Black Ops 3
Kalios is the first multiplayer level I built/designed within the Radiant level editor. The level is based in an old, worn-down military facility. The years haven't been kind to the site, for vines and other flora have overgrown the buildings within the base. The once pristine barracks where over two dozen soldiers slept have fallen into disrepair as trash and medical waste litter the floors and graffiti covers some walls. Even the repair center has seen better days as two machines of war forever await their desired recovery. However, the artificial river that the base used to generate power for the now-abandoned city remains untouched by the elements, for better or worse. As such, it is still somewhat of a mystery as to why Black Ops and the CDP would risk the lives of their elites for this site. Although maybe the files located on the computers whose monitors still dimly glow and kept alive by the artificial river might be the key to this puzzle.
Structure VDDs and Zoning
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In the initial phase of Kalios's design phase, much like Falzen before, it break the level down into various zones or sections. Although, unlike Falzen, where these zones unlocked different weapons and challenges as the players battled through, the zones of Kalios were to be designed around various playstyle weaponry and assist with spawn point placement later in the level development. Knowing I wanted these zones, I started by giving myself an overall goal, a reason for creating the level, and a general theme I wanted to use. The goal for the level was to create an enjoyable and fair experience for the players, not dependent on loadout, initial spawn, or their chosen playstyle. The reason for this level was to go through designing, developing, and eventually finishing a multiplayer map that would follow the general design thoughts behind a COD MP map with a couple of alterations to make it unique.
With the goal and the reason for the level out of the way, I set the mood for the level. In the first step of theming, I started with more macro elements, such as the biome and time of day. Since my last map was at night, I made a Kalios set during the daytime. Furthermore, this would reduce the chance of brightness becoming an issue later in the structuring design process regarding sightlines and fair-level construction. Thus, back to the biomes; first, I wrote down a list of possible biomes based on available textures and art assets. From there, I began playing through all the BO3 MP maps and crossed off biomes already used within these maps more than once. After this process, I settled on more of a tropical biome or a tropical forest with palm trees and other plants that would fit this type of environment.
With my biome selected, there is more time to move on to the structural nature of the theming. Thus, I returned to the BO3 MP maps and found many were staged in disrepair or abandonment. However, the key to this was that none did it more in a tropical forest setting.
Now armed with this, the theme would be some abandoned place with a tropical forest setting. Yet, interestingly, many of the maps that were themed as desolate and overgrown still had their primary buildings partially overtaken, for that would cause too much visual noise and could lead to player pathing confusion. Furthermore, many of these maps were more industrial or civilian, or at least placed in biomes similar to the ones I had selected. Thus, those types of structures and buildings were off-limits.
This landed me on the concept of a minor military outpost that had been abandoned for some reason. However, the issue is that most militaries don't just set up an outpost for no given reason in a biome as tricky as a tropical forest. Therefore, there had to be some reason built into the map's structure that would explain why a base was here in the first place. However, another element that could be implemented to fix this conundrum was civilization. What I mean by this is to have some element of people or structure that makes having a military base in the vicinity make logical sense. Thus, the idea that the base would be set in the outskirts of a city came to mind. Many cities worldwide are close to tropical forests or areas and, as such, could be placed in a manner to make this sense. Thus, it was set that the base would be placed on the outskirts of such a city bordering a tropical forest.
It is good to explain why the base was there, but it was still missing that other essential element for militaries in most cases, try to avoid the jungle unless they traverse such terrain. Therefore, I settled on some elements the army protected from possible sabotage or capture. I went to the resources available to pull from textures or assets. There were a couple of good options, but I chose water. Not only would this create an interesting structural dynamic within the level, but it would add another element to play. Yet, I need more than just a lake or a pond, which might create issues in balancing and removing flow breaks. As such, I went with a simple river that crossed through the center of the map and could act as a small barrier point that needed to be traversed to travel to the other side of the compound. Although, a problem remained, for yes, water is quite a vital resource, and militaries might be detached to protect such a critical lifeline; there had to be something else. Given some elements currently ongoing within the world, I thought making the river power some power generation would solve the issue of why the military base was there and add more structure to the portion of the river's map. The problem is that it could be an ordinary river, given that most hydroelectric sources are heavily altered from their natural form or alignment. As such, the river became artificial, controlled, and monitored by the military compound protecting it.
With all of this, I finally had a theme: an abandoned military base protecting a hydroelectric plant on the outskirts of a rundown city. Armed with a goal, a reason, and a theme, it was time to start designing and building the level known as Kalios.
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For the first phase of Kalios's structuring design process, I wanted to break the level into different sections, as mentioned above. Depending on their finalized design, these sections would promote various playstyles, for example, shotgun/SMG builds for close range or Sniper/DMR builds for longer ranges. However, the key was that all of these sections would enable all playstyles to still be effective in some manner. With this in mind, I began designing the structure for the first section of the map, the dorms.
This area would be broken down into two different sections: the open area and the interior area. The open space was designed more around flanking and long-range play, whereas the internal area was about close-range and rushing play. I started designing the interior section first, given that it was vital that those with smaller ranges could close the distance using the cover permitted by the dorm's walls. As such, it was better to design the open area around the shape and structure of the dorm's interior.
When designing this shape, I came up with a couple of ideas, the first being that inside the dorms would be a larger open area filled with smaller bits of cover to enable people to close the distance while hopping from cover to cover. However, that didn't fit the speed of COD MP gameplay and was switched out to my second design. This design was more centered around an interconnected pathway leading from one end of the dorm to another. This simplified approach felt clearer but fit the game's pacing more suitably.
