Boarding Party is a level design project I took on as a spec level for Riot's Tactical Shooter Valorant. My goal with the project was to create an interesting level concept that fulfilled a thematic niche, as well as a gameplay niche. The match takes place aboard a luxury airship used by Kingdom to seduce politicians and foreign dignitaries. Players will fight on two decks of the ship, and will zipline aboard from a smaller assault craft.
Unreal Engine 4
First Person Tactical Shooter
During the development of this project I would meet bi-weekly with my teacher and mentor to polish the level blockout. The initial goal was to design a tight level within the thematics that I had chosen, meaning that it would contain two bomb site objectives that are relatively equally balanced. Iterations would continue each week, while also bringing up the visual fidelity, the thematic affordances of each area, as well as trying to maintain logic of the space.
When I first approached building the map, I had a number of ideas including an underwater facility, a radiant warped battlefield, and of course this luxury ship being boarded. Wanting to push the boundaries of what a Valorant map could be, I opted for the last, compiling reference and hopping into blockout after I'd done some preliminary sketches. From a gameplay standpoint, the idea was to split the map vertically -- drawing from CS:GO's map Vertigo. The ship can be broadly categorized into two sections, the Upper Decks and the Lower Decks.
The Upper Decks are the fancy part of the ship, meant to house, entertain, and otherwise seduce the members of international politics that are enjoying their time on the ship. It is comprised of a number of sections, having two bars, a foyer, an observation deck which serves as defender spawn, a small perfomance stage which serves as bombsite A, the breached room which serves as attacker spawn, and lastly a small casino. This area can be characterized as far more open, with multiple sniper opportunities throughout.
The Lower Decks are far less posh, with a focus on the more nitty gritty components and mechanisms of the ship. Even then, it does still have some class -- namely in the entry halls and security section, which are used to manage arriving dignitaries as they land on the ship's helipads. The guts of the ship are far less open and are characterized by their sharp angles, shorter sightlines, and more frequent flanking opportunities. In the Lower Decks you will find sections like security, the engine room which serves as bombsite B, maintenance hallway, coolant room, coolant rooms, and the helipad which serves as a secondary attacker spawn.
While not a true section, there are a number of linking passageways throughout the level that connect the two main sections of it. The largest of which is the central shaft, which serves as a high priority area to control, as it allows a team to quickly reposition within the ship. There are also two elevators which can be activated, one which leads from security to observation, and one that leads from maintenance to the southern bar. And of course, there's the assault craft itself, which has two ziplines that the attackers use for their initial positioning, but in later play can be used as a sniping spot, as well as a means of flanking.
Boarding Party was a fun map to build in concept, and in many senses excruciating in execution. I learned first hand the pain that Valorant Level Designers go through in creating these maps, as sightlines, flanktimes, and routes need to be thought through to an absurd degree. What might work conceptually, might not work in practice -- and my two floor split was most certainly an example of that. I found in playtests that many routes I had created were simply not used, as there were far better options available. In iteration I tried to solve these problems, but I could feel that having a truly solid Valorant was still a long ways off. It didn't help too, that I built the bones of the map with weak metrics, which bit me in the ass rather quickly. Especially on a competitive map, metrics are vital... And though I tried to course correct, it was hard to do much without tearing up the carpet on my level, so to speak.
Ultimately, I think a friend of mine said it best when he played through it: It feels like a Halo level. Which, while not my intent, I'll still take as a compliment if only for the sheer amount of hours I spent driving ghosts and plasma grenading fools.