations.
I whiteboxed a single-player mission for Squadron 42, then designed and oversaw the development of the pirate base called GrimHex. I took over the Levski excavation site, added new areas and access to its existing layout, and got it ready for the Gamescom 2016 live demo.
I prototyped and documented a modular building set, as well as the mission system and some environmental gameplay mechanics. I whiteboxed and worked with artists to deliver a modular archetype of a refueling station for large ships.
I was also the Lead LD’s right-hand when it came to recruitment and establishing processes, and was the point of contact for System Designers.
Ryse is a hack&slash set in the Roman era. It was a Xbox One launch title, and got released on PC later on as well. It features a singleplayer campaign that tells a story of revenge, betrayal and divine intervention, and cooperative multiplayer taking place in dynamic arenas made of tiles, in the Colosseum.
Many factors made this project challenging: new IP, launch title for a new console generation, new team, new genre for the company… Due to those circumstances, development was pretty chaotic, but we still managed to ship a decent game, on time.
More than anything, I learned how to balance communication, level-design tasks, documentation, and associated tasks such as maintaining the editor tools, training newcomers, reproducing bugs, creating test-maps for programmers, etc.
My most challenging undertaking was scripting the wall defense section of York. It is a complex combination of many events (catapults, turrets, attacks, defenders, siege ladders, siege towers…), all manually scripted. The player makes choices and gives commands to his soldiers which have consequences on the next phases of the battle. I believe it ended up being a pretty unique scene in the game, and only regret not having had better ways of communicating options/events to the player.
Pre-production: I prototyped gameplay mechanics and missions for a few months, then was put in charge of the Vertical Slice level.
Production: I designed the 6th level in the game, York (labelled Pax Romana), from beginning to end. This involved the usual documentation, block-out, asset placement, AI scripting, scripted events, mark-up, bug-fixing, optimization, balancing, etc.
I was also the owner of the LD scripting tools, taking care of the creation of modules, requests for tools, maintenance of the editor…
Post-Production: I built a multiplayer level for the last DLC, and handled bug-fixing for all DLC 3 and 4 levels.
The Call of the Fireflies is a puzzle-based singleplayer mod for Crysis. There are no guns, explosions or nanosuits involved. Just an old man who follows mysterious fireflies through mountains and dark caves, sleeping villages and frozen woods, and has to use all kinds of mechanisms to open his path, while battling to stay alive in the winter cold.
The games I was used to modding all possessed intrinsically fun features, such as shooting enemies, slowing down the time, cloaking & stealth, etc. Would I be able to create a fun experience if I were to remove these features and keep only the bare-bones of the player input? This project was such an experiment.
In the process, I got closer to the roots of level design, and had to develop aspects of my level that I used to consider secondary. It taught me a lot about designing puzzles, deepening the atmosphere thanks to visual effects and ambient sounds, guiding the player, and harmoniously combining all that. For more information, please refer to the Post Mortem. This project won the Editor’s Choice Original Art award at ModDB in 2010.
I imagined and developed the whole project, and am the author of all the new content, except for some custom vegetation and object packages, such as pine trees, an old barn and european plants. See the included manual for the complete list of external resources.
Mandate of Heaven is an ambitious custom singleplayer level for Crysis, taking place in a public park invaded by Chinese army renegades. The goal of the mission is to infiltrate the park and eliminate their commander, who established his headquarters in a sacred temple on the coast. It presents an open, varied and detailed environment to explore, intense battles, and multiple ways to reach your objectives.
The goal of this project was to learn how to tackle more open levels than what the Max Payne 2 engine had allowed me till this point. If the playable area is so large and the locations so varied, it’s because I wanted to experience a wide variety of difficulties this type of design involves. It also had to accommodate multiple gameplay styles such as stealth, ranged- and close-combat.
It was quite an undertaking as I had to model and texture all of the needed buildings and structures to give it the Chinese look that I was aiming for. While the resulting models aren’t really convincing, it helps the level differentiate itself from the tropical island setting so commonly seen in Crysis. More information can be found in the Post Mortem
I imagined and developed the whole project, and am the author of all the new content, except for the main tower asset which was done by Sayantan Biswas, as well as the entrance gate and shrines, which were part of a free model package.
KF-CornerMarket is an open, medium-sized level shaped around a small park, featuring the adjacent streets and the nearby market. I developed it under a month for the Killing Floor Grindhouse Mapping Contest, and it is based off a compilation of locations I have visited around London. It won the 3rd prize of the contest.
This level was a big challenge in many ways: I had never used UnrealED before, only had a month to complete it, it was my first multiplayer level, I had never created any texture from scratch, and I was just beginning to learn modeling. It went smoother than I had expected.
