Barlowe Sqaure is set in the fictional city of Roanoke.
The city's overall design aesthetic bears resemblence to Portland but it was also heavily influenced by other major American cities to give it a more unique look and feel.
It features a large outdoor portion and a number of indoor areas with a large range of diverse objectives to complete which can take up more then an hour to complete on harder difficulties.
Barlowe Square was to be Contagions largest map. The initial design was built around our Escape game mode but it has been ported over to the Extraction and Hunted game modes.
Because Contagion as a game is greatly built around replayability the pathing system was paramount to create a dynamic feel for the map.
Designing easily recognisable landmarks was also a very important factor to inituitively aid the player to easily recognize and remember the layout of the city blocks while also fleshing out the city's overall aesthetic appeal.
Street names where added to further distinguish each area but even that proved to not be enough. We created a map information board and put them in five key locations throughout the map. Now players have a very good understanding of where they are and where they need to go.
The map was designed over a time span of 9 months and has seen it's fare share of iterations. The Source engine has been pushed to it's limits while ensuring that the map was optimized. It's currently one of the largest commercially released Source engine based maps.
One of the most important factors about the overall layout was utilizing all the areas efficiently and to diversify the level by designing enough unique landmarks to keep each playthrough interesting enough. The initial layout went through numerous changes during its development and I was forced to start over from scratch a total of three times.
After scrapping the first two iterations I was able to find a solid layout that was large enough for a very long playthrough and had enough unique areas that were designed in a way that I was able to optimize to a quality standard.
On the picture to the right you can see the final level layout that I created where I was able to further expand the map design upon. We planned out the streetnames and other names for buildings and stores to help players be able to more easily navigate the level.
Another important aspect to the level design philosohpy for Barlowe Square was player map awareness. I designed the map with unique landmarks in mind that would aid the player to more easily remember the map layout.
We also put in streetnames on the sides of lamp posts and traffic signals to further aid the player but we found out post release that this still wasn't enough and players tend to got lost despite our efforts.
We determined that like in real life, people simply get lost when they visit a new city or other large areas. To solve this issue I came up with a solution and created a mock-up image depicting an electric map reference board that I could put all around the map in key locations and handed it over to the Environmental Artists.
The community was pleased with the solution and with the help of the other visual cues in the map they where able to more easily navigate the level and complete objectives. Only the natural difficulty was now a threat and feeling lost was not a concern anymore for the majority of players.