Inspirational game levels


My first for a post-apocalyptic game level that inspires me is from the critical success, the last of us.


what distinguishes this sort of post-apocalyptic game from the rest is how the apocalypse came about, in most of the other games the apocalypse was started because of humans usually because of war and/or nuclear warfare. in the last of us, however, the virus that took over and destroyed most of the population is all natural and found in rather than being created in a lab like the viruses in resident evil series. this means that unlike those sorts of games there was no way of preventing the apocalypse.

it’s because of this natural look that I choose the level “Pittsburgh” as one of my chooses for inspiration for a post-apocalyptic level design. as the title of the level suggests the level is set in the American city. but they removed all the people and replaced them with scavengers and zombies, they also let plants take back the city by covering the building and vehicles.

Because of the lack of sane humans, there’s no artificial light source apart from your main characters flashlight meaning that only natural light sources like the sun are used to illuminate the level.

for my second choice, I choose Diamond city from fall out 4. although it’s not technically a level and it’s more of an area, the importance in the story and design still inspire me enough to add it as one of my chooses.


the reason I choose Diamond city is mainly for its design and purpose within Fallout 4, its the main last safe point for humans after nukes were dropped as such they had to build it out of scrap inside of a stadium giving it this rusted, scrapyard look but also shows how resourceful we are. Diamond city is very imported in Fallout 4 as it where you can get a lot of quests and items. kinda like the last of us through the day the only light source for outside is the sun but during the night is replaced by the light of the stadium lights.


just like for post-apocalyptic I researched different fantasy based games to find different levels that could inspire me to create an environment using that theme. my first choice for a fantasy level is from the legend of Zelda: breath of the wild with the divine beast vah medoh

Image result for Divine Beast Vah Medoh

this level sees you trying to figure out puzzles in a giant mechanical eagle that is used to protect the land. the mechanical eagle sounds like it belongs on the Sci-fi list but its the design and how it works that make it in the fantasy list. the divine beast is made out of looks to be stone and is covered in most giving an impression that it was made decades ago and is most likely powered by magic. because the level is designed around flying in the sky there’s a lot of wind puzzles as well as controlling the bird and steering it to tilt certain objects. the outside is light up by a clear sky but the interior is lit by windows on the beast or by glowing stones that are spread throughout.

the second fantasy game that I have chosen is dark souls 3 because of the level anor londo.

Image result for anor londo dark souls 3

the level is set in a massive cathedral but appears to take inspiration from castles a staple of fantasy. the level involves you fighting your way passed knights while looking for an entrance into the cathedral to kill the boss inside. the architecture is very Gothic and dark which I think is a great contrast to most other fantasy worlds that extremely bright and colourful. as the game is set in medieval times all the lighting in the game is either from the moon or from torches which really manages to make you feel like you’re exploring an ancient world.


the final theme that I will be doing choosing two games for inspiration is sci-fi and my first choice is the level “the ark” from Titanfall 2.


the level involves you on top of a spaceship with your robot partner BT trying to catch up with enemy ships so you can destroy the weapon they have on board. BT throws you onto the enemy ship as you run and gun through the ship before jumping to the next one. as the ship is filled with enemies there its also filled with weapons including big cannons and robotic guards. because of this they took something already existing, a battleship, and made it futuristic by turning it into a spaceship.

my final inspirational level is from Borderlands 2 and its known as “the bunker”.

wordpress 2

The immediate detail that sticks out about the bunker is how clean and pristine it looks creating a very utopia look. but this hides the fact that there isn’t a human insight instead being filled with killer robots and guarded by a flying war machine causing this utopia to be a dystopia. you travel to this area looking for a key to defeat the main villain. the clean look and bright lighting hides the dangers that are hidden within.


below I have created a mind map for each of the themes as well as inspirational games and other media based around that theme and the sort of environments they have within that I could use while designing my own environment in one of these themes.

my first mind map is for the post-apocalyptic theme.


Sci-fi mindmap:

mind map 3

fantasy mindmap:

mind map 2



Made with Padlet

above is the mood board that I had created so I could collect photos that all relate to an environment of three different themes that being Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Post-apocalyptic. I got multiple different sub-environment for all three of the themes for example in my Sci-fi section I had the typical space station but I also have floating city’s and even under the sea environment so I had more inspiration while designing my own environment.

all three themes have the possibility for a creative and interesting environment, with fantasy I could create a castle or maybe an underground city and if I was to choose the Sci-fi theme I’d be able to create an alien city but its the idea of altering a real-life location to make it look like the apocalypse has happened that has made me choose post-apocalyptic as the theme I’ll be designing my environment on.

because I have chosen the post-apocalyptic theme I can base the environment on real-life locations and change them till they look like they’ve been through a disaster whether that’s a natural disaster where I can let nature take over the building and vehicles or a man-made disaster where nothing is left but ruins and rubble. the real life location i have chosen to alter is a local garden that’s opposite the road to my college. because its so close and i pass it on a daily basis i can take some pictures myself of it for my primary research and use them images to create a realistic apocalyptic look.


above is the most recent image i could find of the garden that i will be altering for my environment design. the image is from 10 years ago so the place has changed quite a bit but that’s not an issue as I’+ll be taking current pics myself anyway so this image is just to show you what my design will look like.

Level design types

below I have explained what different types of levels I could use to build my environment in by listing the pros and cons of each one.

  • Alley-

this level type is commonly found in first-person shooter as their object is to run from point A to B shooting anything in the way. as I mentioned previously the whole point of an alley level design is a linear level with only really one way to get to the end with maybe a few shortcuts thrown in. a pro for these sorts of levels is that its unlikely that players will get confused and lost in levels as they are linear, however, this could also be a con as the player could feel like there being guided and could easily get bored so the level designer needs to create an illusion of it being open and expansive. a good example of a game creating an illusion of being open when really its alley design is uncharted.

