The Graveyard Desert Level Design

The Graveyard Desert Area Objective

The Area Objective inside the Graveyard Desert was a wave-based combat section in which the player would have to fix different parts of machinery which and defend their location for a certain amount of time. This changed during the development of this location, but that will be discussed later.

The Beatchart

The Beatchart for this area helped get some basic ideas immediately, such as a sandstorm event, or a flood (the second one being scrapped after the Flooded City creation). The sandstorm event was also another feature cut for time.

Top Down

The First Top Down

This was the original version of the blockout. At the beginning of this process, the location was mostly exterior with the area objective being located in the interior of the fortress.

Initial Blockout


This was the first attempt at a blockout. As you may notice, I once again didn’t create a whitebox style blockout and instead used assets once again – something I definitely shouldn’t have done as it wasted a lot of time.

The Interior

Here was the initial interior of the fortress. There were a few plans of what the player would do inside here but…

Starting Fresh

After getting some feedback, people were of the opinion that the area felt pretty bland. It felt too simple going from A -> B -> Completing objective -> C -> End of location. So I decided to restart, making the area focus on the interior instead of the exterior (as I felt like it would be easier to focus my level design on a dungeon instead of a giant open area).

Starting Over

Unfortunately, I skipped another step this time. Which was to create a top down of the area, I decided to wing it – another decision I have definitely learnt from and don’t do anymore.

Multiple paths

What I wanted going into this area was to create a cyclical-like dungeon where the player would wrap around on the same areas but would be able to progress now that they unlocked new skills. The image to the right is the first room the player walks into, where they only have 1 option – go to the door on the right.

The First Combat

This leads to the first combat section of the area. The highlighted object is what the player uses to activate the combat. After killing all the enemies, the player unlocks the giant door behind them, giving them a key.

Moving forward

After using the key to unlock the next door, the player is faced with a large drop – but not before picking up the glider ability to allow them to slowly drift down and avoid dying.

The Underside

This leads the player to the underside, where the first major puzzle is. This is split up into 2 different parts, before unlocking the upgraded grab ability, and after. On the left is before.

Unlocking the upgraded grab

After another combat section the player will be rewarded with the unlocked grab ability, allowing them to pick up large objects.

Finishing the puzzle

This allows them to backtrack and finish the puzzle, putting them in the original room at the beginning of the fortress.

Some small improvements

I ended up making some small aesthetic improvements to this puzzle to fit the area better with the highlighted metal barriers.

Avoiding hazards

The player is then greeted by some different hazards to avoid, and a jumping puzzle section.

This then leads to the final part of the location – The Boss Arena.

The Boss Arena

In the original version of this location, the player was going to fight some form of boss enemy before unlocking the Fire Monument. Once again, this was unfortunately cut due to time constraints and we had to narrow the scope of the project. In its place, this room was given a large, difficult combat wave.

Aesthetic Improvements

It was important to improve each area so that they didn’t feel super bland. While I didn’t do this entirely myself, most of the interior rooms were set dressed by me. This experience vastly helped me when creating environments.

The Exterior

The exterior was not done by me, instead by Joe Allen, who did a fantastic job making the area look great.

The Boss Arena

Finally, for the boss arena, I added these props to make it feel as if a boss previously lived in there, with giant bones and piles of hay.

Post Processing and Lighting

One of the final steps was adding post processing and lighting effects, another incredible job by the programming team.

Final Gameplay of the Graveyard Desert

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