Given that it was to be an interconnected pathway that goes from one end to another, I added a point in the center of the path from which players could enter. The reasoning behind this was to stop possible chokepoints from forming and stagnating play, thus affecting the desired pace of the match. Furthermore, next to the middle point was a pillar added to break lines of sight within the dorms, giving rushing players more chance to close the distance than being picked off by more ranged-based players. Also, to further this, windows were added as crucial points to weaken possible camping positions and give players within the dorms some line of sight outside of the dorms themselves. This was also done to deal with the encroaching issue of the dorms feeling like an underground tunnel rather than a building. With the interior of the dorms developed to a degree, it was time to move onto the more open area.
Since the open area was centered more around longer-ranged playstyles, it was filled with various sightlines that enabled users to see quite a distance away from them. However, to stop this area from turning into a sniper dueling area, multiple cover bits were added to enable people not to use such long-range builds to close the distance. Furthermore, since this area was also about flanking, these cover pieces were designed to hide the presence of a possible flanking play from any watchful eyes. However, to keep within the level's goal of fairness, players can use breaks in the cover to spot and stop a possible flanking maneuver. Using greyboxing and later testing, these areas were altered slightly to enable more fair play in balancing playstyles against each other. Many of these alterations were slight adjustments of cover placement and interior wall placement.
With the first area designed, it was time to move on to the next one, which had many similar design elements via an open and interior area. However, the significant difference is the addition of a second floor within the confines of the new building, the repair center.
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The repair center's design process was similar to that of the dorms. Have two different areas, one more in the open to enable longer-ranged engagements with bits of cover here and there to enable flanking moves. As well as an interior section to allow for close-ranged builds and rushing playstyles to shine.
However, there are two critical differences between the repair center area and the dorms; one, as mentioned previously, is the addition of a second floor and the challenges that go alongside that, and the interior of the repair shop is a combination of open and pathway-like areas.
Starting with the addition of a second floor, the role of the repair shop was to create structural parity with another planned building across the artificial river. This means that given that this other planned building would also have two floors, the repair shop, in the fashion of my level's goal of fair play, would have one as well. However, this leads to the question of why we have a second story. Well, one of the critical aspects the second story adds is elevation and the high ground. This means these positions open up new lines of sight into areas that might have been harder to see and counter within their addition. This then furthers a more dynamic play space for players will now have to look at what's on their same elevation and what could be watching them from slightly above them.
However, these additions could create unfair advantages for those who control them, and thus, there needed to be structural parity between both teams initially starting sides. Hence, the addition of a second floor within the confines of the repair center. Furthermore, to ensure the second floor is not oppressive, all windows that snipers or any player might use are within numerous lines of sight of the opposing side and can be easily countered if needed.
Furthermore, the general lack of cover those using the windows have behind them makes it easy to flank and take out any players not aware of their surroundings. However, to make those using these windows not at a complete disadvantage, there are railings on the second floor that players can use to spot and deal with possible flanking attempts. Although this is a double-edged sword, they can use these sightlines, as can the to-be flankers.
From the second floor, we go back down to the first, divided into two parts. From the two main entrances near the center road, the path within the repair center is relatively open, besides a few bits of cover here and there. This was done to enable those on the second floor a chance to spot new threats, and the cover is there to protect these new threats from the second-floor players again to create parity between them and generate a fair encounter between parties.
Yet, there is the section right under the second floor where there are numerous small pathways between cover points that players can use to flank and outmaneuver their opponents and, if needed, close in on the enemy combatants above them. To avoid too much clutter, these pathways also connect to a primary and more open path that then connects to the side entrance to the repair center. This also creates an ease of use for players who wish to bypass the more complicated area and are just using the repair center to move from one section of the map to another. Like the dorms section, later grey-boxing and testing created minor alterations to cover and window placement for a better and fair play space for all playstyles. With the repair center now designed, it was time to move across the river to the other two planned buildings.
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This next section, or the monitor station section, is slightly different regarding its design from the previous two areas. Although it follows a similar formula of having an open area and an interior space within a building, its purpose was altered given the desired size of the planned building and the fact that the building across from it was a two-story repair center. As such, its open area was more designed around flanking and countering the window play of the repair center than sniper engagements across the map. Given the cover placement within its area, it has some long sightlines; it simply lacks many of them. Thus, as mentioned, it is also the smallest open region given; it's more sections you move and shoot through than stop and snipe within.
This all then leads into the building or the monitor station itself. Aside from the two planned hydroelectric facilities, this building is the smallest and most compact. This was done to create an area focused on close-range engagements and flanking. In a sense, it is the dorms' parity on the river's other side. Furthermore, the monitor station was divided into the outer box and the inner box. The outer box is a hallway that loops around and connects to four different entrance points. This box was designed to be the connector section players could use to reach other sections. For example, suppose a player wants to travel to the repair center section but wants more cover, given their build. In that case, they can use the outer box to connect them to the monitor station's open area or the entrance of the smaller hydroelectric building.
The inner box refers to the smaller chamber within the monitor station that acts as a place for players to use on flank/rush routes or as cover via breaking line of sight with enemy players shooting at them. Furthermore, the outer box can reach another zone with more shelter and safety.
However, the dorms are more centered around closing the distance in a more north to south and vice versa via to and from the river. The monitor station is more designed around moving the player east to west. Thus acting as a means of moving the player alongside the river. This was done to allow more ease of access to the rusted building or the second-story building on the south side of the river. Furthermore, two windows were added onto the walls facing the river to create more lines of sight and counters to the windows within the repair center. Like all sections before it, numerous rounds of testing and greyboxing alterations were done to the structure and size of the monitor station to best fall within the lines of its design and reason for existence. With the monitor station and its surrounding area designed, it was time to move on to the rusted building.