  • Maze-

this level design is pretty self-explanatory as it’s a level designed like a maze, often found in puzzles games as the player has to figure out how to find there way out. when done correctly a maze level can be fun and imaginative to design but can easily be made confusing and not fun to play through which could cause to leave and not play the game again cause of one section of the game. an example of this done right is from God of war 3 with hera’s garden. a small maze-like garden that uses perception as the puzzle is some creative and fun ways because its short and interesting its less likely people will get bored and quit the game.

Image result for god of war 3 hera's garden

  • Hub-

most commonly seen in 3D platformers hub levels are where you’re in a location with objects that will teleport you to one of the main levels. nearly all the most popular 3D platformers mascots have had hub worlds in at least one game, this includes Mario, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro.  because of the fact that the hub is used to teleport to levels, you don’t have to as much consistency in level design as you would if it was all taking place in one area as such every level can be drastically different and more varied. hub worlds aren’t without there fault however that they don’t work with every game genre, that’s why you don’t see a lot of shooters that have a hub world. the hub world could also be too expansive and not filled with side objectives to do causing people to get bored while looking for the next level which has been shown with Sonic the Hedgehog ’06

Image result for CRASH 3 Hub

  • Island-

this kind of design isn’t as much for a level as it is for the entire game as an island design is an open environment where you can explore however you see fit so if developers use island level design they will most likely you that as the full game like they did with Fallout 4. they can, however, hint at which way your meant to be going with difficulty so if you wander into an area that way more difficult than any other area you’ve been to before its most likely meant to be visited later on when you’ve levelled up or got stronger weapons. this sort of design is good for world building as you can explore at your own pace and find out the lore of the world your playing but for a new environment artist that has never build a proper environment yet it could be too easy to build an expansive world that will be too much to complete within the given time frame.

Image result for fallout 4 map

  • Path-

this style of level works particularly well in stealth games as path levels give you multiple paths all leading to the same outcome. for example, a game series that path levels are prevalent in is Hitman where your given a target to assassinate but are given a myriad of options on how to do it, you can sneak up and get him, go in gun blazing, snipe him from a different building all different ways of doing it but all leading to the next level.

Image result for hitman kills


I created a survey concerning my environment so i can get the opinions of others on how to design my environment. because of this, I can design the environment to be the most appealing to as many people as i can.

below is the results that i received from the survey.

survey 1

The first question that i asked in the survey is the most important as it will dictate how i will design the rest of my environment, whether the theme will be Sci-fi, Fantasy or Post-apocalyptic. as you can see Post-apocalyptic won by three time either of the other options as such that is the theme that i will be building my environment around. in the question i made sure to inform the player that i was considering to design my environment based on a real life location so they could give an better answer as they know what im planning for the environment.

survey 2

continuing on from my last question, i informed the recipient that the local area was going to be a city that my college was located in. i thought this would be a good idea as i know that area well and can alter that area to fit the theme that was most popular which was post-apocalyptic. 80% of people said that their chosen theme would work being built around a city and at least 60% of those votes will be recipients that voted for post-apocalyptic as my theme. now that my theme has been decided I’m am able to take pictures of the area that I’m wanting to design around to use as reference.

survey 3

Now that my theme has been decided, i can move onto deciding what art style ill be designing my environment in. as i mentioned in the question above, in my personal opinion a realistic art style will work best with my environment due to the fact that its base around a real life area as such it would make the most sense to use a realistic art style for a real life area. i wanted to get other peoples opinion however thus i added it into the survey and you can see that realistic art style won by a huge margin with 86.67% of people voting for the realistic art style.


Asset list

below I have created a list of all the assets I need while creating my environment of a destroyed outside are that have been overrun with plants.

  • walls
  • door
  • shattered window
  • rubble
  • poppies
  • trees
  • statue
  • memorial
  • bench
  • desk
  • chairs
  • monitors
  • cars
  • PCs
  • chairs
  • desks

Asset rationale

The environment I am planning on using is an enclosed area of a destroyed city that has been overrun with plants and nature as such the asset list I have written above is all to do with destroyed buildings and nature.

the most important object in my environment is the building as they will be used to block off the area preventing the player from exiting the area and wander around an area that I haven’t designed, as the environment is set in a city I also need the building so that the player can easily tell that they are in a city. to make the process of designing the different sorts of building faster and easier I will create all the walls, doors and windows separately so I can change them around for each building making them look different and make the city look more realistic than having every building look the exact same.

I want to cover the memorial in poppies as I believe it to be a fitting tribute as such I will design the monument and poppies separately so when it comes to adding them into unreal I can add the memorial in separately and then add the poppies over the memorial to save me time while creating the assets and I can make sure it all looks the way I want it too.

as my environment is set in a city and not a forest I’m only needing a few trees, 5 at most, so I can create 2 different trees and copy and paste them to save time and focus on other aspects of my environment that will be more difficult or more time consuming to do. finally, to make my city area look more realistic I’ll be creating and adding a few benches as well as a car and statue to make it look more realistic as well as different types of debris and rubble so it matches the theme of post-apocalyptic.

I am planning on having the player travel through an office building to get around a blockade. as such I’m going to fill the office buildings with  monitors and PCs so it looks like a realistic office as well as them thrown all over so it looks like theirs been a realistic apocalypse.

Asset mood board 

below I have shown the mood board I have created so that when I come to creating my assets for the environment I can look at it for inspiration for each of my assets.

Made with Padlet


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