Level: Airship
Level: Blackwall Yard
Level: Embankment
Level: Catacombs

Chapter 9: An Uneasy Alliance

Section  1 | 2 |  3  | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11


Timeline of the level
  • Galahad and Lakshmi arrive via tunnel

  • They use scaffolding to reach street level

  • Lakshmi climbs over a gate; they get separated

  • Galahad takes out the sniper threatening Lakshmi

  • Galahad protects and reunites with Lakshmi

  • They cross through a ship under construction

  • They finally reach the shipping warehouse

  • Lakshmi reveals the vampires in UIC crates

  • They set fire to the warehouse

  • The warehouse burns; they battle UIC and Lycans


 
Cover mechanics and authoring

As you might expect from a game where using cover is a major combat mechanic, how to properly author cover is a crucial topic.  I'll only scratch the surface here.

This balcony uses what we referred to as "thin cover."  Unlike the thick, square boxes seen in the distance, Galahad's cover consists of only a few boards.

This looks proper given that he's on a balcony, but there's something much more important going on mechanically.  Simply put, boxes like those on the street provide good cover, but don't allow for the character to shoot down at targets.  For this sequence, the designer wanted to put the player in a powerful position of advantage over the enemies as he protects Lakshmi, who is trapped on ground level as the United India guards approach.



One thing that's critical to the success of this fight is that the enemies are at a distance, which keeps the angle between them and the player relatively shallow.  I'll show why this is so important in the next image.



Though it usually provides a better-than-average view of an enemy target, an elevated position becomes disadvantageous when enemies can get too close to or run under the player, as seen in this moment slightly later in the level.  The steep downward angle becomes difficult for the controls and camera to manage well.



One other quirk of the elevated thin cover in that second fight is that it highlights the importance of good metrics. "Generally, speaking, metrics are construction specifications for a level—in this case, how high a platform needs to be to seem believably "high enough that the character couldn't jump down."

The cover in the first fight is clearly high enough off the ground that a reasonable character wouldn't jump down.  The second—just at the lower limits of our construction metric, looks like it might be okay to jump...?



Maybe?



Timeline of the level
  • Galahad and Lakshmi arrive via tunnel

  • They use scaffolding to reach street level

  • Lakshmi climbs over a gate; they get separated

  • Galahad takes out the sniper threatening Lakshmi

  • Galahad protects and reunites with Lakshmi

  • They cross through a ship under construction

  • They finally reach the shipping warehouse

  • Lakshmi reveals the vampires in UIC crates

  • They set fire to the warehouse

  • The warehouse burns; they battle UIC and Lycans


 
Cover clarity and challenges

The other point of serious conversation among our designers was ensuring that cover "clearly looks like cover" and everyhing else "clearly doesn't look like cover"... which can be difficult given the very-real-looking type of environments in The Order.

Unlike some other cover shooters that have a blockier, "fantasy-realism" aesthetic or use a lot of also-block-shaped crumbling ruins and fallen logs and rocks (in both cases, I'm talking about another game I worked on—Hunted: The Demon's Forge), The Order isn't able to get away with as much obvious-looking cover.

At the same time, the extra details and nuances of construction sometimes create things that look like they might be cover.  Woe to the player who chooses to try to use something that looks like cover but isn't during the middle of a firefight.  Which they would rightly blame on the Level Designer rather than their own judgement.



Here again, metrics play an important role.  We have metrics guiding how big an object or support beam can be before it has to be cover, and a "grey area" between things that clearly are too small for cover and those that are big enough where no object is allowed to exist.  Anything that might confuse the player had to rely on other techniques, like "junking up" the foot of the "possible cover" spot so the character clearly could not get close enough to use it (as seen in the image above).

Metrics also specify the shapes cover should be.  For an added layer of realism in certain situations, our characters put their hands on cover in a variety of circumstances.

This entails risk.  Not all cover in our game has clean, sharp edges.  In many places (though mostly tall cover spots), a surface may be uneven or oddly-shaped.

What happens then is that the character might "put his hand on empty space," as in the image below.  While not a terrible occurrence, this can hurt the fragile believability of our characters and the world they inhabit.



Even the curvature of this cover piece forced me to make decisions:  longer cover is better in this case; how close could I let the player get to the edge before the "floating hand" issues caused by he curve would come too obvious?

It's a constant struggle, but an interesting challenge!



Section  1 | 2 |  3  | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11