Facing Castles

Summary

With this level I wanted create a balanced and fun capture the flag level that has multiple paths but still has a clear flow. I also wanted to learn more about balancing a multiplayer level.

Specification

* Individual project

* 3 weeks half time

* Unreal Tournament Editor

* Only assets from the editor

Planning and first steps

I started by first figuring out what I wanted from my level. Early on I knew that I wanted two castles and an area in the middle that is more natural. I did a few different rough overview sketches before I landed on something that had a good flow, multible paths and the right amount of elevation.

Normally I do a very rough blockout with brushes after this, but in this project I had all the assets the UT-editor and after a short testsession of building with these i noticed that the process was very quick and painfree which made the decision to start building the level without brushes easy. After I had set up the blockout for the level I started balancing the level. 

Symmetry vs asymmetry

I debated with myself for some time in the beginning if I wanted to build a symmetric or a non symmetric level. There are alot of benefits with both. I choose the something inbetween. The castles and its entrances are identical but the section in the middle is abit more asymettric so breaks the pattern abit. The reason I still wanted it to be relatively symmetric is because Capture the flag levels usually fair better in a symmetric design. Even though the castles are identical in design they are vastly different in look which makes it feel abit less samey.

The flow of flagcarrying

I spent alot of time iteration on making the flagcarrying from one base to another fun and balanced. It was very important for me that none of the paths you take are either too hidden so it becomes too easy nor did I want to leave the flaggcarrier too exposed. I also wanted these paths to feel different. When you leave or enter a base for example you can either take the more exposed but more direct path through the main gate, the path next to the main gate gives you some elevation but is slightly less direct or you could take the path through the small cave that is more hidden and safe but it is also the slowest way.

 

 

In the middle section of the level I tried to do the same thing. You have two main paths on the different sides of the level that both offers two smaller paths, one on the ground and one elevated. It is easier to stay abit more hidden on the ground but the elevated path help if combat would ensue because of the height advantage. I also opened up the section in the middle so if you took the left mainpath you can change to the right path.

Sightlines

In regards to balance the sightlines are very important, especially since I have included a Lightning Gun (a sniper rifle) in the level. The middle section of the level is abit stretched which means that a good sniper could easily make the match a unfair affair for the opponents. I worked alot on making sure that you can never see the entire lane and to not have long straight paths so the player is forced to push through rather than camp. 

In the level there is one spot that has both a height and a slight sight advantage. This is located just above the main entrance and the idea was that this could be used as a sniper spot. I worked on not making this spot too strong so I mostly covers the areas just outside the castle and does not give you sightlines far into the middle section. The spot is also slightly exposed since if anyone manages to enter through the side och cave entrance the sniper is compromised from the sides. 

Placement of pickups

I iterated alot on the pickups. In the earlier stages of the process I had alot of pickups in the middle of the level. What I noticed during playtesting was that alot of players camped the middle section and it pickups and just tried to get as many kills as possible or/and try to catch the flagcarrier. This is something I wanted to avoid. I wanted offensive players to try to push towards towards to opposing base and defensive players to be forced to fall back their own base to restock on ammo/shields. In the final iteration the only big pickup in the middle is the 100% armor shield. The rest of the best pickups are located within the bases. 

OverViewCTF.png

Closing reflections

In the end I am quite happy with the result and I really enjoyed working on it. There are a few things that could make the level even better though if I had more time. I would have loved to be able to playtest even more. I got some other students on TGA to playtest but mostly I was limited to play with bots. The enviroment art are also something that could have abit more love. The textures on the castles are abit to repetitive for example. 

But overall I am still happy with the level. I achieved what I set out to do and in the end the level is both balanced and has a good flow.