We just wrapped up another challenge at MapCore: the Cube Challenge. The goal of this challenge was to build a level completely contained within a 1024x1024x1024 cube (based on id Tech scales and adjusted proportionally for other engines). We ran a similar contest back in 2007, but I never finished my entry and was itching to release something this time.
One thing that bugs me about these dimensions, though, is that horizontal and vertical spaces aren’t created equal. Unless you fall back on ladders, elevators, or teleporters, covering a 128 unit vertical shift requires somewhere in the realm of 256 units – 25% of the horizontal bounds allowed in this challenge! As a result, many levels tend to fill every possible inch of X/Y space, but often can’t utilize the full 1024 units on the Z axis.
I decided I wanted to take a crack at this in Prey. I’ve long held that Prey is the best of the Doom III engine games; it remains one of my favorites this generation, and I’ve always wanted to experiment with some of the crazy level design possibilities opened up by variable gravity and seamless portals. The result is “Bender,” which is now available for download.
I took most of my inspiration from Human Head’s level “Keeper Gravity” (dmescher.map for those of you who might poke around at their example levels), carrying over cues like the glowing blue borders to represent gravity changes and 45 degree slopes to shift from one gravity zone to another, and also emulating elements of the visual style.
An overarching goal for the level was to create walkable space on all six border faces of the cube, a goal I was able to meet with the help of a tucked away portal-linked corridor hiding under part of the main atrium. The seamless portals opened up a world of possibilities where players can exit a room in one orientation and enter a new room in a completely different one – they even create the illusion that the level extends well beyond its 1024 borders. In one case, the portal arrangement means you can even briefly see yourself running through the level.
I tried to keep the texturing fairly simple to aid in understanding which direction is currently “up.” In addition, item placement is fairly heavy and most if not all gravity change areas have items strategically placed to make sure there’s items stuck to whatever wall or ceiling you might end up walking on next. Here’s a video of it all in motion:
And some additional shots: