The Order: 1886
My first professional job transitioning from Environment Art to Level Design was at Ready at Dawn studios working on The Order: 1886.
In my 22 months at the studio, my main responsibility was the design of Blackwall Yards. The level takes place about two thirds of the way through the game, right after a major plot twist.WARNING: STORY SPOILERS FOR THE ORDER:1886 FOLLOW.
At Blackwall Yards, Galahad (the player) forms an uneasy alliance with the rebel leader, Lakshmi. Lakshmi wants to expose Galahad to some truths about the head of the United India Company, Lord Hastings. Hastings is an ally of Galahad's order and the events that take place in Blackwall are pivotal to shifting Galahad's stance towards the rebel cause.
Aside from the story goal of having Galahad switch to the rebel's side, my main focus in designing the level was based around situations that would build trust between Galahad and Lakshmi. Galahad is hunting down the rebel leader for the first half of the game, so there needed to be sufficient examples of co-op scenarios that enabled the two protagonists to trust each other by the time the big reveal happens at the end of the mission.
I will illustrate my thoughts in designing the level through screenshots taken from the in-game photo mode.
Intro: Galahad and Lakshmi travel to the dockyards via the underground railway tunnels still under construction. The walk through the tunnels allows for some story discussion between the two.
There are a few simple obstacles blocking the path that require teamwork to bypass: a fallen beam of wood, and a construction cart that requires two people to push aside.
At the end of the tunnels, Galahad and Lakshmi spot a United India Company guard. From the outset, Galahad wants to infiltrate with stealth while Lakshmi has no regard for the lives of UIC henchmen. In a cutscene, Galahad distracts the guard while Lakshmi sneaks around to take the guard out with a piece of construction debris. Lakshmi's playing by Galahad's rules, for now.
The next objective is to get up to street level. A series of platforms have been erected by construction crews, but the player needs to figure out how to reach them. A simple puzzle involving pushing another cart down the correct rail provides Galahad and Lakshmi a way up.
The route through the street is blocked by a locked gate. Lakshmi asks Galahad for a boost so she can open the lock from the other side. Before she can finish, a sniper shot hits Galahad. Lakshmi runs for cover while Galahad looks for an alternate path to Lakshmi. This is the start of the sniper sequence and the end of Galahad's plans for stealth.
More UIC guards are converging on the area. Galahad must deal with guards pinning Lakshmi on street while trying to find a route to the sniper. The sniper's perch is initially blocked by a billboard so Galahad must detour into a pottery shop, where he's met by more guards. Eventually, Galahad finds an open window to the sniper's building via the alleyways behind the pottery shop.
Galahad eliminates the sniper through a stealth QTE and takes his rifle. He provides cover fire for Lakshmi as she attempts to move up the street to safety.
Once Lakshmi makes it safely to the foundry, Galahad moves up to join her. Outside, he's blindsided by a guard. Heavily damaged, the player must complete another QTE to thwart the guards attack and send both him and Galahad over the railing. Badly wounded, Galahad stumbles across the street while Lakshmi provides covering fire. It's a 'tables turned' sequence where Galahad is Lakshmi's savior, but she quickly returns the favor, strengthening the trust between them.
Sealed into the foundry, Galahad and Lakshmi need to find a way out before more guards arrive. The exit above is only reachable via the hoist. Galahad moves the hoist into position with the pull chain and climbs on. Lakshmi takes over the controls and pulls him across. On the other side, Galahad opens the sliding door to let Lakshmi in. The next room in the foundry is a small combat arena with the remaining guards.
After the guards are dealt with, Galahad and Lakshmi rendezvous with Lakshmi's lieutenant, Devi. They spot Lord Hastings and a mysterious accomplice. The group follows Hastings' path through the ship building offices. This is a cool down period after the extended combat; a time for the player to pick up some collectibles and listen some banter between the group.
Exiting the offices, Galahad and Lakshmi split from Devi and enter the drydock. A massive ship is under construction and traversing through it is the only viable route to the UIC warehouse on the other side.
Galahad and Lakshmi climb up to the deck of the ship, where they are spotted by more guards. After fighting through the guards on the deck, the pair move further into the partially built ship and find more resistance. Eventually, they make it to the other side of the drydock and enter the warehouse.
Inside the warehouse, it's eerily quiet. The evidence that Lakshmi wants Galahad to see is stored somewhere in this massive facility. Galahad must find a cargo crate marked with a red UIC logo. There are multiple instances of the marked crates in the first room, but only one is reachable.
The marked cargo is opened to reveal a sleeping vampire. This is the evidence Lakshmi wanted Galahad to see. For some reason, the UIC is shipping vampires across the world; a damning implication for Lord Hastings. The pair move deeper into the warehouse to find stacks of crates containing dormant vampires. Lakshmi pours fuel on the crates while Galahad uses his lighter to set the cargo ablaze.
The rapidly spreading fire alerts more UIC guards. Lakshmi takes over the fire-setting duty while Galahad fights off the resistance. Once all the fires are set, a lycan enters the fight, forcing Lakshmi and Galahad into another area where a fight with lesser lycans occurs.
After the lycans are dealt with, a final cutscene shows the group escaping the burning warehouse and leaving the area through the tunnels.
Blackwall Yards Art Team: 3D Modelers: Edgar Martinez, Nestor Carpintero. Texture Artist: Bobby Rice. Lighting Artist: Neil Davies.
Westminster Bridge Assault
My second level, which I did not complete before leaving the company, was the rebel assault on Westminster bridge. This is a more straightforward level than Blackwall, primarily consisting of cover based combat. The main challenge was designing a suitable combat space on a wide open bridge. Myself and the design team decided to take some liberties here, adding a few guardhouses along the bridge's length that were to serve as security checkpoints as travelers approached Westminster Palace, the knights' headquarters. Sandbags, metal dividers, ruined carriages, and burned out trolley cars provided the rest of the cover options for the level.
Design for Westminster Bridge was taken over by Wesley Tack.