A long time ago, I promised to share the specific elements of Perseus Mandate that I was responsible for.
I came into the project more than halfway through its life cycle. The entire single-player campaign was set in stone. My duties were primarily to A) bring various campaign levels from alpha or beta quality up to final state, and B) to create original maps for the Instant Action gametype.
First I'll share the original levels I built.
The Instant Action gametype made its first appearance in the 360 port of the original FEAR. These are standalone maps unrelated to the single-player campaign, which allow you to simply blast through a bunch of FEAR's combat without narrative elements to slow down the pacing. I was assigned to create three Instant Action maps (or "Bonus Maps" as they were called in the PC version.) One was based heavily off of an original design by Ian Shephard, so I don't consider it "my map" any more than the levels that I worked on from the single-player campaign.
But I created two other Instant Action maps from the ground up, handling all stages of development from original concept to final visuals and bugfixing. They were sort of "concept maps:" 'Sprint' and 'Arena.'
This map eliminates all elements of exploration and equipment scavenging. Instead it focuses on an extremely focused linear path with checkpoints along the way at which the player can refill without slowing down. The challenge is to complete the "track" as quickly as possible, dropping each enemy as efficiently as possible so that you can cross the finish line without breaking stride.
Upon playing the demo of The Club, I felt that their game structure was a much more involved version of my concept for Sprint. Obviously the two productions were each developed completely independently of one another, but it felt validating to see another studio executing on the concept fully.
Amanda Stewart performed an environment art pass on this map. The setting for Sprint is a bright, clean office complex, lit throughout by skylights. This environment was chosen to emphasize the focus on precise execution of your run, and to avoid enemies getting lost in the shadows. One battle does take place in the basement/generator room underneath the building.
This map is the opposite of Sprint: it's a large, enclosed courtyard-- basically a single, open-plan room-- that gets invaded by wave after wave of enemies. The player must survive until the final enemy is killed. The checkpoint system reappears, by way of supply crates that are periodically dropped by planes flying overhead in a very arcadey fashion. The player kills waves of enemies, restocks at the supply drop points in the corners of the map, then continues the cycle.
Again, the player's goal is to clear the map in the fastest possible time. My focus was to create exciting, open-ended combat in a dynamic space; challenge the player to maintain awareness of his surroundings at all times; and include some excellent destructible elements in the final battle, once the arena had served its purpose. So at the end of the level, the huge "Power Armor XP" mecha is dropped from a helicopter and crashes through the sculpture in the center of the map, then can smash through the surrounding concrete arches to chase the player.
Amanda Stewart provided the standing lamp and destroyed arch art assets.My favorite detail of the map is the large clock on the north wall, which runs in real time. I was actually surprised at how nicely the visuals turned out, since I was responsible for all the geometry and texture placement on the buildings surrounding the courtyard (I am a level designer, not a world artist.) The modernist sculpture in the center was also fun to build, and to blow up.
I was responsible for adjusting gameplay elements, event scripting, tuning, performance, and visuals in a handful of the single-player campaign maps, but I don't feel like I "owned" any of that content. If my fellow LDs laid the foundation and built the frame, I just put up the drywall and gave it a couple coats of paint. These levels included the abandoned Underground, the sewers/subway following the Underground, and the mining facility, as well as a good deal of work on the final level of the game.
One area of the single-player campaign that I did feel some ownership over was the freight tunnel that preceded the mines. The player rides an elevator down into the large subterranean freight tunnel, and accompanies an NPC through it. I was handed the shell geometry, and built the visual look of the area:
Throughout the campaign, I was asked to go in and add some unique moments-- scares, scripted events or enemy encounters. While I only felt like a guest in the other guys' levels, the events that I added were themselves entirely of my own conception and execution. Spoilers ahead; here are some unique moments I snuck into the game proper:
Data Core Vision
During the first act, the player works his way through the ATC's Data Core facility. The main shaft runs many stories vertically through the center of the building; as the player criss-crosses through the level, he passes through the main shaft a number of times. The first couple times you pass through, it looks like this:
After becoming familiar with the environment, you pass through a final time, and are confronted with this scene:
The Data Core environment was built by Jim Kneuper, and the cloning pod assets were provided by TimeGate art department. The scene did what I wanted-- you feel frantic and distressed as you try to escape from the horrible machine, then disoriented as everything is suddenly back to normal. Jim said it's his favorite part of the level, which tends to make one feel good.
