Project 02 - The Umberhold
A First Person Fantasy Adventure
My mission with this level was to create a linear, storydriven fantasy first person adventure with lots of combat, stealth and interactive gameplay elements. I really wanted the player to be a fantasy Dwarf, because I love fantasy and Dwarves especially, but also to tailor the gameplay to a short player character In a world of tall enemies.
Individual solo project spanning 5 weeks of work.
Focus on designing and creating an exciting and story driven whiteboxed level.
Lots of Interactables and environmental puzzles.
AI placement and AI patrols
Areas of Player a
Table Of Contents:
1. The Process
From Blockout To Whitebox
2. The Gameplay
3. The Blueprints
Construct an environment where the players height (dwarf height) can be utilized.
- Reward stealth and exploration with interactive ways to kill enemies
- Design a game world that feels alive and active
I knew from the get go that I wanted the map to feel like a lush, forested valley. Partly for Its aesthetic but also to highlight the devastation and de-forestation brought on by the lumber-hungry orc besiegers. I also wanted the valley to feel like It was under use before the siege, and that there were multiple POI's on the way to the umberhold Itself.
The napkin sketch process really jumpstarted my Idea of the level. I noticed I would have to downscope quite a lot at first since my sketch was already quite busy, even before the planned part of the level where the player reaches the hold, and fights their way up to the frontline from behind. Instead, I reesigned the level to the approach towards the umberhold Itself, with the warcamp as the final goal. Allowing the other, much cooler and more time consuming part of the level, to remain Inside my mind.
The player starts at a high vantage point, from where they can see the long term and midterm goals. I designed the cliffside to be an early wow-moment, where the player gets to anchor themselves In the gameworld and get a sense of scale and direction.
The natural path leads onwards towards what Is intended to seem like a short term goal. A patrol of enemies march over a bridge leading to what seems to be the path forwards, but on the Way to the percieved short term goal, a catapult rock crashes through the bridge thrusting the player into the river rapids beneath them.
The River Rapids
The river rapids where a simple concept, I wanted the player to be thrust from a feeling of control to a lack of control. Being such a simple concept It was the least pressing part of the map to iterate upon, In my humble opinion. All that was needed was a simple blueprint to push the player forward, and obstacles to dodge and be damaged by. Later, more flavour was added In the form of enemies shooting arrows after the player as they were tumbled along the stream to add an extra sense of danger.
The Occupied Toll Station
When the player washes up on the shore of the toll station, I wanted It to feel like the player regains a modicum of control. Washed up Into the safety of tall river reeds, the player Is hidden. They then find a crossbow lying infront of them, a vital tool for the stealth gameplay. With a decent overview of the Toll Station, and It's many enemies, there the player can plan an approach. There are a couple of different paths forwards, depending on the prefered playstyle of the player. Stealth gameplay Is heavily favoured as many enemies patroll the area, and the space encourages and reward sneaking and stealth-kills. A multitude of interactables litter the area, such as heavy barrels dangling above unsuspecting enemies, spikeoards, crossbow ammo and other loot. All of which Is more easily attained through stealth than outright combat.
After getting through the toll station, the player arrives at the warcamp. There are even more enemies patrolling here, and there are more open spaces, forcing the player to dash from cover to cover, find a better path through exploration or fight their way forward. From the start I wanted the warcamp to be a buffét spread of rewarding kills, firestarting, player upgrades, freeable allies and interactables, but due to time constraint and downsizing of the project, I had to compromise with myself. Instead, spread throughout the camp, are four catapults undergoing repair. They can be used to destroy the actively firing catapults on the hill, destroying themselves In the process. On the way from and to the different catapults, the player finds patrolling enemies, campfires where vigilant warriors rest, and perhaps even the warchief and their personal guard themselves.
From Blockout To Whitebox
The Three Act Structure
The 'Return' Home
The player arrives back home to the Umberhold after travelling through the mountains to beseech allies for aid In a coming siege. But... You are too late!
The Uruks have already arrived, and lay siege to your home, The Umberhold!
Their scouts litter the countryside, and their Ilk march through the valley you called home as If It was naturally theirs!
The First Encounter
All Is not well on the cliffside! Although the player can just as easily bypass It, and not be punished by the choice, there's a small scout camp on the cliffside. There are multiple ways to approach the camp, from above by the cliffside, from the front through the tall grass, or alongside the cliffside. Taking out the scout silently rewards the player with the possibility of kicking his unasuming friend right of the side of the mountain, sending him plunging to a messy end In the river rapids below, aswell as some loot In a poorly hidden chest.
The River Rapids
After the scout camp acting as a mild bait & switch, the player Is led towards the old dwarven bridge, In pursuit of the besiegeing Uruks. As the player crosses the bridge, an ambush Is set off. A catapult shot breaks the bridge and sends the player tumbling to their assumed death among the spiky rocks of the river rapids! But just In case this dwarf proves hardy, archers from the warcamp spring from their hiding places and harry the poor player from above. The player is completely helpless and must focus on dodging arrows and sharp rocks. This feeling of lack of control increases the satisfaction and payoff of killing the very same archers at a later point.
