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Death Bloom

Project Summary

Death Bloom is the University of Texas at Dallas Game Lab's Spring 2023 project. I served as a level designer and owned the game's initial level.

The game is a first-person horror game with three levels set deep in the forests of 1800s Brazil. With a focus on puzzles and tension building, the player traverses a basement, a cottage, and a garden as they attempt to escape and defeat the game's monstrous antagonist, Arveado.

Building the Basement

At the project's onset, I assigned myself the game's introductory level, as I felt this would be an exciting challenge. Set in the basement of the cottage, this level needed to teach the player all core mechanics, build tension, and still present an engaging challenge or puzzle to the player. 

I created a number of paper maps and documents to refine my level's layout. As I iterated on my level's map, constraints piled up, and the layout constantly changed.

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Early map sketches.

I wanted to utilize the smallest space, have the level loop,  send the player through an uncomfortable "squeeze" section multiple times in a way that subverted expectations and built tension, teach all of the game's mechanics in as little time and space as possible, utilize some element of verticality, match the architectural layout to the cottage above while creating engaging collisions and pathing.... the list goes on! 

 

Once I was satisfied with a  final draft, I went on to animate it so I could better understand and communicate my level's flow to other departments.

Final map animation.

Puzzle Design

The most difficult challenge when designing this level was creating an engaging puzzle. Since my level was also a tutorial, my puzzle needed to be both mechanically simple and easy to grasp while still challenging the player to think critically.

The final puzzle features finding the right combination of ingredients to create an acid mixture and melt the lock on the cell door. To make this clear we utilized a storybook, which includes both poems and drawings to serve as clues for the player.

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Wine mixing puzzle.

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This puzzle was initially far too complex; many players simply wouldn't read the storybook in order to understand the clues.

To guide the player, we placed interactable shaders on all wine bottles, highlighted the red and white colors in the book, placed acid dripping on a door in the center of the puzzle room, and animated a bucket falling right in front of the player.

 

I moved the plant ingredient's location to the center of the room to be accessible on both sides of the basement and requested animations and noises to attract attention.

Guiding the player.

Closing Thoughts

Development of Death Bloom was difficult... but in turn, I learned so many amazing lessons about teamwork, leadership, and the importance of communication and a unified vision for the project.

 

I'm genuinely grateful to have had the opportunity to refine my level design skills in the horror genre, which is one of my favorites; furthermore, I am lucky to have gotten to connect and be part of a team with so many creative and talented developers.

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Basement blockout. 

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