During my internship at Bigpoint, I worked in the level design department of the Berlin studios on Drakensang: Online, a free-to-play action adventure MMO which was released in 2011 and is still in active development. The game has received fortnightly updates since its release, which include content expansions and time-limited events.
Unfortunately, I am unable to show screenshots of some of my work due to standing NDAs.
Levels for Drakensang: Online are created using ‘kits’ – sets of modular pieces. Each piece fits together with a select number of other pieces, which can be combined in many different ways to create full levels. Additional small prop pieces are used for detailing. I used dozens of kits; from organic, exterior mountain kits to angular interior factory kits. Kits can both be easy and hard to work with; designers have complete control and can create new levels very quickly, but designing new, different and interesting areas can be a difficult challenge.
Over the course of my internship I created three new levels and adapted four existing levels for seasonal and time-limited events. Two of the three new levels were created as a means of practice to get acquainted with the development tools, but I later proceeded development on both. I integrated one of the two for a christmas event, while the other will see release in new events coming in the future.
Additionally, I created a prototype for a possible future content expansion using a combination of various existing level development kits (mainly lush jungle, arid desert and Greek settlement kits). The prototype was very well received and has been used as an integral part of an event.
Finally, I worked on an ‘under siege’ event, where neutral, combat-free shop areas become battlegrounds invaded by enemies. This concept raised several level design issues.
The areas are designed with a strong attention to aesthetics, and have to be compact and accessible. This does not serve for good gameplay at all; it creates bad flow and offers no room for player manoeuvring or interesting AI behaviour. To address this issue, I completely transformed the map I worked on by expanding to new areas, closing off access routes and collapsing several buildings. Additionally, I moved the player spawn point to the harbour, the edge of the map. This gives players a new perspective of the level and makes it feel larger.
Cities are very detailed, made to look both pleasing and interesting. This is very important, as players will be in cities often and will spend a lot of time there. The city I worked on is themed after a ‘perfect summer day’, full of bright, joyful elements. Unfortunately, that makes it completely unsuitable for a “city under siege”. As such, I removed close to all props in the level and re-detailed it after a much darker tone while also changing its lighting and environmental effects.
The combination of these two factors created a sizeable challenge; I had to redesign the level, while working within the constraints of the existing level, and had to combine many different kits as there was no existing kit I could use. As mentioned previously, I am unable to show some of my work due to NDA, but I am very happy with the end result.
When I finished my internship at Bigpoint, our design lead evaluated my progress and my work, which he was very pleased with. He wrote about my performance in a “Praktikumszeugnis” (certificate of competence). This is available per request.