The urgency of the situation forced me to jump in and learn the necessary skills in a rush. Tutorials helped, but mostly common sense and trial and error. I needed a lot of custom meshes and textures to make the city come to life, and distinguish the level from the stock Killing Floor maps, but thanks to the reference I had from personal photographs, I was able to reach the goals I set for myself.
Taken individually, my custom textures and models won’t impress, but for a level that was done in a short delay and with little knowledge of the tools at hand, I believe the result is alright. For more information, read the related Post-Mortem.
Initially designed to be part of Mona: The Assassin, this impressive level was crafted by a couple of talented friends. When we decided to leave it out of that project, instead of letting it go to waste I figured I would script and release it as a stand-alone project, and ended up wrapping it up in a short noir story.
My take on this project was that it would be my last contribution to the Max Payne universe. The level my friend had crafted was looking great, so I wanted to make it justice by giving some sort of justification for the gameplay it hosted. Developing a deep story in a single level would be tricky, so it’s rough around the edges and pretty cheesy. But I believe the visual quality of the level, seconded by my attempt at presenting the otherwise shallow story in a cool way, provides a short but quite enjoyable experience.
I started off from the level geometry and scripted it, imagined a story around it and wrote the dialogues, created an introduction level, did all the coding and modifications necessary to make it feel as I wanted it to, and designed all the promo artwork.
This is the sequel to 7th Serpent: Crossfire. When the former leader of the project found himself unable to continue his modding work, I volunteered to take over the project and script two levels that the team had already crafted. The initial scenario was written for 7 chapters, but I tried to wrap it all up in one. This is one of my most polished mods.
I started off trying to emulate the intensity of the first episode (called Crossfire, and which had the player fighting through a futuristic city against tanks and helicopters) but it just wouldn’t work so well indoors with the tools at my disposal. Eventually, I settled for a more paced series of goals and encounters.
I also worked on the storytelling aspect to get the player going, and added the player’s sidekick as a way to reveal some of the story and guide the player through the maze of locked doors and corridors the levels turned out to be. Managing voice-actors, getting the dialogues corrected, and overall making it all glue together was an interesting challenge.
I scripted the two levels, created a short introduction, wrote the first take of dialogues and story, managed the team (voice-actors, writer) and the press.
Founded by a former Remedy Entertainment designer, Mona: The Assassin is an explosive Max Payne 2 expansion featuring 5 original action-packed levels. It depicts Mona Sax doing what she does best, killing people for money. But when an army of mobsters assaults her hideout and forces her to flee, it gets personal.
I joined this project halfway through, and most of the levels’ geometry was already done at the time, so it is the first time I ever had to script a level I didn’t design myself. While that was challenging, the team proved to be talented level designers, serious about their work, and they taught me a lot.
Eventually, the other members of the team got jobs or lost interest in the project, and I had to complete it by myself, even though that meant not being able to polish it to the standard we envisioned. It ended up as a good pack of action levels that lacks a real story to be consistent.
I scripted the 2 first Alleyways levels, finished the geometry and scripted the Asylum, and helped complete the last of the Alleyways. I also took care of wrapping up the project, including trailer, website, menus, etc.
Hall of Mirrors is the first total conversion based on the movie Equilibrium. It focuses on implementing for the first time the use of “gun-kata”, a martial art involving handguns, and allowing the player to perform it in arenas inspired from the world depicted in the movie.
This project taught me a few hard lessons about promoting a project and managing a fan-base. The hype raised by announcing it too early caused some people to break into our server and release a WIP version of the mod, others to start a similar concurrent mod to steal our spotlight (using our own stolen assets), and the project leader found his mailbox full of hate-mail.
On the positive side, it was the first time I had to keep track of the changes to the gameplay made by the other members of the team and create my levels accordingly to make good use of these new gameplay possibilities. It was a good experience.
I designed and scripted all of the levels for this mod except the Hall of Mirrors level geometry, which I only slightly edited.
Max Payne Chronicles is both a short new adventure featuring Max Payne in his role of detective, and a gathering of all the short levels/arenas I had created that far, most of them following the rules of “Dead Man Walking”, but others featuring original game modes. It got pretty good reviews from the community and won the “Best pack of Dead Man Walking levels” award at the MaxPayneForums.com contest.
The Big Reveal, a campaign of 6 levels, sins by its sober level-design and lack of detail, stupid story, poor use of the game’s physics engine, and numerous grammar mistakes: it was done by a 16 year-old and it shows (this was my first released project, after a few years of playing around with Worldcraft and Half-Life 1.)
I keep it online for the curious ones and to remain humble.