The main idea

Transmission is a story based 3rd person level.

The level takes place on a seemingly abandoned, post-apocalyptic island. You start off not knowing where you are or what has happened. After a while you realize that something bad must have happened at the island, and that you might be the only one left.

After finding a radio in an abandoned house you start to recieve mysterious radio signals from someone. Maybe you're not alone here after all?

While searching for the mysterious sender of the signals, you see that the line between reality and your own imagination has become quite blurry. Perhaps whatever happened to the people on the island has affected you as well?

Your objective now is to increase your signal strenght, decode the messages, and by doing so, find the source of the transmission. 

Design Challenges

There were some major focus areas and challenges when designing this level.

  • I wanted to create a linear experience that still feels open. To do this, I tried to avoid leading the player with hard barriers and walls as much as possible. Instead I used hints, lights, radiosignals, flower trails etc to lead the player. 
  • I wanted the environment on the island to be extremely varied, while still being tied together into the setting and the story. In total there are nine different visually distinct biomes in the level. Each distinct area also had to have a unique purpose for the level.
  • Furthermore, I focused a lot on creating the right atmosphere and emotion for the player while getting through the level. I wanted it to be an emotional experience as well as a fun one. 

  1. Entrance area (Start)
  2. Ravine
  3. Foggy field area + abandoned cottage
  4. City area
  5. Abandoned chemical factory
  6. Train tracks leading into cave
  7. Hidden cave factory
  8. Grave yard
  9. Apartment building (End goal)


1. The entrance

You wake up at the shore behind a large cliff wall. You see a dreamlike, beautiful landscape and a big mountain with billboards advertizing a company. There is an opening in the cliff wall, but when you reach it, you find that it is blocked by a wild dog. When you turn around after reaching the opening, the landscape you previously walked through looks completely different. The previously green trees are all withered and dead. This is the first hint that something is not completely right.

In the level there is constantly an ambiguity between what is real and what the player is imagining. I repeat this mechanic of switching the look of an area many times througout the level. The red flowers on the ground are sometimes used as a hint to show when the player is hallucinating or reminiscing, instead of seeing reality.  

Same scene before and after

2. The graveyard

Here you first encounter the see-through "shadow people". You must avoid the shadow people AI while running between gravestones towards the next area. When entering this area you catch a glimpse of the final goal. The large graveyard is also used as environmental storytelling, hinting that something bad might have happened on the island. Perhaps you are the only one still alive?

3. The small island

You find an abandoned building on a smaller island right next to the shore. The doors are locked and you cannot yet enter the building. You also pass by an entrance into the mountain that is blocked by fallen rocks. The player will eventually return to this area at the end of the level, but I wanted to make sure to introduce the problem before the solution.

Continuing forward you enter into a steep and narrow ravine area. I wanted this ravine to create some contrast with the following, very open area.

4. The foggy field

You exit the ravine and enter into a field full of dead trees. The fog in this area is extremely thick, creating a very disorienting feeling. To avoid the player becoming too lost, I use the red flowers to lead the player through the fog. While following the flowers you will eventually see a strong light further ahead in the fog. 

5. The cottage

Following the light leads you to an abandoned cottage surrounded by red flowers. Inside the cottage are two rooms, one bright and one dark. In the bright room I wanted to create a slightly supernatural feeling, almost as if your walking into the past. In this room you find a radio that you bring along with you. In the dark room you can see the contrast between the reality and the illusion.  

6. The abandoned city 

 After picking up the radio, you will see a meter on the screen showing how strong the signal is. While you're still disoriented in the fog, you notice that the signal strenght gets stronger if you walk in a certain direction. After walking in this direction for a bit, you suddenly encounter a huge abandoned city block. Due to the thick fog, the buildings are not visible until you are very close, making for an sudden ominous reveal. 

In the city you once again encounter the shadow people AI. You must again avoid the AI while walking between tall abandoned bildings towards the other side of the city. While walking through the city you start to recieve messages on the radio that are written out on the screen. But since the signal strenght is still low, the messages are too fragmented to read completely. You can however make out that someone is in need of your help.

At the other end of the city area you must climb up to the roof of a building, and from the roof you get a sudden reveal of a large factory. You then jump down again on the other side using balconies. Meanwhile, the incomplete radio messages keep playing.

7. The factory

You enter the abandoned factory and when you get close enough to the radio tower inside the factory area, the radio signal gets strong enough to decode the incoming messages. Using clues from radio messages, you find a key in one of the abandoned factory buildings. You can then follow the train tracks going from the factory and leading into a cave in the mountain.

8. The hidden cave factory

Inside the cave you find a hidden, second part of the factory. The cave factory is flooded, and something seems to have leaked into the water. It seems as if some kind of poison or disease is being transmitted from the factory. You must avoid the poisonous water while platform-jumping on various storage containers towards a small storage furthest into the cave. Thanks to clues in the radio signal, you find out how to open the storage. Inside you find dynamite that you can use to to get past the rocks blocking the walkway exit leading towards the graveyard which you passed in the beginning. While making your way over the contaminated water, your reality starts to feel even more blurry. 

9. The exit

Back again at graveyard area, you return once more to the lone bulding on the smaller island. You can now open the doors using the key. You enter the building, take the elevator to the top of the building and enter a small lit up room. In here, you finally find the source of the radio messages. With this, it's over. 


Defining the level

I knew when I started this project that I wanted to create a narrative driven level with a lot of focus on atmosphere. Since the story was an important part of the level, I wanted it to be woven into the level design from the start. I spent a lot of time researching reference images and brainstorming ideas, and finally decided on a post-apocalyptic setting for the level. I also came up with a main storyline, and started drawing up a flowchart of how I wanted the events of the level to play out. 

Following this, I started sketching overviews and clearly defining each unique area of the map. It was decided from the start that the island was going to have nine distinct biomes, and I had to think very hard about which biomes would fit well into the setting and the story, while still being clearly different from eachother.  

Polishing the level

After finishing the whitebox and doing some iterations on the main paths, I started to polish up the level a bit using free asset packs. However, I did not have access to assets which fit well enough to replace all the areas I'd built. Therefore some of the areas had to remain in the whitebox stage for now. For the factory and the abandoned city, I continued to use my own whitebox meshes which I had modeled in Maya. Below you can see a comparison between the whitebox stage and the final state of some areas.

Creating a whitebox

Following this, I started a very extensive whitebox phase, where I built the entire level using simple placeholder meshes. I used Maya to create the whitebox meshes myself. I wanted to have a chance to do many big iterations on the level before moving on to placing the actual "gold" meshes. During the whitebox phase I focused on designing at more of a macro level, focusing mainly on composition, scale, distances, the general feeling of the areas etc.

I also used blueprints to script the events in the level, such as picking up the radio, and scripting so that the radio signal gets stronger as you move closer toward the radio tower.