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 Masters Dissertation 

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Role: Sole Developer

Engine: Unreal Engine 5

Year: 2024

Entitled "The White Rabbit: Studying Player Guidance In Non-Linear Level Design", this project studied established guidance methods and how players interact and respond to them, with the hypothesis being that they may not be fit for purpose with modern players that recognise them. 

The product was a detailed non-linear level, showcasing my level design skills, as well as my ability to script interactions and gameplay moments with Unreal engine 5.

30 players tested 3 variations of the level with differing levels of guidance, results of play were recorded through the implementation of what I called a 'Heat-Trail System' which acted as a three dimensional heatmap. 

The results of this were very interesting, displaying clear trends that warrant further study of this area.

 

I am incredibly proud of the quality of not only my level and design work, but the academic side too. I feel that this project tested me like no other and greatly advanced my understanding of level design theory and methodology. 

You can read the full dissertation - Here

Abstract

With the outcry against obvious, immersion breaking guidance in modern level design, a hypothesis emerged that if players recognise guidance methods they are no longer fit for their intended purpose, that being to guide players subtly and subconsciously. This report tests this hypothesis.

 

The method of study utilised was the thorough research of a number of established guidance methods into three versions of the same non-linear level, one with a complete set of methods spanning the entire play space and UI, one sans UI, and another presenting a seemingly linear path through guidance.

Playtesting of each version was then conducted with a ‘Heat-Trail’ recorded during gameplay to visualise player decision making, followed by short interviews to gather personal, candid responses to play. 

 

Through this methodology a number of trends were discovered proving that some players either ignored guidance entirely, or purposefully went against it in favour of exploration and following their own path.

While the overall results do not categorically prove the hypothesis to be correct, they do supply enough of an indication to warrant further study which could possibly lead to changes to level design methodology in modern video games.

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