DUNA

  • Role: Design Lead / Level Design

  • Genre: Action Brawler

  • Engine: Unity 3D

  • Developer: Option 7 Games (DigiPen Institute of Technology)

  • Total Dev Time: 2020 - 2021; 9 months

  • Platform: Windows

Duna is a 3D action brawler inspired by titles like Dynasty Warriors and Bayonetta. The player's goal is to escort a baby dragon to a mountain to reunite it with it's family, however an evil goblin wizard wants to use the dragon to become even more powerful. The gameplay is predominantly attack combos with tactical elemental finishers against a variety of enemies in small waves within enclosed arenas. This particular project went through many iterations and changes before coming to what it currently is today.

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TASKS / RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Sketching and whiteboxing levels

  • Assisting art team in decorating environment with assets

  • Encounter design, both in each encounter and difficulty scaling

  • Working with the art team and creative direction in trying to maintain the vision of the game through it's environment

  • Directing the design team toward which problems to focus on and goals for milestones

  • Establishing and authoring a standardized user testing survey to collect comparable data that would be used for all tests

  • Conducting playtests and authoring playtest documentation

FROM WHITEBOX TO FINISHED PRODUCT

In pre-production we wanted to get a feel for the overall pacing of the game before we committed a lot of time to environments that might not work well; how far apart we wanted encounters, if there was a gradual feeling of rising tension, if the progression of mechanics and ideas was working well. This started out in the form of an incredibly basic testing level where the devs could test things out as they were built and I could quickly iterate on the order of mechanic progression to find what really felt right. This allowed the whole team to quickly iterate and develop the ideas we had as well as what to get rid of. 

Screenshot 2020-09-17 152654
Screenshot 2020-09-17 152654
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Screenshot 2020-10-05 142417
Screenshot 2020-10-05 142417
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Capture (1)
Capture (1)
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From here this idea of prototyping our main experience grew into trying to get a feel for the environment and expanding into getting a feel for all the content we had planned out. The goal of this stage of pre-production was to get a feel for not just where the game needed to change further, but also to get a look into the time it would take art and design to create the content we were planning. At this stage the game was heavily influenced by the narrative, with the player's goal being traveling to the mountain. We wanted the world itself going through dramatic changes to reflect the danger the player was going to be diving deeper into the closer to the mountain they got. 

D2
D2
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D3
D3
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D4
D4
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D5
D5
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D6
D6
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Screenshot 2020-11-10 181022
Screenshot 2020-11-10 181022
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Screenshot 2020-11-07 184620
Screenshot 2020-11-07 184620
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Screenshot 2020-11-10 181113
Screenshot 2020-11-10 181113
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Screenshot 2020-11-17 191038
Screenshot 2020-11-17 191038
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However when we moved into production, our Design Lead and Narrative Designer left the team and we determined the scope the narrative presented was too much for the team to handle and we began to gradually dial back it's influence on the direction of the game, starting with the removal of areas we had planned out for narrative beats. We transitioned to using Unity's terrain tool so that we could get more natural landscapes in a quicker time period, a decision that would prove to be a double edged sword as the time it would take to paint up new level changes would begin to greatly outweigh any value it had in trying to quickly iterate. 

Testing was telling us that the arena spaces were too small, so I worked on making them larger, however the bigger space meant we were in danger of overwhelming our art team with things they had to decorate. Trying to achieve the right ratio of this while managing sightlines of surrounding terrain and the players goal of the mountain within week long sprint turn arounds became the biggest challenge I had developing the title. 

Screenshot 2020-10-05 175507
Screenshot 2020-10-05 175507
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Screenshot 2020-10-06 170156
Screenshot 2020-10-06 170156
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Screenshot 2020-10-14 130225
Screenshot 2020-10-14 130225
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Screenshot 2021-01-12 162537
Screenshot 2021-01-12 162537
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Screenshot 2021-01-15 195431
Screenshot 2021-01-15 195431
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Screenshot 2021-01-15 195515
Screenshot 2021-01-15 195515
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This process eventually landed the game where it is today. Below is a video of what the opening area was going to look like when we were still moving forward with our narrative. The feeling trying to be conveyed is that the player has snuck up on some goblins around a campfire and surprise attacks them for the first fight. The idea of looking down on them from above to give that feeling of superiority is what lead to climbing up the cliff. The mountain visible in the distance was also still established, as I had placed it in the world to plan around it with view points. This sequence was narrative heavy, and with how lengthy it took to traverse it, we had to cut it to something more streamlined.