Orgos Facility 345
Orgos Facility 345 is the third part of a multi-level campaign I am designing/building within the Doom(2016) level editor. After the events of The Frozen Chasm, in which the player was able to traverse the chasm and climb out of hell, they find themselves now warped into an unknown facility. Upon arriving, they are greeted with a message from someone known as Steve Harkins. The scientist tells them about the current situation within the facility. The facility is overrun with demons and some strange disturbance has downed the communication network. Can the player clear this hellish disturbance and restore the facility communication lines, or will they burn in the molten pits of Orgos Facility 345?
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While designing the structure of Orgos Facility 345, I aimed to generate a shorter level regarding the number of chambers, walkways, and paths. The thought process behind this being that by simplifying the level's overall design, it would enable me to create unique encounters within these various rooms. For example, I could have a room with multiple engagements that would trigger when the player enters/reenters this room or completes other mission-based criteria.
Furthermore, my previous levels tended to be more horizontal than vertical in nature. Thus there was never much if any vertical traversing. As such, I implemented more vertical movement within a few select chambers whose structure enabled such movement to occur. The reasoning behind this decision was that I desired to generate more dynamic feeling while playing through the level. Thus instead of just moving along the horizontal plane and in some rare cases traversing upwards, the player could also traverse vertically. This not only allows for better use of the full space within a chamber, but also enables me to design and implement unique encounters that take advantage of this verticality. By doing so, each encounter within the various rooms feel distinctive and varying from other chambers' encounters. Although I had to be careful for to much verticality would mean the player either might get confused as now they must have more situational awareness if they wish to deal with the incoming threats that might be above them.
With these design desires in mind, I began to create possible layouts for the level. The configurations differed in several manners, such as the number of vertical-based, backtrack, planned boss rooms, and more. Although I wanted to keep the overall structure to a more simplified approach, I set a limit on the number of chamber types, such as boss, vertical, and backtrack chambers. Doing so cut down on the possible scoping issues regarding the desire to keep a simple design and created a clearer image of what layouts would make the most sense.
The type of chamber was one of many aspects of design I took into account while designing the overall structure of the facility. Each room would have a unique purpose and, as such, had to add some particular idea or concept into the experience as to differentiate itself from the other rooms. This meant that a chamber's structure must allow for various possible concepts in order to used within the final design. This one criteria cut down the amount of possible layouts I designed to only a couple. For there were very few rooms that not only enabled various types of encounters, but were also distinct in their own structure as well.
Now that the number of possible layouts was reduced to a handful I began to test and see what types of encounters would follow all the previously set criteria and worked well within the confines of the remaining layouts. After some time I came to one layout that followed the set criteria and whose structure would enable me to test numerous encounter types, environmental interactions, and whose design already followed a certain narrative.
Boss and Horde Enemy Encounters
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After selecting the layout that best fit my desires for this level, the process of boss encounter began. Unlike the previous levels, these interactions are broken down into two categories, boss and mini-boss. The bosses where designed to be more difficult fights due to a higher increase of base unit stats and other various environmental interactions that most mini-bosses lacked. Furthermore boss encounters, in most cases, were to have cinematic intros as to represent them in a more menacing manner and to express their importance to the level's overall design. Thus there are only three boss fights of varying difficulty, the final boss being the most difficult. Furthermore, each boss fight was planned to represent a certain critical point within the player's current level progression. As such the first boss represented the player reaching the third of the way mark or the second boss marking the player being a little over halfway through.
An aspect of each boss fight I designed was some unique interaction or mechanic rather than just a base increase to their stats that made them a boss as create a more distinctive feeling while combating them. The ranged of these interactions where designed based off the desired difficulty of each boss encounter. The first boss being the easiest has the easiest as well as simplest mechanic. That being upon reaching certain health thresholds the boss spawns in mob characters. The catch being that depending health level the boss reached the mobs being spawned become more and more deadly.
The second boss unique interaction is follows a different line of thought than the first or last bosses. It doesn't have some unique environmental interaction or call in reinforcements based on its health. Rather its encounter is designed around the enemy unit representing the boss, the Specter. This unit is close to invisible as such what better method of creating a distinctive encounter than that of an ambush to play into its hard to see nature. Thus this boss is the only one without a cutscene introduction as to play into what it is and how it might go about engaging the player in combat. Of course I had to be careful with this as I could get rather unfair to the player if all of a sudden they get killed out of nowhere by a see-through demon. Thus to address this issue I added a callout so that the player has some heads up of what is heading their way.
