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Third Person Action-Adventure




Avalanche Studios NYC


Square Enix


8 "Infested" base game villages and a demon island. New enemy type and weapons.


Level Designer


Layout, design, combat, asset creation assistance


Villa Kusi

Umina: Buwikuni
Hirkas: La Corona
Wachikuni: Lago Bajo Qacha


     Immediately coming off of the production of Just Cause 4, I started this DLC as the only level designer. This was extremely nerve wracking for me as it was my first level design position, but using my art background as a way to get started I was able to transition into more game play and level design aspects.

     The first task I had was creating the tutorial level. I was given the concept, game play features, support of the team, and was told to have at it.We started with 12 levels that worked its way down to eight that I took to functional. A second designer joined the team which I handed four of my levels off to. The four remaining levels I was in charge of I took to completion. So everything from layout, to asset assistance, to intractable objects, to enemy encounters.
I also took it upon myself to organize and track all of my content and create a new naming convention that would improve upon working conditions from the previous project. Not everyone was happy about the changes at first, but at the end of the day, no asset was forgotten about, reviews for each were always timely, and locations maintained an in engine consistency.

     Our team was full of amazing people I will always remember. I learned so much in my professional and personal life, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.





Destroy all chaos objects in a cluster > Roots retract > All roots retracted > Core is vulnerable > Destroy core > Infestation Complete!



Different enemy types were one used for each level except the tutorial to make each stage more unique. Numbers to determine difficulty, and spawn rates to determine pacing. I heavily relied on destroying chaos object to trigger enemies to spawn and lock onto the player.


Demons - flying grenade shooter, possessed base game's enemies, the Black Hand.

Black Hand enemy types - cloaker, shielder, infested RPGs, and substrate weapons


I used the principals of art and visual story telling to push the main narrative that created an atmosphere for the player to have a fun gameplay experience.




We had a good idea of where the player was going to enter because the end of the DLC introduction was right outside the village. 

I placed the core, the player's ultimate objective, placed just off of the main road running through town, as to lead the player straight to it.

This also framed the roots leading from the core to the chaos objects which the player had to destroy as to make the core vulnerable. 






From the start we knew that we wanted the infestation substrate (slimy looking goo everywhere) to start from the core and spread outward to give the effect of the infestation becoming more extreme the deeper you went inside.In the deep lore, the substrate was generated by the core to create a more suitable environment for the fugal like creature to survive in. How I spread the substrate in the level was heavily inspired by one of the main art references of slime mold. Similar to the slime mold, the substrate would spread long thin tendrils in all directions looking for something to feed on. Once it found a source of energy, it would redirect its growth to that source, causing it to form into oozing piles. I made sure the loctions of these piles not only made sense accourding to our narrative but were in places to direct the player around the level. 


Because the roots were used as major visual connection from the core to the chaos objects that needed to be destroyed, how they were placed was the key to the layout.


If the player was ever lost or confused as to what chaos objects were left, all they had to do was go back to the core (which was made always in the center) and follow the roots to the cluster.


Each level also had a number of black hand outposts, in and around the infestation zone as a reliable weapon cash and point of interest that furthered the narrative that the black hand have been outmatched.

tutorial_oozing piles_01.png


I had the original environment, a few asset concept art pieces, and general idea. I was given the tutorial level to test things out and incorporated all the ideas we had so far.


To start out I used Maya to create the few assets based on concept art and what I thought was needed. After my work was approved I continued working with the art team to improve the ones being made. Mainly focusing on platforms and decorative pieces to help sell the world I was going for. 


demon farming_close up_house lift_01.png


This level's special enemy type was a the cloaker and shielder. The cloak was only active when the demon was in flight and reappeared to shoot the player, and the shield was active at all times. It was fun to use these enemy types in such a small area as it really added to the constant chaos, in addition to getting the player to really look around to find where the enemy was reappearing and find places to get around the shields.

To give structure to enemy placement I stuck to the formula of assigning one or two special enemy types to protect each cluster with a few free roaming to connect them all together.


