Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, iPad
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
Role on Project: Level Designer (contract)

Skylanders Superchargers is a 2015 action game mixing traditional platforming gameplay and vehicle-based exploration and challenges with the signature toys-to-life flair the franchise is known for.

Screenshots and Videos (C) 2015-2016 Activision

Project Work

Level Designer

During my tenure as a level designer on this project, I worked on the initial planning and prototype implementation of two major gameplay spaces, as well as the creation and maintenance of two smaller side zones.  I provided level support across six major levels, including scripting AI encounters, building out and adjusting basic whitebox geometry, navmesh implementation, itemization, scripting simple gameplay systems using the proprietary VisualScript system, and many collision and border passes.

The content below is not the totality of my work on the game, but a highlight of the sections I contributed the most design elements to that made it into the shipped game.  As this game was the first vehicle type game for the entire team, there was a lot of content I put in that got cut as we worked out what was fun about vehicles and what wasn't.  My status as a contractor also meant that I had a lot more flexibility to tackle levels with short deadlines and massive tasklists, meaning at least two maps that I worked on never saw design contributions from myself regardless of how long I worked on them.  Being good working with new people and communicating quickly became a high priority as I moved teams more frequently later in production when the content was getting locked down.

Getting to work on a children's game was a unique experience - they really interact with the games in a completely different way!  All of my tricks went out the window when the target audience was not only consisting of non-gamers, but a very young audience who might not even read well (or at all.)  Constant focus testing with our target audience helped to identify how they worked through a space, and I feel like as a designer I learned a lot about designing for a non-traditional gaming audience.

Highlight Reel

Vault of the Ancients

Responsibilties:

  • Initial geo implementation of Sea Star space
  • Gameplay implementation of Sea Star space
  • Full combat implemention of Sea Star space
  • Puzzle platforming gameplay implementation for Supercharger Gate
  • Level support - bug fixing, navmesh (handled in 3DS Max), feedback implementation
  • Full itemization pass

In addition to the grunt work of this critical stage, I was also part of the conception process for the entire level, and proposed a "clock hand" mechanic that eventually evolved into the screw puzzles for the water zone of this map.

I volunteered to work on the Sea Star area early in development as I'd just come off of many weeks of prototyping for Monstrous Isle's underwater space and by now I had a really good handle on the metrics.  Though my content in Monstrous Isles didn't make it to ship, this lengthy boat sequence did.  I liked imagining the idea of the player going down waterslides.  The trickiest part was the water-based combat, as the surface gameplay of the boat was a lot "floatier" than the other vehicles.

The puzzle sequence for the Supercharger Gate came together in one day of non-stop development right before a major playtest.  I decided to experiment with moving platforms that the player had to control precisely in order to traverse.  While it was a short sequence, it was probably some of the purest design gameplay I got to do since the lack of combat meant I could really innovate here.  The content shipped exactly as implemented in that one feverish day, and I'm probably prouder of that than any other segment in the game.

Let's Play footage courtesy of CrystalBlazier.

 

The footage from 30:44 to 45:25 covers a full playthrough of the Water Zone and the Driver Zone, the content I contributed to most heavily.

 

Bandit Train

Responsibilties:

  • Geo and gameplay implementation of 2D puzzle spaces, hazards, and rotating platforms
  • Level support - bug fixing, navmesh (handled in 3DS Max), feedback implementation
  • Full itemization and destructibles pass

For this map I was supporting a senior designer who handled the major gameplay spaces.  The normal "campaign" version of this map always pulls from the exact same puzzle rooms, but the "quest mode" version available to players replaying featured even more 2D traversal puzzles.  I did the implementation of these puzzle spaces in the original grey box implementation, and later came back for the final, polished implementation.  I added the voicework cues for the final game, cleaned up the text, and filled out the "3D" rooms with destructibles and collectibles for the final level.

Let's Play footage courtesy of CrystalBlazier.

 
 

This video gives examples of the simpler platforming puzzles used for the campaign mode.

 

Gadfly Glade

Responsibilties:

  • Geo and gameplay implementation of Supercharger Gate space
  • Level support - bug fixing, navmesh (handled in 3DS Max), feedback implementation
  • Full itemization and destructibles pass
  • Waterdrop destructible implementation

This was the first level I got to work on at VV, and it probably was the one I came back to the most as well.  The Supercharger Gate was the first piece of content I contributed, and to my surprise it stayed mostly intact in spite of Gadfly Glade itself getting many, many reworks.  In this space I got to experiment with Skylanders' arena gameplay approach, and I spent a lot of time working out how to use the layout of the space and the camera to foreshadow objectives.  When I would build spaces throughout the rest of the game, I kept many of these dirt-simple principles in mind.

Let's Play footage courtesy of packattack04082.

 

The Supercharger Gate gameplay is covered from 22:02 to 24:05.