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Legacy of Defiance (Work in Progress)

A small Open World Action RPG built in Unreal Engine 4. I plan for it to feature several playable non-linear quests. 
 

Gameplay Demo 1 (Combat System):
 

Project Overview:

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Level layout plan - (First draft, subject to change):

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Locations Breakdown:

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I designed this map to support a non-linear quest where the player is tasked with travelling around the map to unite each village against an incoming attack from alien invaders. To make the world believable, the villages have been placed in logical locations and rely on each other for trade. 
 

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Rough Landscape Mockup

Gameplay Demo 2 (Opening Quest):
 

An open world RPG Prototype featuring exploration and combat gameplay, with a small selection of playable quests, completable in a non-linear order.

Setting: A distant alien planet, where magic is an ordinary part of everyday life. The planet is currently being invaded by technologically advanced hostile aliens. The inhabitants of the planet are the descendants of the crew of the spaceship Defiance which crashed on the planet thousands of years ago.

Gameplay: 
- Exploration (Rope Swing, Sliding, Platforming)
- Combat (Melee/Ranged)
- Third Person Camera

 

Tools Used: Unreal Engine 4

Skills Used:  - Scripting (Unreal Blueprints)
                     - Level Design
                     - Game Mechanics Design
                     - Open World design

Modular building blocks (Architecture, Rocks, Vegetaion)

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I used BSP Brushes to build some re-usable rocks which can be merged to form larger rock structures as well as some vegetation:
 

I used Blockout Tools Plugin to make modular windows, doors and walls which can be combined into re-usable building prefabs. The buildings shown below will be used for the north-eastern mining town at the bottom of the mountain, which uses rock from the mountains to build it's houses. Because of this, I made the buildings a similar colour to the rocks. Later I plan to build new building blocks for the other villages, which will use different, more fantastical architectural styles, as well as buildings for the alien invaders.
 

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Based on my map sketch, I built a rough landscape to help visualise my plans for the game world in 3D, using Unreal Engine's landscape, water, and foliage tools.

While this is only a rough mock-up and does not represent the final landscape, creating this was helpful as it allowed me to establish the scale of the game world in relation to the player. I aimed to limit the size so that the scope is manageable, but large enough to provide opportunities for exploration.

 

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Quest Flowchart:

The flowchart shows the planned structure of the quest. The main goal of the game will be to explore the game world to unite each village against an incoming alien attack. To gain their help, the player must travel to each village and perform tasks, completable in a non-linear order.

Top-Down view of the opening area:

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The game starts in a small village temporarily cut off from the rest of the game world, designed to introduce the game's mechanics and story without overwhelming the player. The player is sent on a simple quest to hunt some creatures, which introduces some combat and exploration mechanics. They then return to the village to find under attack by a small group of alien invaders which the player must fight, introducing the main quest's objective of stopping the invaders. 

I designed the layout of the starting area to form a circular path, removing the need for any backtracking, taking inspiration from the layout of dungeons from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

To avoid the gameplay feeling repetitive, I made sure to alternate between combat, cutscenes, and exploring low-intensity spaces.

Design Breakdown of the opening area:

Scripting the quest:

So far I have scripted the opening tutorial mission. The majority of level events were scripted using trigger boxes, which upon overlapping with the player trigger sequences of camera changes and modifying the value of a “subtitle” text variable, to which the game’s subtitle text in the UI is bound. The trigger boxes self destruct after each cutscene is played, to ensure that cutscenes are not accidentally repeated. 

Due to the complexity of the scripts required, it was important to keep the script organised, which is something I have struggled with in the past. I made an effort to keep it readable by giving each block of script colour coded comments to indicate what type of script it was: Blue for tutorials, Red for dialogue and cutscenes:

 

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Empty actors were placed around the level to indicate the locations where fire particle systems and enemy NPCs would need to be spawned. The level blueprint acquires the location of these actors and spawns the corresponding actor.

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The game starts inside the player character’s house, providing a comfortable space to get used to the control. This also increases the impact of leaving the house, as the village presents a much larger space to explore, contrasting with the small size of the house.

 

Once the player leaves the house, the first thing they see is Edard’s house on the opposite side of town, which stands out compared to the other houses thanks to the blue dome. Attention is also brought to this area by the large blue mushrooms which contrast with the mostly warm colour scheme of the landscape and buildings. While the player will need to visit Edard’s house, they are not told this, as the quest simply says “Find some work to do”, encouraging the player to explore. The intention is that the player will naturally be drawn towards this area of the level and talk to Edard, but the level will need to be play tested to evaluate the effectiveness.

 A magical barrier can be found in the corner of the map which blocks the player from leaving the area. This will be removed later in the story to give the player access to the open world. When the player talks to Edard, he gives the player a simple quest, directing them to head up towards the mountains to go hunting. The cutscene is framed so that a path can be seen leading up, with a large mountain in the distance, implying that this is the direction the player must take.

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To reach the path, the player must learn to use the bouncy plants to bounce. Their bright yellow colour makes them stand out.

 

After this, the path is blocked by an overgrown bush, which must be cut using the sword. This serves 2 purposes: first to stop the player from reaching the next area if they don’t have the quest from Edard (Edard gives the sword), and second to teach the player to use the sword in a safe environment before introducing combat and make sure they know they know how to use the sword before they can continue.

 

If the player comes here before receiving the quest, a cutscene plays where the player character speculates that they will need to find a sword.

The following path is extremely narrow, providing a significant contrast with the exciting view the player receives after as a reward for their progress so far, as vistas can serve as rewards in and of themselves. In the complete project, this view will provide an expansive view of the open world, teasing what the player can explore later in the game. This technique is comparable to what can be described as Denial and Reward in architecture theory, where the destination is often hidden and revealed again from different angles to make the journey more interesting and the arrival more interesting. This is also designed to increase a feeling of exploration, as the cliff appears to create a dead-end, but when the player turns around, the way forward is visible.

Contrasting with the linear path the player has been following, the next section is a large open combat area where the player must apply their knowledge of using the sword. To stop the player going back and ensure the quest progresses as intended, the player must drop down into the area from above, and they can’t climb back up. After defeating the “floater” creatures the quest journal simply tells the player to find a way back to the village, to encourage the player to explore.

Foliage, rocks, and a river have been placed to form leading lines focusing the player's eye on the way out.

On the way back to the village, the player is introduced to the sliding mechanic without the need for any tutorial as the path forces the player to walk onto a slippery slop, making the player aware of the mechanic. As all slippery slopes have the same texture, the player will learn over time to recognise them. The sliding section transitions into a cutscene showing a mysterious space ship fly towards the direction of the village.

To get back to the village the player must slide down another slippery slope, which takes them back to approximately the same location they started in, next to the house. These slopes are strictly one-way, so this ensures that the player could not have reached this area previously. 

 

After finding the village being attacked by aliens from the mysterious spaceship, a cutscene starts where the player is approached by Edard, who had been hiding behind a nearby building. Edard gives the player a staff, introducing the player to ranged combat. The player can then use their available weapons to defeat the aliens.

 

This is where the demo ends, but the quest will continue with Edard dying in battle soon after instructing the player to travel to the other villages and unite them against the alien invasion. Edard will also give the player a spell book unlocking the fireball spell, which the player can use to break the village barrier and enter the open world.

 

The rest of the spells will be unlocked by finding their corresponding spell books in the open world, and the rope swing ability will become available later in the story.

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