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Week 9: GDC Week


Most of our team members flew to San Fransico this week to attend Game Developer Conference. This week’s time lost on production was counted in our plan. Some of our team attended a few level design talks for industry insight, which positively affected our understanding of professional level design. It was helpful because it enhanced our sense of the gap between student designers and experts. This was a week of individual growth and learning. So there’s not much of a production update in this blog.

GDC Talks:

1. Tools Summit: How ‘Fortnite’ Designers Made Their Own Tools

In this talk, Epic Games’ Principal Technical Designer tells the story of how they developed tools for Fortnite game designers. They discovered the problem of “Parameters are placed side-by-side, without priority” in the existing engine editor, and then proposed a new UI design for the editor to improve the readability of parameters, thus enhancing the ease of use of the engine editor and improving the efficiency of game designers.

Our current toolkit suffers from the same lack of parameter prioritization as theirs. If the “develop in-editor UI with Unreal widget” feature they proposed in the talk can be implemented in the next version of the Unreal engine, it might help us solve the same problem we have.

2. Layered Battles: Generating Multiple Qualitative Tactical Battles for ‘Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope’

In this talk, the speakers systematically describe how they generate levels for their tactical games layer by layer. From terrain topology to path planning to obstacle setting to area division, they split the level design into four layers to systematically generate and build their levels. This was a great inspiration for us to design the level designer’s toolkit, allowing us to think about the tools that the level design toolkit should provide and the hierarchical order in which they should be introduced from the perspective of the level design hierarchy.

3. Companion Traversal in ‘God of War: Ragnarök’

In this talk, God of War’s level designers show us the many technical tools they used in the process of developing the game. One of these technical tools, the Jump Assist, caught my attention. We know that animations tend to have a fixed distance, but the height of the character jumping in the level can be any height less than the maximum. At this point, if we play the same animation every time, we will have the problem of distance mismatch. There are two solutions at this point, one is to let the character move up a distance first and then play the animation; the second is to move the character during the process of playing the animation. God of War’s development team automated the first method. Whenever the level designer places a jumpable square in the scene, the distance that needs to be moved up in advance is automatically calculated in the editor and visualized with lines so that the designer can visually see and make changes.

Potential Help from Epic Games:

During the conference, we had the opportunity to discuss our current level design toolkit with two representatives from Epic Games. We discussed some of the challenges we are experiencing in Unreal compared to Unity, and the Epic Games representatives were kind enough to say they would take note of our concerns and pass them on to the engine development department. They even went a step further and offered to possibly contact us in the future with any possible updates or solutions.

Looking Ahead:

The time left in this semester is tight, and part of the project is to host and manage a level design game jam. Our work for next week will mostly be focusing on the preparation of the game jam, including supporting materials and bug fixing.