7 Day Level Design Challenge – Kickoff

Ever since I’ve read How to create a map in 11 Days by Alex Galuzin I’ve wanted to do a self imposed level design challenge on my own. I’ve finally found the time for it, albeit not 11 days but only 7 (maybe 14, as a freelancer, you never quite know for certain.)

What’s a Level Design Challenge?

Basically, a Level Design Challenge is a set of conditions under which you design and implement a level of any sort. These could include a time frame, theme, engine and rough gameplay outlines. They can be hosted by, e.g. World of Level Design or self imposed. This is one of the later kind.

Level Design Challenges are great to push yourself as a designer, refine your workflow and learn valuable skills. Additionally they force you to actually finish something by giving it a fixed time frame and making it public. For this reason I’ll be cross posting this post and following updates on Twitter, Google+ and in the World of Level Design forums.

What’s the situation?

It’s been 7 eventful months of freelancing and I’m starting to develop the routines for all the hassle that comes along with it: paperwork, legal and tax stuff, acquisition, … etc.

Last week I found myself in the interesting position of actually being able to look 2 months into my financial future, while having 1-2 weeks of continuous free time this month. So I decided to go for it and use my free time for this challenge instead of acquisition for once. So, if any of this looks rushed, that’s because it is.

What’s the plan?

Design a level for an FPS Multiplayer game in one week.

That’s the plan.

Well most of it anyways. Things are starting to fall into place but so far I have had little time to fully consider everything.

After a quick research and talking to some friends of mine I can formulate the following goals for this Challenge:

  • Grey-boxed 3D Level
  • Playability first, graphics second
  • Using Unreal Engine 4
  • Using the FPS Sample of UE4 as starting point

I know, that’s not a whole lot of detail but that comes with the uncertainty of all factors involved.

Also, I’m not an Environment Artist so I’ll only get into more detail with the level art, if I actually have the time for it. I have planned what I want to use as key landmark and that I’ll model. Then again, It’s mostly uneven blocks of rock.

Why am I doing this?

This is primarily a learning experience and only secondly for portfolio purposes, though I guess there is a lot of overlap there. So I want to learn how to…

  • use another engine besides Unity3D and Vision
    • I’ve settle on UE4 for various reasons
  • design levels for an FPS
  • design levels for a real-time multiplayer game (nice to have if multiplayer is easy to implement in UE4)
  • use BSP

Apart from that I want to improve on my existing skills and focus on following a proper iterative workflow, from start to finish, while documenting it. This is very important for me, because after 3 years in the industry, I’ve never been able to do this as properly as on the levels I designed during university. Simply none of the productions allowed this because of various reasons such as: joining mid-production, improper or non-existent tools, time-pressure, part-time working etc…

I’m fine with winging it because there is no time to do it properly and there are shortcuts that one can use. But, if just this once, I want to do it properly again.


What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot because there is still a lot in the air. That’s why I’m only targeting for grey-boxed so far. Here’s a list of what I can currently think of:

  • I have never used UE4
    • Heck, I haven’t even bought or downloaded it yet
      But hey, I watched like… 4 videos just researching for this post.
  • I have no experience with the Unreal Engine
    • Ok, that’s a partial lie. I did import a sword into UDK back in 2011 or something.
      I modeled it, textured it, opened UDK, imported & applied materials, walked around it and closed UDK. So yeah, not a whole lot experience to speak of.
  • I’ve never designed for an FPS so far
  • I’ve never designed levels for a real-time multiplayer game
  • I haven’t modeled anything more complex than a sword since 2012
  • I’ve had no time to prepare anything for this, except for some pictures I took 1 month ago that I’ve planned to use if I ever found the time for this challenge.

Sooo… yeah. This could very easily turn into an embarrassing failure, but I have to try anyways. Maybe I’ll get a second week this month to start a new challenge or continue this one, depending on how this one turns out.

I want to track your progress, will you post WIPs?

Yup. That’s the whole point of it. I will post updates to my blog as I go along, I’m targeting about 1 per day as minimum. If you want to follow my progress you can:

  • Subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog.
  • Follow me on Twitter or Google+. I’ll cross posting all blog updates and tweet smaller status updates.
  • Read the WIP thread in the World of Level Design forums.

And if any of my FB friends read up to this point, yes I’ll be posting a link to every new blog post until enough of you tell me to stop. 😉

I’m also going to track my times with Timesheet as if this was an actual freelance contract. (I’ll probably do more than 8h a day though)

And now…

I can give you a little tease on the theme. It’s based on this formation of rocks I found on a playground.


Stay tuned for more infos coming up soon as I plan this thing out in more detail.





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