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The Fall of Atahn

Project Summary

The Fall of Atahn is a game design, level design, and programming project that focuses on recreating Black Ops Zombies-style gameplay in Unreal Engine 5.

This project's gameplay involves traversing a looping map and utilizing level geometry, weapons, and upgrades to survive. The player fights off waves of enemies and acquires currency to unlock new areas and purchase new tools as they progress.

This was my first level design project in Unreal, teaching me the fundamentals of Unreal's modeling tools, AI and gameplay programming, and set dressing.

Map and Blockout

When creating this level, I wanted to emulate the progression, atmosphere, and intensity of the zombies franchise; more specifically, I loved and wanted to replicate the core loop of increasing difficulty while the player gains map knowledge and upgrades to survive.

 

Capturing the meaningful level flow, complex geometry, clear pathing, and progression of difficulty of this genre required a lot of research. Beyond the level layouts, I also studied timings for animations, different ways the developers provided player feedback, and even how it felt for the player to slide.​​​​​​​

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Gameplay.

As I worked on the project, I determined the map was too large and uninteresting; the city center area was only a single loop that gave the player little incentive to explore. 

I remapped this area, making it more complex and removing the docks area entirely. I realized in this process that this game type places emphasis on risk and reward when traversing areas; I needed to make the space utilize interesting collisions to create an engaging player path and  vary the difficulty and reason for traversing an area to force the player to weigh their options and take risks.

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City center blockout.

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Apartments blockout.

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Map iterations.

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City center final art pass.

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Spawn and market blockout.

Challenges

One major issue was that I wasn't properly showing the player where they needed to progress toward; after spawning, players were frequently confused about where they were supposed to proceed.

 

I solved this issue by drawing their attention to ambient audio and particles in the area outside the spawn room, as well as making the path more visible with a different door mesh.

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Spawn door

Spawn door changes.

Early prototypes of this game contained far too many spawn locations and no clear indication of where they were located.

 

For the final project, I created clear dedicated spawn "closet" locations outside the accessible map. I have also added light, so players can use the zombie's shadows around corners to understand their location.

Clear enemy spawn locations.

Postmortem

I'm satisfied with the final product considering I only had roughly eight weeks to complete it while simultaneously learning Unreal Engine.

 

I undoubtedly over-scoped, but it was an exciting challenge I would love to retry later on. With more time, I would focus further on iterating during the blockout phase to improve the looping layout and to make the different areas more distinct.

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Spawn area.

I'm also excited to continue developing my skills towards a proficiency that allows me to meaningfully connect these areas in a more realistic, architecturally sound manner.

Purchasable gun.

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