THE DROWNED PALACE
Role | Solo Project Duration | 7 Weeks Tools Used | Unreal, Maya
The Drowned Palace is an action adventure level design project set in a fantastical environment whose natural ecology emulates the atmosphere of the ocean's depths. The player must descend down to a ruined palace that once imprisoned primordial beasts and demons which have now been unleashed upon the world.
My goal for the project was to capture the thematics and atmosphere of an underwater space while instilling a unique uniform visual throughout all of the level with the use of architectural style and environmental set dressing
THEMATIC AND VISUAL REFERENCE
The initial steps I took towards the development of this level was gathering reference images and creating a mood board that would help to establish and gain visual reference for the overarching thematic, that being the fantastical underwater-esque setting. Areas like the Coral Highlands from Monster Hunter and the story of the dragon king from Ne Zha acted as my preliminary inspirations for the thematic.
After solidifying the different narrative and experiential beats for the level which took form as a lush coral environment, a deep ocean trench, and the Drowned Palace itself, I gathered reference images and created mood boards for each of these beats. I repeated these steps for the architectural and visual style that I wanted the buildings in my to level to derive from with an aim towards Islamic and Indian architecture.
Architecture Mood Board
Coral Environment Mood Board
Deep Ocean Trench Mood Board
Palace Mood Board
Following the gathering of reference images I then put together a rough paper map to begin establishing a foundation for how I envisioned the spaces and beats to be laid out.
The next step I took in the block out process of this level was attempting to capture the atmosphere and environment of what the "underwater" space would look like which entailed tweaking and iteration with post process effects, lighting, and fog. I wanted to capture a visual effect with these tools that would allow me to push the sense of depth while highlight the unique silhouettes of the buildings and coral to pop against the bright blue "underwater" backdrop.
Example of Depth and Silhouettes
AREA 1 - RUINS CAMP AND CORAL
After landing on a visual atmosphere that I was content with, I then began on the block out itself with the goal of finishing the macro layout and block out of the level sooner so that I could spend more time later on iterating, adding polish and raising the overall visual fidelity of the various spaces. Thematically in the level, the introduction spaces are comprised of more natural coral elements which give way to a big reveal when the player hits the first big vista shot of the palace. Along the player's path to the palace they are also met with ruins, an introduction into the trench thematic, and distant silhouettes of buildings to add variety to the natural areas as well as to add intrigue and mystery for the big reveal.
Player Start - Camp in the Ruins
AREA 2 - BIOLUMINESCENT CAVES
AND KELP FOREST
Following the natural coral space were the bioluminescent cave and kelp forest areas which would explore the various different natural ecology that would exist in this fantastical setting. The kelp forest area was also designed with the intent of concealing player visibility to create different combat encounters and to act as a final build up to the palace reveal in which the player starkly went from an obscured environment into a clearing with the vista shot.
Coral Pass with Vista
Kelp Forest Clearing Vista
AREA 3 - OCEAN RAVINE AND THE
With the player's final destination now in sight, they would then traverse down through the deep ocean ravine through temple ruins which would precursor the palace. Following the temple ruins they would cross a destroyed bridge which acts as a simple traversal challenge for the player as well as a space that holds opportunity for interesting and satisfying combat encounters. This leads them to the finale in the palace interior where a series of the palaces ruins lead way to a boss fight at the throne room.