Portfolio

Penny’s Big Breakaway

Penny’s Big Breakaway is a 3D platformer with an emphasis on expressive character mobility. Levels feature a fixed camera, so players can focus on yo-yo based acrobatics. There are multiple ways to move through space, and the game encourages both speedrunning and chaining together moves into high-scoring combos.

Making the Levels

I was responsible for 14 out of 43 of the game’s final levels, 10 out of 15 of the bonus levels, and had a hand in 12 additional final levels.

I also defined our level design pipeline, which had the following steps:

Level Design Pipeline

  1. Sketch out “beats” using combinations of available gameplay objects
  2. Curate and arrange the beats into a storyboard for a level
  3. Greybox the layout in-engine and place camera splines/triggers
  4. Iterate based on playtest feedback
  5. “Paint” the greyboxes with metadata so our procedural generation system could bake the layouts into art-filled and shadow mapped meshes
  6. Decorate the levels with decals, decor props, and NPCs
  7. Continue testing, revising, rebaking, and decorating

The following is a small look into a couple of the levels I worked on.

Tutorial

I designed our tutorial level, which sees Penny, the player character, sneaking into the palace to cut ahead of a massive line of performers hoping to auditioning for the kingdom’s illustrious gala.

The level required careful camera design to keep the way forward in frame while allowing the player to explore and play around with the game’s unique moveset and physics. The camera smoothly weaves between flat, clear presentations of gaps and obstacles to dramatic establishing shots of Penny’s progress past the line.

Vanillatown 1

After the tutorial, Penny faces the first real levels. It was just as important to reinforce our game’s unique core moves as it was to introduce new key concepts.

After the tutorial, Penny tackles the first true levels in Vanillatown. I open the level with a tight space that reinforces all of the core moves, and then opens up into a larger playground where a player can see how the momentum carries over between moves.

Afterwards, I introduce a trampoline object with a twist: the further Penny falls, the higher she bounces. This was one of the first objects I programmed and prototyped for the game. The trampoline rewards the player for carrying their momentum into quarter-pipes to get height before bouncing, without feeling like a punishment for a player that has to bounce on it a couple of times to get the necessary height to proceed.

For the introduction of the Pengo Guards (the game’s primary antagonist) I created a wide space where the player can explore their behaviors. They patrol along looping paths, call out to each other, and lunge at her. The player can jump up to elevated mounds for safety, and I spaced them so that the player is encouraged to swing between them. If they do, they will see that Penny’s acrobatic moves will knock the Pengos away. To cap off the first stressful moment of the game I spin the camera around to show the pursuing Pengos brainlessly tumbling off the building after you.

Testimonials

Nothing better than watching someone have fun with your levels.