(This level is still WIP, Updates Coming Soon)
Game Inspiration: God of War (2018) & God of War Ragnarok
Level Duration: 20-25 mins
Learning Objective: I am a huge fan of the recent GoW series, I think it has some of the best level design to date, in terms of how they deliver narrative and also how well the levels all can be re-used and seen from another perspective depending on the mechanics the player has. With that and my passion for the franchise, I wanted to challenge myself by creating a new level within the world.
Narrative: With Kratos and Atreus’s home destroyed from Kratos’s previous battle with the gods and the barriers down, Kratos has set off alone to find more trees that Faye had marked. This is because these trees help protect the barrier, so using them in their home will only strengthen their living situation.
As this is the first time in a long time that Kratos has been alone, it dawns on him, that he is a single parent, with no aid from his wife. Which he also questions, for someone he loved so much, did he really know everything about her? Now this doubt is creeping in, Kratos finds himself on enemy territory where a strange magic preys upon one’s own fears and doubts. Kratos must not just conquer this new foe and their strange magic, but come to acceptance of his own situation.
Mission Objective: Find Three Marked Trees
While working on this project it gave me a chance to experiment with a few different tools, to improve my own skills.
Documentation: Miro-Boards Voices: AI Natural Reader
Game Engine: UE5 Scripting: Blueprint
Art Assets: Blender & Synty Studio Assets Concept Art: Midjourney
I set out with the task of not only just that of making a GoW level but also wanting to improve my skills. For so long I had been using in-house game engines that UE4 had slipped by me. So I decided to take a chance to really better equip myself for UE5 and re-learn the tools inside the engine.
Documentation is changing fast, in a great way, and while on Cybperpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty We just started to play around with Miroboards and during my own time I had been looking into another similar software called Milanote. But it was very clear the direction documentation was heading for our industry.
The elephant in the room when using these new tools is AI. I know there are a lot of questions and ethical thoughts on these tools, but because it is just a personal project I wanted to learn more about these tools and how to use them to best improve my own pipeline.
With wanting to make this level playable, one of the first things I wanted to see, was what resources were out there. Luckily for me, I found this great pack by Lewis Fiford. In which he had re-created the axe-throwing mechanic.
I had been wanting to make a GoW level for a long, long time! But never could think of the story for it or where to start the level. I loved the games so much, that I started to explore the expansion content which led me to the comics by Chris Roberson.
Now the comics, were set prior to the the 2018 game, and I loved the deeper meaning of the comics were about Kratos trying to control his anger, not letting it control him. He felt he needed to isolate himself until he was able to contain the rage. The villains of these animalistic bear druids also just fit so perfectly. With this story set deep into my mind, I went and carried out more research to help improve the ideas floating around my mind.
With more research done, I decided to take what was discussed in the comics but alter things slightly, instead of this event happening prior to the 2018 game, it would take place a bit after the ending, so in between GoW & Ragnarok. The reason for this, was down to the mechanics available, as it allowed me to prototype more, but also I wanted to build on this rage. We focus a lot on the relationship between Kratos and Atreus, yet we do not see the impact of the loss on solely Kratos. This is what I wanted to focus on, and dig deeper into why these druids rage.
Now with the main theme at the heart of it, I needed to make sure Kratos was alone while searching for these specific trees, but removing Mimir & Atreus limits the narrative as Kratos is not a talkative character. This is why I brought back Zeus from the past (We will talk about how in the mechanic section) but I came up with the idea that the reason the druids are so filled with rage is that their god Jord had their magic twisted so that when near one of her shrines, it would show the viewers worst nightmares, which would be that of Zeus.
Zeus will go through and teach Kratos, pulling on the realization that Kratos does not know everything about his wife, which makes him question his own marriage. The battle to find these trees is no longer an external factor, but one which Kratos has to overcome internally as well.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to Iceland and Scotland recently, so I was also able to draw on that trip for inspiration alongside images I found.
There is a lot to cover throughout the documentation phase, but the big focus for me was making sure I had enough references to help with each location. Using Miro-boards allows me to plan out what is needed, as well as the overall flow of the level. I tried out a new 2D editor called Dungeon Scrawl as well to allow me to create a map visually better than my sketches but also to make it clearer to the reader my overall intent.
With using the new software came, how to best use AI, to help me as well. I did this by having it generate multiple concept art pieces as well as help with that of voice generation. The next AI Tool was Midjourney and how to use it to create helpful concept art.
A huge aspect to consider with creating a GoW level is of its cinematography. It is famously all set in a ‘Onner’ meaning that there is only one camera and no cuts. They have an incredible team behind designing the camera system I thought about what Scenes did I want to best deliver the narrative in the level and how best to use that system.
With everything now in motion it was time to start designing the first area of the level.
One of my goals was to learn the tools of Unreal, so I wanted to make sure this entire level was playable. I first figured out roughly what mechanics I needed to create for this layout and noted them down, where they would take place in the layout. Then started to prototype them in Blueprint & Sequencer.
These mechanics are great for making it feel like GoW and help replicate the actions, but I also wanted to think about storytelling as well. To help me with this I played with the weather so when players reach certain parts of the level it will match the mood of the narrative.
We spoke earlier, about the One Camera technique earlier and how I planned it with my storyboards, but I came across this video on the making of GoW: Ragnarok.
They state, that they do not use Storyboards, as they do not find it effective, for having their no-cuts camera technique……so now that means I need to make sure I create my scenes in UE5.
A new addition to mechanics for this story and my level was that of the ‘Bear Statue’ the player will run into it multiple times, and will see it have varying effects each time the encounter.
With the narrative and mechanics set, I needed to start planning out how to best sell these within the level. Designing a more organic space was still a very daunting task, as most of my LD work has been in that of urban city-scapes. However, I felt confident with the research and decided to split up my overall level into different sections.
Section 1 – Geysers (Kratos’s range is building up and bubbling under the surface, and the area matches tonally)
Section 2 – Stone Quarry (We are now digging underneath the surface of Kratos’s feelings but also seeing a set piece of a giant’s remains, showing how they were treated in this realm)
Section 3 – Cave/Forest (These two locations play in contrast with one another, the cave reflecting Kratos’s darkest doubts, to the forest where he is starting to see the light)
Section 5 – Temple (Our boss fight will take here, showing how anger is worshiped and Kratos not wanting to worship the same anger as the enemy)
Section 6 – Home (With the enemy defeated his perspective is restored, as although he may not know every side of Feya, he still has his son)
To help guide the player through section 01, I used two landmarks. First would be the tree, which we see in the opening scene, and then after that would be the gate/bridge as players can see it through multiple areas in this area.
Highlighting the routes for players I used Orange for traversal & purple for gameplay.
I hope you have enjoyed a look at the level, there is still more to do, but I think you can get a good sense of direction, in where the level is going. If you want to see me build the level, click the link below: