In 2010, I had the opportunity to work at Asobo Studio as a Level Designer on the pre-production of « Disney Pixar’s Rush », a 3D platformer only for Kinect in which player can live all their favorite moments of the Pixar movies.
At that time, I was the only Level Designer in a team composed of several level builders.
– designing on the main levels to ensure a high quality product that respects the Pixar universe (high level pitches, difficulty curve, beat chart)
– writing detailed documentation in order to be the link between designers and builders (brainstorming, tested and analyzed new coregameplay mechanics)
– involved in game design process to create a Kinect 2.0 experience
– designing and building on the VSD level to get Microsoft’s greenlight
Designing on the main levels
Each level of Rush is inspired of one the famous Pixar movies such as Ratatouille and the Incredibles. The main goal was to put the player “inside the movie experience”. In order to achieve this, each level and each sections of any level were defined by a user story and a user experience:
– the user story defines what happen in the universe of the game: the goal is to list all the things that happen on screen. For example, it could be characters talking, objects falling down, describing the vista …
– the user experience defines what happen for the player: the goal is to list all the actions that the player is going to perform. There were defined by action verbs such as dodge or jump.
The idea was to be as closed as possible from what happen in the movies (the user story) and to “translate it” into gameplay sequences (user experience). I had to design a level from a global perspective but also from a minute to minute perspective.
I wrote several documents that explained what happen in those levels, which art assets we needed, which gameplay mechanics were implied, the difficulty for specific gameplay sequences … To make sure that builders read those documents, I designed a template document in Excel which linked all those documents: this idea was to create one document in which anyone in team could find what they needed about their levels. It really helped the team to achieve our main goal.
Creating a Kinect 2.0 game
When I was working on Rush, Kinect had just been released and games were not using the full potential of it. Microsoft asked to Asobo to create something more than a party game based on the Pixar movies: the objective was to create a “Kinect 2.0” game. I was involved in the game design process in order to be the link between level designers and level builders.
I had the opportunity to take part of brainstorming sessions about the main concept of the game, the coregameplay mechanics and many elements of the game (enemies, bosses, unlocks…). During those sessions, I was giving a “level design point of view” : how can we use this mechanic, how can we mix it with other mechanics, which kind of issues it can create on the game … Then, I had to write documents about those choices to inform builders.
I was also in charge of designing and building test maps to explore the potential gameplay mechanics. Those levels were used by programmers to complete those mechanics and builders to understand which patterns they needed to use.
Working on VSD level for Microsoft
During three months, the team was working on a VSD level to get Microsoft’s greenlight. I was working on the VSD level by designing level situations and building them using the in-house level editor. I was part of brainstorming sessions with the publisher, which gave me the opportunity to learn how to convince a green light committee.
Being part of the pre-production of Rush was really interesting. I learnt many things such as how to create a Kinect game: it was a really challenge that requires a totally new approach to design games, and I think this is what make it really interesting.
I also learnt how to write level pitches by defining the user story and the user experience: separating what happen in the screen (the game) and in front of the screen (the player) can really help to create enjoyable experience.