Kingsmen Level Design

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Hail future rulers,

I realize it has been a while, long while since the last dev update here on the blog but be assured, we are still hard at work on our tactical turn-based game here at SMG.  Lots of stuff working in the background and we hope to be able to share it with you soon.  Today I am turning over the blog to our Lead level designer, Curtis so that he can share with you what he does around here.

Hi, my name is Curtis Rochelle, and I’ve been designing the tactical maps for Kingsmen. Before working at Stealth Mode, I was a Level Design student at The Guildhall at SMU. I’ve made levels for first-person shooters, role-playing games, and horror games. Kingsmen was my first experience designing for turn-based tactics games, though I’ve been a devotee of the genre for many years. I’d like to take a few paragraphs to share some insights into my process for designing Kingsmen maps.

Incorporating vertical play space is an important element of our design philosophy for Kingsmen. We want to give the players plenty of interesting spaces to interact with on the tactical maps. Ideally, a good Kingsmen level should invite the player to think about the battlefield in three dimensions, and to discover ways to take the high ground from their adversaries. Because of this, I try to avoid creating flat play spaces as much as possible. Medieval villages and countrysides aren’t as well known for multi-story structures. With a little creativity, however, we were able to come up with believable options for vertical gameplay.

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Another important factor for the Kingsmen maps is designing with an eye to the unit movement constraints inherent in tactical games. In any given turn, the player can move no more than 12 grid spaces in any direction. If the player wants to take an action with a unit, that distance gets cut in half. Because of this, I tried to think of the level in intervals of 6 and 12 squares. Whenever possible, I made sure to include points of interest, such as cover, verticality, and chokepoints every 5-8 squares. This became a useful metric for avoiding too much dead space in a level area.

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One of the most critical elements of any successful level design is correctly determining the scale and proportions of a level’s playable space. This has proven especially true for Kingsmen maps. Because of the way our system handles unit navigation, any game object that affects the geometry of the level has to fit within specific proportions to prevent pathing errors. This means that even in the prototype phase of a map, I need to have a clear understanding of the “footprint” for any building, wall, fence, or other feature that could block unit movement.

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To keep up with these strict requirements, I have to communicate clearly with the art team during the whitebox and prototype phases. Since the art team relied on my prototypes to determine their workload for the level, I had to be very systematic and intentional about the size and location of each BSP brush I placed. To give the artists a convenient reference, I created asset spreadsheets for my levels. These spreadsheets included reference shots, dimensions in Unreal Units, and detailed diagrams of each asset’s footprint. The documentation has proven to be quite useful in determining the size and shape of each major asset.

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Thus far, designing Kingsmen tactical maps has been both challenging and rewarding. There’s still plenty of work to be done before the game ships. I look forward to creating many more levels for Kingsmen, and I hope the results are as satisfying to play as they have been to create.

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Kingsmen at the Show!

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Back in September, our small crew took a trip down to south Texas.  Here is a very quick mention of the experience.

We were honored for Kingsmen to be selected for the Intel Developer Showcase at the Austin Game Conference. We got to present the game at the showcase and demonstrate it on the exhibition floor in the Intel booth. It was an amazing and intense experience. We learned a great deal and got some excellent feedback.

We were a bit worried. This was the first time that anyone outside the company really had an opportunity to actually take the controls at the game. And we had rushed to make it ready – while we’re closing in on finishing our first demo stage but we had not anticipated the showcase. And there is always the desire to fix just one more little bug, polish one more facet, etc.

The response was excellent and really helped our confidence. After a while on a project, all the people working on it see are the flaws, and so they get magnified in the mind.

I want to personally thank the Intel Achievement Unlocked crew who were all extremely helpful and supportive: Randi Rost, Cindi Wiggin, Stephanie Balicki,  Landyn Pethrus, Sierra Reid, Josh Bancroft, and Phil (who’s last name I’ve misplaced) all made it a very rewarding experience.

Epic Games was also at the conference, which allowed us a chance to talk to one of there technical artists to get some valuable insight on making our skeletal animations much more efficient.

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Answering questions for some players.

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Curtis and Bloo at the Intel booth.

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SMG at the Intel Developer Showcase

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Some Summer Love

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Hi there future Liege!

Holy hell it’s hot!  I love Texas but getting used to the summer heat…well that’s another story.

I wanted to do another update of what’s been going on since we launched the new website.
Work continues, as always, on Kingsmen.  It’s coming together rather nicely.  A lot of the major systems are in the game and working.  We still have some minor bugs and a few more major systems to add like Fog-of-War and the customization system, but as of today the game is playable from client launch to finish of 2nd story mission.

August is not only hot temperature-wise but all the guys are feeling the heat to get our latest alpha build polished up for the Austin Game Developers Conference in September.

Here is a bullet list (because who doesn’t like bullet lists) of some of the things we are trying to wrap up:

  • Title cards
  • Opening storybook cinematic
  • Base UI polish (strategy layer)
  • Mission HUD polish (tactics interface)
  • Our 3rd playable map
  • Village map polish
  • Sacred Grove map polish
  • Voice-over work for female unit “barks” and storybook narration
  • Unit (both player and A.I.) additional animation sequences and animation blueprint work:
    • Jump down sequences
    • Specialty combat sequences
    • Action camera animations
    • State machine work for crouching, cowering and cover

Our relatively small team means that we will be nose-down busy for the entire month.  Alan will continue to keep everyone updated on things we are doing, our progress, as well as some screenshots and short videos of Kingsmen.   If you like what you see, please share with other like-minded individuals and make it known that someone IS working on a medieval turn-based tactics game with a strategic base layer.

We really feel this is something tactics-based players will enjoy and we need to raise more awareness of its pending existence.

You can also follow us on Twitter @stealthmodegame.

Like us on Facebook here.

Below are some concept pieces of one of our Shattered God minions, altered human fighters known only as Earth Elementals.  I’m also including a couple of in-game screenshots.

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Screenshots from latest alpha build:

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Thank you for being a fan of Kingsmen!

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Watchtowers and Regions

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People ask me all the time, “Hey, Bloo! How do these Regions and Watchtowers and the Castle work? What’s up with them? Bloo? Stop playing Overwatch and answer me!”

To which I say, “PLAY OF THE G– err, right. About OverWatch Towers. I mean Watchtowers . . .”

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In the world of the Kingsmen, you rule from your Castle, which is basically your capitol, or capitol region. It is surrounded by other regions, which are part of your realm, but they are not as well developed. Each region pays taxes. The happier they are with you, the more taxes they will pay. The biggest thing you can do to improve your reputation with a region is to build a Watchtower within it.

A watchtower is like a small castle and helps defend the region. Each watchtower can house one patrol of soldiers. Patrols stationed in a watchtower will be closer and therefore quicker to respond to missions that occur within that region. Otherwise, your patrols would have to come from the main Castle, or even a watchtower in another region, and might not be able to get to the mission in time.

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Many missions will have a time limit. If you don’t start the mission in time, you lose it. For instance, you might have 3 days to send a patrol to the defense of the Sacred Grove. If you don’t send a patrol in time, because you’re waiting for a soldier to be healthy, or for construction of a new weapon to finish, or whatever, that mission will fail and the enemy will have the Sacred Grove. That will then decrease your reputation within that region, and reduce your taxes from that region.

“If the watchtower is like a small castle, does that mean it can be attacked by the enemy?” you might ask, if you are the type of person to ask questions. Yes. Yes it can. “What happens if the watchtower is lost?”

Bad things.