About Deus Ex Machina

Occupational Hazard
Toolset/Engine: Unreal Tournament 3 / Unreal Engine 3
Concept: Deus Ex Machina is a multi-player Unreal Tournament 3 deathmatch level featuring a ruined facility being carried by a massive mechanical titan. Bio-mechanical flora and fauna inhabit the complex and watch the carnage. The level focuses on fast-paced close-to-mid ranged combat where skillful movement and liberal use of jumppads are required to succeed. The astute player can take advantage of shortcuts and fast exits. Verticality plays a part in both the combat and the aesthetics – the towering set pieces offer safety on each level but will harm the player if forced off. Powerups appear on the map in time-locked containers.

Design Goals & Key Features:

  • Create a bio-mechanical themed level
  • Reward level exploration and map familiarity
  • Provide navigational landmarks and set pieces
  • Balance the potency of sniping against the risk of attacks
  • Develop flow patterns and routes that encourage movement and pursuit

Design Achievements

Read more about how I built flow and rewarded mastery...

Elements of Flow and Mastery

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Landmarks and background set pieces like the mountains and mechanical orbs provided a way for players to intuitively know where they were.

Distinct landmarks for navigation…

Flow in a competitive map comes with a player’s mastery of the map. One of the key aspects of multi-player map mastery is knowing your location in order achieve positional advantage and having a strong route through which you can navigate around the map with. I focused the re-structuring of the map around building out the level to create plentiful routes with varying advantages. Each area had a distinct feel and backdrop to create navigational aids.

One of the primary routes is a simple circuit on the second floor. This route provides access to a moderate amount of health and weapons. A player can also readily access most of the first floor and parts of the third floor. This ensures this space and route is a suitable for general combat and for players of most skill levels. Balancing out these advantages are the fact that the space is exposed from many directions and a player does not have easy access to more powerful weapons.

One of the uber powerups on the map. The lightray signals that it is available which allows attentive players to risk going for the advantage. However, doing so may force them out of the fight and so they must balance the benefit of the powerup with the potential loss of kills.

Mastering powerup timing…

Another aspect of map mastery is timing. To create an element of timing, I sequestered powerful powerups in locations that would only unlock at specific intervals. Expert players who could track the timing and signaling of these powerups and attempt to access these powerups just as they became available. The drawback to poor timing was that a player was physically out of combat for a short time and thus potentially losing out on kills.

Read more about how I encouraged rapid movement and fast paced combat...

Movement and Cover

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The central courtyard has limited cover due to the vertical elements. This creates a killing zone where players are vulnerable. Offering escape options and cover in the center and edges channels players back into combat areas.

Combat zones…

Level layout heavily influences viable strategies and the balance of risk vs. reward for different styles of combat. Unreal Tournament is a relatively fast paced game where combat involves high skill mobility. Understanding this is important to developing a map for that style of combat and goes beyond combat ranges and weapon damage.

Both the placement of and the frequency of cover affects combat pacing. Thick forms of cover such as pillars and overhangs can provide protection while limiting mobility. Smaller cover elements or cover elements spaced in regular patterns can provide near-equivalent protection but encourage movement and aggression by offering frequent opportunities to attack.

Additional Media

Overview Map

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Gameplay Trailer