The final goes back to the formal of cinematic introduction although its unique mechanic is quite different than the previous boss encounters. Wanting to tie in some environmental interaction to a boss fight so the player doesn't spend the whole time blasting away at some buffed base unit I added in the immunity gore nests. Although I didn't want the player to have no experience with this type of connection between boss and environment interaction. Therefore, I designed a mini-boss fight that introduces this concept in a less dangerous location and with easier combatants. This is where the twins mini-boss comes into play. The twins being two hell knights are spawned in once the player has restored power to a certain power station. They are spawned in with a gore nest. This gore nest actively boosts the damage output of the twins by 50 percent until destroyed. All of this is done within a larger as to give the player more room to maneuver and get a hold of the situation and what they need to accomplish to survive.
Furthermore, all of these boss fights are located within rooms whose structures support these types of engagements and depending on the fight give the player plenty of space, cover, and lines of sight.
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The design process for the various hordes encounters that the player experiences throughout their playthrough of Orgos followed a similar design process of The Frozen Chasm, which is designing and testing the encounters around how long they last, enemy spawn rate, the difficulty of enemies, and how enemy difficulty is altered as the encounter continues. Furthermore, like the previous levels I was designing the horde encounters around the structure of the given room in which they occur.
The main difference, however, is the addition of other factors alongside the horde encounters that the player must overcome to survive. These factors are also affected by the chamber structure in which they are located to maintain a fair balance of fun and difficulty. Some of these factors include adding environmental interactions, mini-bosses, and ambushes. Like the bosses, each horde encounter is attached to one of these unique additions. As previously mentioned, which one they are attached to comes down to if the chamber structure supports the addition of this new element. For example, if I was to add a mini-boss alongside a horde encounter, I needed to ensure the player had the space to handle all these threats simultaneously. Still, also the room has the architecture to enable the player to break from the combat if they are getting overwhelmed. Thus balance is always maintained, but the player is still powerful enough to follow along with the desired feeling of being a powerful super soldier slicing and blasting their way through horde after horde of demons.
Environmental Interaction, Pick-ups, and Weaponry
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Once I had all the various encounters designed, I moved on to the critical environmental interactions the player would have to do to complete the level. Given that one of the main ideas behind this level was testing new mechanics/interactions, I wanted to do something different yet similar to not alienate the player. Thus I chose that one of the critical interactions the player would need to do was to restore power to a locked door blocking their way. Initially, I did this in the first level, Escape the Ward, where the player would have to collect power cores and place them in their respective power stations. Yet, as stated before, this level was all about designing new interactions. Therefore, the player must find and interact with two power control panels instead of locating power cores to open the door. Interacting with them would trigger a cutscene showing the power station being powered on. This was done to give feedback to the player that their action did something and remind them what they needed to do next.
Now with one of the leading environmental interactions done, I wanted to add more that weren't used in previous levels. One interaction that looked instead promising was the gore nest. The interaction itself was simple, but the number of possibilities this created was limitless. Furthermore, since I designed them into boss encounters it was important for the player to already have a sense of how to interact with these objects. Thus before the player ever has to fight a boss or a mini-boss in which gore nests play a role, they have already learned how to interact with them and that they need to be destroyed. Yet, why do they need to be destroyed? Was a question that kept popping into my mind. What purpose in world do they play? To answer this question I went back to the narrative element of the level. From there I attached the gore nests to the overall story within the level and thus giving a reason to why the player is destroying them before the boss fights happen.
After some testing with the gore nests, I noticed there was some backtracking. Usually this is ok as long as the backtracking takes less time or adds something new to the experience, such as another encounter or story element. Thus an issue arose; I had two chambers that were would take some time to traverse, and I didn't plan to add another encounter within these rooms. To fix this problem teleports were added to the end parts of these rooms where the power control panels were located. Upon entering the portals, the player would be warped back to the connector room between one of these chambers and the chamber where they fought the first boss. This was done to save the player time and to remove the risk of boredom as they would have to cross back over rooms they already explored. Although these portals are optional, the player doesn't have to take them if they would rather go back through the chamber they just fought through.
With all the environmental interactions, boss/horde encounters, and narrative designs complete I moved onto the placement of various pick-ups such as ammunition, health, armor, and munition boxes. Buffs such as rage, regeneration, and haste were removed given the levels overall length and general overpowered nature of these buffs against AI opponents. Taking into account the player would be able to regain small amounts of ammo, health, and armor from glory killing the AI I went about placing these pick-ups. Furthermore, the location of these pick-ups was also determined by the difficulty of the encounter in which these pick-ups would be utilized within. The simple formula being the easier the engagement, the fewer the pick-ups and vice versa for more difficult encounters such as boss fights. The chamber that houses the first boss follows a slightly different formula given it there are three different encounters implemented into this room. Thus I can't just simply placing pick-ups based on difficulty given each encounter has its own designed challenge range. Therefore, after some testing and tweaking I found a sweet spot both in placement and number of pick-ups located within the room.