Foreshadowing of Chen's Fate
As the player presses through the sewers under the city, he suddenly finds himself in an unfamiliar place: a strange industrial facility. He's greeted by his squadmate, Chen... but the vision ends with an image that implies things might not end well for the good lieutenant.
Art assets provided by TimeGate art department. I built the industrial facility environment and scripted the sequence, as well as the transition out of and back into the sewers. The sewers were built by Jim Kneuper. The idea was for an attentive player to suddenly remember this scene far down the road when Chen finally meets his end, and to foster that spark of realization when the two scenes click.
The Abandoned Hobo Camp
Before exiting the sewers, the player encounters a makeshift barricade of sheetmetal and cast-off home furnishings. Enemies burst through with breaching charges, sending debris flying. Upon further inspection you find mattresses and a flaming barrel; apparently vagrants had set up a small shanty here.
I placed all the set dec and scripted the enemy encounter. This event was originally created for the Perseus Mandate demo, and was integrated into the campaign proper. The level was built built by Jim Kneuper.
After a large explosion rocks the city, the player takes refuge in the abandoned Underground. He and Chen are separated from the rest of the squad. They must hurry to get back topside. The player follows Chen, until the inexplicable happens.
Shane Paluski (late of TimeGate, now of Remedy) is responsible for the scripting in the initial monologue, as well as the overall visual look of the Underground. My role was to make the player follow Chen for a bit, as this segment has originally been solo. I wanted to show off as much of the partner AI's range of motion as possible, so I had Chen ducking under obstructions, tumbling through windows, and sliding over tables. I had the player's vision distort and Chen dissolve into ash, leaving the player to wonder if he'd even really been there in the first place.
While working your way back up from the Underground, the player comes across a small ammo cache in a side room.
Bruce Locke built this level. This little event I stuck in is a cheap scare, but one that's apparently effective. It's especially satisfying putting these kinds of shocks into the game late in development. A tester in QA has become completely familiar with the map, having played through it dozens of times; then one day you hear him literally scream as a scare sequence suddenly pops up somewhere it hadn't been before. Priceless.
Interrupted Firing Squad
When Paxton Fettel is killed, his platoon of Replica soldiers goes dormant, instantly falling into hibernation where they stood. As evidenced by scenes throughout the FEAR games, Replica forces tend to purge their surroundings of any civilian life. This gave me an idea for a grimly humorous little tableau:
Bruce Locke built the level. At this spot, I placed a squad of Replicas that was in the midst of executing a group of civilians, firing squad-style, when Fettel's death pulled the plug on their consciousness. The guy on the far left was seconds from meeting his maker like his two unfortunate friends, when out of nowhere the Replicas just dropped what they were doing and went to sleep. As you can see, the mental stress left the survivor trembling in a quite a state.
Finally, a little flourish I added to a scene I'd become way too familiar with while working on the game. After the player goes through enormous amounts of trouble to apprehend one Gavin Morrison, the guy is up and crushed to death in one of Alma's psychic freak-outs. I wasn't responsible for this scene, except for one small bit at the end.
Shane Paluski scripted the scene. It's messed up, but also kind of funny: I mean it's only one step away from a piano falling on the dude. So I added the skid motion to the truck after it lands, and left poor Morrison's feet sticking out from underneath. More than a couple people suggested his toes should curl up when you look at them. I'm glad this little touch made it into the final product.
So, those are my personal contributions to the game, along with the less tangible finishing work I did throughout. My time spent working on it was incredibly fun, rewarding, and challenging. Less than a year ago I was a tester; now I can point to stuff in a retail video game and say "I made that." Which is nice.
Anyway, enough about my day job! Thanks for bearing with me.
Oh, and happy Valentine's Day.