Role: Lead Level Designer
Team Size: 14
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Genre: Puzzle, Casual
Development Time: 6 months
Define and prioritize sprint deliverables with other leads using Scrum based on sprint requirements;
Plan sprint with level designers, including defining user stories, conditions of satisfaction, breaking tasks into daily-scrum tasks and collaboration between level designers;
Conflict management and coordination between the level design team and other teams over streaming levels according to prioritization and dependables to increase productivity;
Cocreate quality control standard documents as a deliverable guideline ;
Review level layout and puzzle design and give feedback to help improve the quality of levels.
In La Rana, players play as a small spirit frog, exploring the lost Rain Temple of Rana. As the temple's last remaining caretaker, player traverses its grand chambers and winding passages to restore its former power and revive the fellow frog spirits along the way.
BEING A LEAD LEVEL DESIGNER
Communication with Level Designers
As the bridge between the level design team and other teams, one important job for a lead level designer is to make sure that all level designers are on the same page with the game designer. The following tasks help me checking every level designer frequently if anyone has any concerns or questions regarding the project while updating them about decisions is vital.
Coordination with Other Teams
Game development is teamwork. One object in a level is created and designed by artists, used by level designer, given function by programmers. As the lead level designer, I work with lead artist and lead programmer to nail down the details of one object. It is also very common when several teams need to use the same stream level. My role is to talk to whoever needs the level and work out a schedule according to priority so we can coordinate.
Pipeline and Documentation
In my team, there were 6 level designers (including game designer and me), four artists and three programmers. To make sure communication goes well, I created a series of pipeline documentation to help to communicate within the level design team and cross disciplines. For example, a special effect might be owned by programmers or artists and level designers. Therefore, I created three different pipelines to guide a level designer when working on a special effect.
The lead level designer also is the quality safety net for a game. For me, I check every level designer's work, no matter if it's level design map or level layout in Unreal Engine 4. For each type of work, the game designer and I would create a series of standards to determine if the work is approved. Take a level of construction in Unreal Engine 4 as an example. Basic requirements would include no major game breaking bugs, no overlapping meshes, no floating meshes as such. I will also evaluate if the level fits the game designer's vision.
What Went Well
Feedback pipeline was capable of helping game designer and me to improve the level designers evolve their levels to a consistent game vision.
At the end of Alpha when all teams need to work on one single stream level, the coordination was smooth that everyone was able to complete his task in time.
The whole team suffered from a lack of common game vision at the beginning of development. However, rapid prototype development proves that some concept is not possible to achieve under given time and resources. The application of rapid prototype development enables the whole team to hold the same vision.
Underestimation of an aesthetic pass on a level leads to level designers and artists unable to finish the task on time. Eventually, the issue was solved by cutting off insignificant sections.
What I Learned
In a team project, it is essential to stand up for what one thinks is right, but it is even more critical to understand the current situation and learn to compose.
Quality control needs to happen at every stage of development as every new stage brings in new problems.