Building a Game with One Level
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Building a Game with One Level
1 June, 2016
Interview

We were happy to talk to Alex Haddow-Mendes about his most recent game “Come In, Over“. It’s a beautiful experiment, which shows, how you can build an entire project in one level. Alex talked about his approach to the production, described the main difficulties of the production and discussed the functions of the environment in his game.

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Introduction

My name’s Alex Haddow-Mendes, I’m a Level, Technical and Games Designer from Devon in the UK. I’m a recent graduate of the University of Central Lancashire, studying Games Design. I’ve yet to fully start my career within the games industry, but I’ve been part of the community for quite some time. I used to create mods for the Source Engine while learning how to code in C#. Since the release of the Unreal Engine, I’ve been using its Blueprint system – which is a very accessible and powerful tool. It’s allowed me to create multiple small projects, including “Come In, Over”.

Come In, Over

I am a Level Designer, but for Come In, Over I wished to explore a new genre and test my skills for my final year’s project. I would have loved to incorporate my knowledge of Level Design, however this project required very little of the aspect. I plan to develop this project further as I believe it has astounding potential, but for the time being it will remain a portfolio piece; showcasing my Technical and Games design skills.

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Production Process

I designed the environment around a single point in the world; the player’s camera. As the player cannot move and explore the environment, they may only rotate and view it from their chair. The office is fully interactive, making for a more immersive experience as well as keeping the player busy. You have objects irrelevant to the player and while others integral. You can check the player’s tasks in the Memo or take a sip from your coffee. Over time, I plan to mix the unimportant with the important. So maybe you need to finish your coffee as there a useful message hidden at the bottom of the cup. Every item I place in the world, I have a plan for, to integrate the environment with the gameplay rather than it remaining a background.

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Visual Aesthetics

The general theme of the project was supposed to impose the affect you have on the world. A constant reminder of the number of casualties will be given and that will directly affect the environment through its Post-Processing. I’m by no means an artist, but I attempted to reach an effect similar to 50s/60s advertising posters. These advertising posters have a whitewashed look, hand drawn and eerily happy theme. To achieve this I desaturated the scene, added a sharpening filter and used very subtly textured objects so they appear more to be block colours.

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I was looking through a lot of reference images to figure out a way in which I could organise the scene and camera placement. I used “Dear Leader” (A product of Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight) as a reference point, it has a similar theme to the one I was trying to achieve.

Lighting

The lighting in the scene is still not final, although it still does have a “Highlighting” approach – lighting the important objects more. The global light, coming from the window, will be dynamic; it will indicate the time of day. The light will casting shadows over the room in view of the desk camera, so that the player can follow it as a sort of sundial; once it reaches a point on the wall, the day will end. The colour of the light will change providing another indicator of time. A lamp is placed on the desk, it is used to light the room when the natural light isn’t as intense. I’ve angled the lamp to highlight the radio and the fax machine, as these two objects will be used most frequently. Also, a light from the entrance is tinted green, I wanted to make it feel sort of sickly giving a foreboding feel to the whole backend of the room.

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Gameplay and the Environment

The Office consists of 3 elements, the Desk, Map and Entrance.

The desk is where the player will generally spend most of their time, it holds the radio and other sources of information. Your desk has multiple objects to aid you. You will gather information each day from the; Newspaper, Memorandum, Frequency List, Manual and other notes unique to that day. You can keep notes in your notepad, tearing out pages and pinning them to the wall. You can drag and arrange your desk in any way that you desire – allowing the player to increase their own productivity.

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The Map will be used to get a general overview of the world, holding information like locations and unit positions. You can add pins with notes attached to the map, allowing you to keep track of unit’s movements. None of it is automated, the player has to keep track and set units locations as with the theme I wanted to keep.

While the entrance is to make sure no one is overwatching your work, at any point your employer may enter your office and oversee you, reporting any suspicious activity. You can only view one area of your office at a time, meaning if the player is not alert, they could be compromised.

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Game Engine

I created Come In, Over in the Unreal Engine 4 – using its Blueprint system. I’m not a programmer, by any means so using UE4’s visual scripting I created and designed every bit of gameplay without a single line of code. However, there are drawbacks to the system, such as the use of some of data variable and tables.

Alex Haddow-Mendes, Level Designer, Technical Designer and Games Designer

INTERESTING LINKS

SIMPLE AND RICH LANDSCAPE BUILDING IN UE4

MOODY SCI-FI ENVIRONMENT CREATION

BE VISIBLE: HOW TO GET A JOB IN GAME INDUSTRY

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