Nuclear Dawn is proving to be a real challenge for the level design department here at InterWave Studios. We knew from the start that the real-time strategy gameplay was going to play a vital and difficult role in the development of the game. Most games are build around the FPS or RTS genre.
With Nuclear Dawn however, we need to keep both perspectives in mind and most important of all the game needs to be a blast to play. The level design department has been given the task to come up with exciting environments based on the artwork you’ve already seen. In today’s developer blog I’m going to tell you something about one of the levels that we’re are currently working on.
Our current project is heavily inspired by New York and we aim to take the source-engine to the next level. It will be a huge and very detailed map. We are aware that players are likely to get lost if the maps are too complex or too big. To make sure the player can find his or her way around this particular map, we’ve decided to build famous landmarks and placed them in key positions. These buildings and locations have the same look and feel as the real landmarks but we’ve made some changes in order to improve the gameplay.
I’m proud to announce some of the landmarks that you’ll encounter in our version of New York. The first will be the ‘Empire City Building’, based on the famous Empire State Building. After the first days of the war it has been reconstructed as a main hub for the military and it was also a temporary shelter for civilian refugees. The second is a junction called ‘Crossroads’ our own version of Times Square. Again, this location was an important target during the first bombing runs. In order to keep the authentic feel of New York, most structures are based on real world buildings like the NASDAQ and the Paramount Building. I’ll announce many more exciting locations at a later date.
The inclusion of RTS gameplay gives the team a lot of new aspects to think about.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. In a FPS level designers can mostly get away with lesser detailed areas. The players won’t complain about parts of the map that they can’t see. The RTS view however, shows these normally hidden areas. We have to add sufficient details to every inch of the map while maintaining a stable framerate. A difficult task but certainly not impossible for the veteran game developers working on Nuclear Dawn!
All the parts that are invisible in the FPS mode, like the roofs need to be addressed to accommodate with the RTS view. The second challenge has everything to do with the commanding interface itself. As a commander you don’t want to lose track of your troops. The urban environments are filled with buildings that players can enter. We had to build a system so that commanders are able to look inside the buildings. It goes a bit beyond just removing a rooftop though. The staircases and basements need to be visible as well. We also noticed that members of the community and some testers within our team weren’t too thrilled with the RTS mode announcement. They were mostly afraid that we would emphasize on it too much. Rest assured, the FPS gameplay is as well developed as the RTS gameplay. Nuclear Dawn is enjoyable for the run and gunners as well as snipers, strategists and every other type of gamer that is reading this blog right now.
When the FPS player is roaming the streets it should feel like he or she is playing an authentic FPS game. We’ve added tons of new features to make sure everyone is willing to take part in the Nuclear Dawn battlefield. In the New York level you’ll find new thrilling gameplay possibilities. Talking about possibilities, let me remind you that Nuclear Dawn also features vehicle based warfare. We want to give the player as much freedom as possible. You can pick your own strategies, tactics and options. There’s multiple ways to approach, destroy and capture enemy bases and resource points. We’ve included secondary routes and hiding spots and some of these can change the outcome of the battle in a matter of minutes.
As I said before, when you don’t feel like standing by and watching how your team gets slaughtered you’re able to hop into a vehicle and take the battle to the enemy. Considering the size of the maps this was once again a mayor challenge for the level design team. We’re building roads and bridges to make sure that the vehicles can be used in nearly every situation. If you’re a fellow developer reading this blog, than you’re well aware of the fact that the Source engine we’re working with is not designed with vehicle warfare in mind. That however, does not mean that it is impossible to create interesting gameplay features for both vehicles and infantry alike. It’s rather boring to traverse by road and drop off your teammates with an APC. An example of one of the few vehicle features that is present in games today. What you rarely see however, is a Humvee hunting down snipers in a mall! The vehicle warfare, infantry warfare and RTS gameplay are the key elements you encounter in Nuclear Dawn. When the game ships you’ll encounter many more unique elements and gameplay types and features you’re more familiar with. Our primary goal is to create a game that is both accessible and challenging and the level design team plays a big role in fulfilling that goal.
We will be back with more cool stuff to talk about shortly!
Jeroen, Lead Level Designer