While designing these levels I went in with the idea that the black hand, while standing no chance, had a makeshift plan of ending the infestation. For every major black hand headquarters/outpost set up, there were a troop or two trying to make their way to the middle to destroy the core. I set up waves of black hand that continuously pushed forward, and demons that continuously pushed them back to show that they weren't exactly an even match and only the player was strong enough to defeat the demons.

To plan everything out, I would take aerial screenshots of the location to make a battle map of sorts. I jumped back and forth between the editor and screenshot to choose areas where major battles between demons and black hand would take place, followed by the black hands intended pathway to reach the core, and how the demons would react to the black hand's movements. I then used these maps as reference to place substrate that would force AI into those pathways while still retaining semi random movement. These pathways provided more control as to where enemies would be as well as provide the player with a possible route toward the core. In this location specifically I used this idea to further the idea that the substrate was growing and reacting to its environment as seen in the image below. (Hover over to see description)

To create the ongoing battle, I would simply set demons and black hand up and watched them go. Adding more or taking away based on how well they did in battle. It was the closest thing I got to a game with in a game until of course I added the player element which returned it to the regular balancing act of designing combat.



The upward facing view of a menacing fortress, towering over the enemies below is what immediately stuck me about this location when looking over possible areas for infestations with my lead. As we were looking for a place that would be one of the hardest levels of the DLC, I thought the idea of having the all powerful castle looming above would really add to the idea that this was an uphill battle. This also spawned the idea that this location would have a focus on aircraft as it was the easiest way for black hand to get there. So I lovingly referred to this level as Castle Crashing, the official name being ‘Infestation at the Crash.

castle crashing_core_01.png
castle crashing_side view_01


Much like the goal of all living creatures, the goal of the infestation was to survive and spread. As it started in the jungle, the most habitable area for the creature, it started to grow up and over the mountain to move to the rest of the map. While working with the art team for inspiration on the visual language, we decided that another way this creature would spread is by building high, and shooting spores into the air, which would create the large dome that made the air breathable for the creature.

This, (along with the principal of design that triangles and angles are evil) gave me the idea that since this location was about the infestation trying to end up at the DLC's hardest level on the mountain top, there should be a focus on the spires pointing up as to give the effect that they were climbing up the hill; while still incorporating the idea that the substrate is oozing down the side of the mountain.

In that mountain top level, the core was able to lift itself into the air and used the roots to give the illusion it was walking on legs. As a small touch I alluded to this idea by pushing the core forward, tilting it, and pointing two 'legs' downward to make it look like it was attempting to drag itself forward.


I use the principals of art to create the visual flow of far reads to show what objects in the environment are important, close reads to add something special, and general direction to show where the player could go. I believe and put into practice that large scale design decisions are made with art in mind.


Being an artist also comes with the added bonus of communications with the art department (to hand off work for more detailed set dressing ect.) much smoother.

castle crashing_vehicles_01.png



As swimming isn't the best mechanic in JD4, it was important that a level placed in the middle of a lake forced the player to spend most of the time in the air or was given a quick way of escape if they fell or were shot down by anti-aircraft missiles.

To assure this I made sure there was always something to grapple to. Between that and the spacing between tall spires, the level came together to be fun while still incorporating something we usually try to avoid, which I am quite proud of. 



The substrate weapons, one of my coolest things added to the DLC, where especially fun to play with. Light effect played off the laser sights of the RPGs really well they knocked Rico clear out of the sky. 


Having them popping out of the water after destroying a cluster, was incredibly satisfying and really sold the idea that this creature from another universe was defending itself. It is important to me that combat is not only a fun experience but further contributes to the over all narrative making every piece work together.


A larger portion of my time was spent trying to figure out when there should be moments of actions and moments of rest. I wanted to balance the narrative that the infestation was a living entity defending itself and the player not getting overwhelmed or getting too bored.


This ended in moments of rest not lasting very long, but I was sure to create areas of cover to give players rest if they needed.

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