This blog is written by Swampland level designer Chris Dionne.
In summer of 2011 Titanfall was embryonic; Pilots could spam explosions with a trigger pull, Titans spawned and respawned and fire teams roamed the maps getting trampled on. In the midst of this, a multiplayer map was born out of the simple message "Make an MP level in a swamp". After years of twists and turns and false starts, DLC ended up being the perfect time to revisit “Swampland”.
The first version of Swampland was an almost completely flat level with yellow fog and towering redwoods. The final version only began to take form after design on Titanfall was finished. At that point, Swampland had been shelved for almost two years while other levels and design work had taken priority.
When a game is complete, however, it becomes one of the most exciting times to work on a map. It’s a chance to build the playground around toys, rather than around imagined and constantly shifting ideas.
With Swampland I tried to add a unique experience to Titanfall while staying true to the original themes of the level, like overwhelming nature and its intersection with technology. This was a level born of heavy experimentation and iteration.
Initial layouts of the new Swampland added a bunch of IMC buildings, temples and massive infrastructure. While that structure created clearly defined paths and gave Pilots safe havens and places to wall-run, the level lost its personality.
During playtesting of these early variations, something else became clear - the towering trees (which had been pushed to the periphery) needed to take center stage. They were a blast! Titans dodging around massive trunks; Pilots jumping from tree-to-tree like ninjas. All that additional infrastructure had pulled players away from this new and interesting fun that was happening around (and on!) the trees.
I shifted the dense forest section to the center of the map, and kept three main structures as anchor points around the perimeter. This encouraged Pilots and Titans to pass through the woods as they moved from building to building. The final design push then focused on small changes to enhance those interactions - adjusting sight lines, making interiors more interesting to fight over, encouraging flow, and so on.
While I was deep in the iterative design process, art used selected chunks of the level to define a visual style, creating assets and establishing the final look. Constant communication throughout the process kept our goals aligned, and by the time the map was ready, artists were able to take it and very quickly turn gray and green and orange blocks into a work of beauty.
We’ve put together a short video that shows some of the evolution of Swampland and the final artistic transformation. It is one of the most unique, interesting and fun levels that I’ve had the opportunity to work on, and I hope you enjoy it!
Chris "Soupy" Dionne, Designer
Looking for more details around Titanfall: Expedition? Join us on May 12th at 12:00 PM PDT, for our Expedition Live Stream with Respawn Community Manager, Abbie Heppe, and Designers Jason McCord, Geoff Smith, and Chris Dionne. Follow the official Titanfall Twitch channel so you know when we go live! http://www.twitch.tv/titanfall/