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Fortress in the Woods

The level takes place in the world of Hyrule, where the player is tasked to find missing key fragments to enter a Yiga clan fortress. The goal for this particular project was to create an open space that allowed the player to explore through intention and visual interest, while simultaneously keeping pacing moving and encouraging environmental puzzling. 

Role: Level Design

Duration: 2 Weeks

Tools Used: Unreal Engine 4

Genre: Action Adventure




The initial block-out process came from taking a space relative size to the introduction space for Zelda Breath of The Wild. I knew I wanted 3 focal points that could be viewed from a central point in the level, this gave the opportunity to introduce narrative which could act as a hint to give meaning exploration and flow of the space. I really wanted to establish a hierarchy of locations to visit and even though it was semi-open, in a way where you could visit any area in any order, i crafted it in a way that helped guide it to do so. I used enemy encounters to gate locations that funneled the player to avoid areas until they got better upgrades, I also used environmental noise and space to encourage exploration and solve environmental puzzles. 


Area 1: The encampment near the waterfall.

This area is the intended path for the player's pathing. The area introduces weaker enemies and a larger open space for the player to fight and draw out this combat encounter. This was really a testing zone to draw enemies out and provide the player with a strategy of combat within this level.



Area 2: The mushroom forest is meant to be a break in the combat encounters, though this area does provide some combat, it’s not focused and is more of a space that the player is incentivized to explore and solve environmental puzzles.


Area 3: The Treetops, was another combat beat I wanted the player to feel like they were taking on a decently sized challenge. The idea was a traversal of platforms and a ladder much larger than the first encounter. This challenged the player to fight within constraints, where free-roaming was no longer encouraged but fighting became methodical. This was also an opportunity to give the player a “demi-boss” at the top of the tree base and reward them with the upgrades needed to kill the stronger enemies guarding the final area.
















Area 4: the fortress, is the final destination for the level. It is gated by two keys which must be collected before entering the space. It appears massive and acts as a landmark in every direction to reiterate that this is where you must end up. I wanted to create a juxtaposition in the landscape that served as separate to the current natural landscape, I also decided putting a bridge outwards would draw the player to the next location once they get through the fortress. On top of the fortress is a light emanating upwards to let the player know something mystical and dangerous lies within that fortress.










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The most important learning from the project was figuring out how I could reward the player for exploring the space. Another technical lesson that was learned was utilizing the foliage tool in UE4 and how to make it so I could embellish the area in visual interest where it would bring out the gray boxing. An experimental process that seemed to work pretty well was kitbashing .objs in a way to layer them to make the fortress, I had only really kitbashed rocks and terrain to create scale but this was a great lesson in creating interesting architecture through the process of kitbashing.


After the project was finished I think the ideas of each area were presentable, the main improvement i would do moving forward is creating cutscenes to help make more puzzles and combat encounters more noticeable.  
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