The Toll Station
At the end of a very dangerous section of maneuvering through the river rapids, the player Is thrust upon the small shore outside the old toll station. There, they find a crossbow next to an (imaginary) waterlogged dwarf corpse model. Next comes a shadow of mordor inspired stealth or combat section where the player dodges between dwarf sized hiding places and stealths or fights their way through their enemies. There are also a multitude of interactable ways to kill your enemies like hanging barrels, spike boards or simply kicking them off a ledge when their backs are turned.
The Toll Station, Part 2
The second half of the toll station Is more heavily guarded, and sneaking Is harder to accomplish. But there are plenty of nifty little ways to eliminate the patrolling enemies and progress to the last stretch, the warcamp....
The area Is designed to be challenging, but If the player utilises the tools at their disposal, they are rewarded with satisfying combat and tasty snack kills. For example, funneling the enemies into chokepoints or using the kick function makes It possible for the player to face multiple enemies at once without much hardship. There Is also a damaged catapult Inside the wall of the toll station, which can be used to progress In a more... Violent manner... This Is showcased below.
The Optional Cliffside Path
Instead of walking into the warcamp from the main gate, the player can progress forward across the cliffside that splits the warcamp from the river rapids. This detour allows the player to wreak a satisfying series of vengeful murders upon the very archers and enemies who shot at and harried the player at their weakest, when they were helplessly flung between rocky stones In the river rapids.
The area Is designed to allow a chain of satisfying stealth kills upon enemies who were In a powerful position beforehand, to allow the player to feel like they've gone through a sort of miniatures hero's journey. From rags to riches, so to speak.
The Warcamp - Approach
The warcamp Is the largest and most difficult challenge for the player yet. As night becomes morning, enemies gather tiredely around campfires as many of their friends patrols the camp, looking out for anything suspicious. Alerting the enemy to the players presence can cause a snowball effect very quickly, as It can become an unwinnable melee where more and more enemies wake up and spawn out from the tents. Therefore, the player Is encouraged to be quick, desicive and pick their battles wisely. To aid the player, multiple paths forward are available, and opportunities to slay enemies silently are littered along the way.
Among all of theese interweaving and complicating layers of gameplay the player must navigate towards three different catapults pulled back from the frontline to be repaired.
The Warcamp - The Mission
The central part of the warcamp Is littered with interactables, enemies and loot. The player must carefully weave between cover to cover to remain stealthed. Fighting the enemies head on Is not out of the question either, since he area offers many chokepoints, Interactables and 'traps' to sway the battle In the players favour. In any case, reaching every catapult without engaging In violence would be hard to accomplish, which Is why the player has been given a multitude of ways to deal with enemies without having to hack and slash their way through hordes of enemies, some who are even stronger than any faced before. For example, the warchief Is larger and much tougher to beat In combat, and his lieutenant, while not being as big, Is equally skilled In melee combat. Theese foes can be found plotting the fall of the umberhold around a table In the main war-tent, and are best left alone or taken down stealthily.
With all of the catapults destroyed, the warcamp begins sounding the alarm, and the player has nowhere to go but forward, towards the umberhold. Having bought the dwarves within a bit more time, but Is It enough? Only time will tell, what comes first? Allied reinforcements, or a ferociously renewed assault?
My catapults are my pride and joy. I've tried to construct them In a way that they can be reused for many different things. Its possible to trigger them, destroy them and adjust how far/hard they shoot from other blueprints or directly In the details tab via a public Impulse force variable as demonstrated below.
Interactable - Winch
There Isn't much to say about this simple yet elegant way to smash enemies with heavy objects. However, I constructed the winch to be able to hold, and subsequently drop, other actors as well. I also made sure to separate the pieces In blender, so that I could make things turn and rotate If I had the time to Implement It. If I had more time, I would have liked to make It possible to shoot at the rope to make the winch drop It's payload aswell.
Minor Interactables And Modular assets
A showcase of lesser blueprints I constructed with a greater vision In mind. I had originally wanted to make the experience much bigger and more convoluted than It Is, But the blueprints could still be used for visual effect.
All In all, this project was the most fun I've had In a good while. It was a fun experience and I've learned a lot about scripting structure and flexibility while redesigning concepts mid-process. I had a grand vision when setting out to make this level, but was forced due to time constraint to cut a lot of what I had planned. In the end however, Im and happy with what I've accomplished.
However, there are things I would have loved to implement or iterate upon If I would have had more time. For example, I'd liked to have had implemented more features like for example instigating rockslides, swimming, water physics and allied NPC's. It would also have been a blast to redesign and iterate further on the warcamp, and I think It's brimming with unused potential at this stage. I began dabbling In the new chaos destruction system of UE 5 pretty late Into the project, and realized It's potential way too late to use It In Its full might. But I would have implemented many more fun ways for the player to cause permanent destruction within the world.