Toybox Turbos

Position: Experienced Level Designer
Developer: Codemasters, Birmingham
Date: July 2011 – Present
Responsibilities include:
• Designing, white-boxing, building and taking to ship 6 levels using in-house EGO suite
• Used in-house EGO visual scripting editor to create all gameplay elements in my levels
• Iterating on levels and areas of game design under my ownership following feedback
• Balancing game modes using in-house tools, using playtesting to make iterative changes
• Involved in all pre-production for level and game mechanic designs
• Providing specifications for new technologies and tools required and ways to use existing technologies to save time and costs
• Responsible for designing core progression mechanic for obtaining and collecting vehicles
• Providing feedback on usability design and ui following playtesting
• Responsible for multiple text strings throughout the game including boss names, loading screen hints, world names and event names

2D Track Concepts and Feature Brainstorming

The first phase of producing the levels was to create very simple 2D track layouts and come up with some ideas for cool track features which fit within the real world and would be fun for the player to interact with. It was important to remember at this stage that these track maps were by no means a final layout and only a demonstration of how a track feature could be used and where it could possibly be placed within a track, for example on a hairpin, a jump or a straight.

A question to answer during this phase is how we would use small physical objects dotted around the track (shown as small grey dots on the concepts) and where we would use on-track currency (shown as gold dots on the concepts) to help guide the players around the track. These early concepts allowed us to eventually whittle down the vast list of ideas in to a much more manageable selection to take on to the concept and whitebox phase.

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Early Whitebox Levels

After initial environment, track and feature brainstorming sessions I started creating early whitebox versions of the track features to see how they might play from a player’s point of view. The biggest question we had to answer on Toybox Turbos was “Would this track feature work with a top down camera?” as we had learnt from F1 Race Stars that certain obstacles and interactive track elements can be hard to predict, especially at high speed and become frustrating. Dealing with a top down camera this became even more important as the player’s would have much less visibility on upcoming hazards.

Another important thing to establish early on was scale. We needed to figure out how big the hazards would be, how much of the playable space they would take up and how long the tracks would be as we had a fairly strict lap time of 30-40 seconds to keep to. Some of the track features shown in the concepts didn’t make the cut after prototyping and playtesting due to poor visibility, didn’t fit with the scope and vision of the game or simply that they weren’t as fun as they sounded on paper.

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Finished Production Levels

The biggest challenge when creating the levels was the on-going development of the vehicle handling at the same time. We had to consider that every track had to be playable for every vehicle in the game, meaning every jump and shortcut should be drivable without failure, unless it was player error. This meant sometimes large sections of levels had to be redesigned to incorporate a change in vehicle handling, for example when a vehicle was made slower or heavier it may no longer be able to make a jump which was possible before. Or in the opposite scenario a vehicle which is now too fast may completely overshoot a landing zone and be reset.

Many of the original track concepts and features made it in to the final cut and through extensive playtesting within our own team, other teams in the studio and members of the public we managed to gather feedback which allowed us to iterate on every aspect of the levels until we were happy with them.

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