Wizard's Tower is a short puzzle game level. The player takes the role of the Wizard's least favorite apprentice, come to claim inheritance after the Wizard's untimely demise. It becomes quickly apparent that the laws of reality don't quite apply within the tower, and they must use some tricks of magic and shadow, should they wish to make it out alive.
Unreal Engine 4
First Person Puzzle
Wizard's Tower was one of my earlier levels that I was tasked with designing, focusing on the consistent implementation of a puzzle mechanic and then a 'twist' on it. The player interacts with the level by moving around cubes and placing them on buttons. As the level progresses, the player is introduced to invisible cubes -- which cannot be seen but still cast shadow, making light the key element in play. Development of the level was quick, and I was learning unreal while doing it. I was quite happy I was able to make that invisible, yet shadow casting, material as well!
The leadup is the first section of the level. I knew that I wanted to deliver some context here so I gave enough space for some voice lines to naturally play out. The player winds through the grove towards the tower, finding an already broken down wall and sharp incline towards the entrance to the tower where they'll hear a message from the wizard, before entering the next area. This was my first time messing with the terrain tool, as well as the free Infinity Blade assets that Epic had recently released. I think the worst error in this section is a sharp turn I give them as they approach the tower. That said, I believe it serves its purpose of inviting the player into the fantasy of the level.
As the player enters into the tower, they find themselves in a tight little room with the oh so simple task of stepping onto a plate and opening a door. In the next room they find a variant, now with a cube they must place on a plate if they want to advance. In the final of these tutorial rooms the player must find two cubes for two plates. One is obvious enough, but the other is invisible, save for the shadow it casts. Sure it was a rather brute force tutorial, but the wizard gets to preach while you do, and it sets you into a lull for the first real area. As the player steps onto the final plate, the walls cascade out revealing an impossibly large room with a hide and seek challenge with some invisible cubes.
The Upsidedown World is the final area the player goes to, with another scavenger hunt styled challenge, this time though with the player's ability to use a light themselves. The space had to be somewhat spectacular, and it also had to be able to path the player to find the three cubes. Four notable landmarks marked the location of the needed cubes, but each had its own slight challenge to actually finding them. The level is building up to this moment, intending to get you excited about the possibilities of the space. By showing the player something ordinary and grounded, it gets them ready to truly relish the extraordinary, as I see it.
For one of my earliest level design projects, I still look back at this level fondly. I think it exemplifies something I really enjoy about level design: The ability to create something impossible. Catching the player by surprise, being a bit of a magician with the tools I have... Its sort of always my goal when given the chance. I think there's a lot of rookie mistakes in the level in terms of metrics, and the feeling of transition spaces, but those were mastered with practice for me.