Squirmin' Vermin is a cartoony third-person shooter inspired by Ratchet and Clank, where the player takes on the role as "the Exterminator" as s/he clears out a current vermin-infestation on a colony. Gameplay is a mix between high-intensity shootouts, close quarters combat and some light movement-puzzle moments.
Due to having too many levels on the previous project; Spite: Eclipse, us level designers decided on a more strategic approach. We agreed on only having three levels in this game. This meant that we could spend more time on each level, iterating further and tweaking areas to fit the idéa we had.
We started out by planning each level, and what kind of level we wanted them to be. The first level was supposed to serve as the tutorial level, but also to set the story premises for the player. Since we had a lot of focus on player movement, the first level became a large hangar with a lot of moving platforms and vistas.
Level 2 introduced the player to the shotgun weapon, and thus the whole level was shaped around the new weapon. This meant having a more maze-like indoor level with limited views and a lot of corridors to be able to utilize the shotgun.
The second layout offered more verticality, which opened up more possibilities for jumping-puzzles, a mechanic presented to the player in the previous level. The overall flow in the level also improved with this new layout, even though it could still need some more polish or further iterations.
Blockout & Iterations
During the blockout-phase the level saw heavy iterations, due to gameplay being impacted in a negative way. The first layout lacked any notable verticality, which made it fairly boring to traverse.
Area 1 - Warehouse The first area the player encounters is the run down warehouse. The way forward has collapsed however and the player needs to jump down and clear all the enemies. This is also when the player finds the shotgun. After clearing out all enemies, the player will have to find a way to reach the other side. Using the container conveyor, the player can reach the other side of the walkway and progress further into the colony.
Area 2 - Corridors and Storage After a brief enemy encounter in a narrow corridor, the player enters the storage area. Here the player is introduced to a one-way drop where several enemies are patrolling. Two "tank" enemies (clenchers) are patrolling the area, upping the challenge for the player. When all enemies are defeated, the player can proceed into the foyer.
Area 3 - Foyer The foyer is filled with barricades from before the evacuation, and shows signs of damage and disrepair. The area itself is full of enemies, with a lot of sightblocking elements (pillars, crates) which promotes player mobility and tactics. When the room is cleared the player can head into the main area: the living quarters.
Area 4 - The living quarters The living quarters is the main objective for level 2. This is where the majority of the vermin hangs around, waiting to meet the wrath of the Exterminator. The area consists of several floors, all teeming with critters awaiting an impending doom. In order to proceed to the next level, the player has to hunt down every last critter and get an 'all-clear' from HQ. When the objective requirements have been met (all critters on the level have been exterminated) the player can access the sluice-gate to the out-door canyon level-
This project was a bit of a rollercoaster. As the whole team was working hard to put together their portfolios, a lot of hours got lost and we had to work a lot of overtime in order to get this project done.
Aside from that, I learned a whole lot about our engine, and how our programmers work to get everything to function properly. Since we started using Perforce for this project, I invested some time into understanding how the software works. I now feel very comfortable around perforce, and even though I never tried all different stream-features I think I can operate the software quite well.
I also took a bit of a deep-dive into optimisation for two of the levels, working will culling-volumes and mesh/collision-optimisation in order to save framerate and improve performance on particularly performance-heavy areas.