About High Stakes

Occupational Hazard
Toolset/Engine: Gears of War / Unreal Engine 3
Concept: High Stakes is a single-player Gears of War level of moderate difficulty that takes place in a ruined high rise collapsed into a massive sinkhole. The player must fight their way through to the balcony extraction point in order to meet up with Baird and Gus. With a focus around aggressive mid-ranged combat, the level uses space, light contrast, and combat flow to direct the player around the level. I deconstructed official maps to examine the techniques used to create certain visuals and effects.

Design Goals & Key Features:

  • Utilize modular design techniques to rapidly create visuals
  • Applied techniques learned from deconstructing official maps
  • Provide player navigation at a distance through aesthetic composition

Design Achievements

Read more about how I layered composition elements into the level...

Aesthetic Composition in Level Design

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Lighting in doorways and the space beyond offers a technique to direct the eye and the player to intended positions. Players will naturally gravitate towards these markers.

Lighting the way…

Techniques from traditional media can be applied to level design in order to improve aesthetics and supplement the flow of the level. Often times during moment-to-moment gameplay, there will not be opportunity to provide overt direction to a player. A player will subconsciously begin to fall back on these aesthetics elements for guidance.

Putting lighting in a doorway can draw the player to investigate and is particularly useful at a distance where smaller details and directional cues may not be visible. As an added measure, this lighting can be easily set to fade as the player approaches and allow for those smaller cues to be read. Aesthetically, this also improves the illusion of light and lighting complexity in the level.

Framing and controlling the player's facing can be used to highlight objectives or force the eye to objects of interest.

Framing a space…

Framed elements and directional elements are other cues that can be applied. The direction of a shadow or the angles of debris can channel the player’s behavior. Even when the player goes off the intended path, these elements often times remain viable and useful, whether because they induce a feeling of being in the wrong place or because their guidance still works.

Additional Media

Overview Map

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Gameplay Trailer