Temple of Forking Paths

This is my homage to both Tomb Raider and Zelda, as well as my first single-player experience made using UDK. I had two main goals for this level: 1) I wanted it to be unexpected - in terms of gameplay as well as look and feel and 2) I wanted it to be adventure-driven rather than combat-driven. (While there is some combat, I wanted to emphasize the exploration, discovery and puzzle-solving elements of all of those beloved adventure games.)

A demo of the full level is below. A detailed breakdown of both the platform puzzle and end boss can be found following the paper plan.

This puzzle was partially inspired by the scene in X-Men (2000) where Magneto walks across an empty chasm building a walkway for himself as he goes. Here, I wanted to start the players at point A, show them point B and then confront them with a huge expanse in between.

The first small room acts as a little tutorial to familiarize the player with the moving platform mechanic.

The main puzzle creates a platform walkway for the player as s/he progresses. The player must choose the correct path in order to cross the room. In order to help players figure out which is the correct path to take, I reset the platforms from the incorrect path once the right choice is made. This means that if the player tries to backtrack, they won't get stuck in a dead-end. This also helps to propel them forward in general.

Revisions/Improvements: After a few playtests, I realized that I had made the room a little too small because experienced players could time a double-jump to the middle room and then double-jump again to the end, skipping the puzzle element entirely. My deadline was approaching quickly - since I didn't have enough time to resize the room, I added a half-wall to the south side of the middle room to prevent players from jumping across. For the second half of the puzzle, I played up the exploit by adding in a little trick - if the player takes the obvious platform straight to the door, the door closes, forcing them to continue around the side pathway.

With the goal of unexpected gameplay and visuals in mind, I decided to create a boss fight out of plants.

The boss is pretty powerful and has two phases. Initially, he shoots shock balls at you and punches you if you get too close.

In the second phase, indicated by a red glow, the boss shoots vines from the ground, making the two pools in the middle the only safe area during these attacks. To defeat the boss, players must take a cue from the second-phase cutscene: shoot one of the large boulders hanging over the boss, and ta-da! no more monstrous demon fern.

Revisions/Improvements: As this was the first instance of "advanced AI" I kismetted, I'll admit that the tactics involved are pretty straight-forward: shoot the monster and try not to get hit in the process. Originally, in order to defeat the boss after the second-phase, you just kept shooting him again until he died, which wasn't all that fun (nor unexpected). I added in the triggered falling rock to better connect the level with the gameplay and give the player something different to do.

I walked through the International Village plaza almost every morning on the way to school and it occurred to me very early on that this particular roundabout would make an awesome place for a boss fight.

With the centre area as a vantage point for the enemy and the surrounding columned semi-circle providing the necessary cover, this was the seed that took root in my brain as I set to work on my first single-player level.

I use the MiniBoss to break up the gameplay from the quiet and serene puzzle solving of the previous room. The MiniBoss' death also acts as a brief tutorial as it shoots the diamond-shaped targets to open the gates, a useful hint for solving the next room . . .

One of my goals was to make this level look unexpected, meaning that to see it, you wouldn't immediately think "Unreal Tournament". I drew a lot inspiration from the many temples and ruins you traverse in the Tomb Raider series - using an earthy colour palette, lighting and the occasional glowing peculiarity to give the place a sense of mystery.

To give the level a sense of history as well, I use the set-dressing to show the passage of time (wear and tear) as well as purpose . . . or atleast allude to purpose. The questions I pose with the props - what's with the bird statues? - further immerses the player into the gameworld. 

I also use the architecture of the level to guide players and help them "landmark" as they go. I learned a lot as I put this level together; by using a select set of props and only adding in one or two different pieces per area, I kept each room distinct from the others but consistent to the overall look of the level.