Released Titles
Star Wars : TOR The Saboteur Transformer : The Game Scooby Doo
  Developer Savage Entertainment  
  Publisher Activision  
  Release Date June 19, 2007  
  Platform Sony PSP  
  Engine Savage Proprietary  
  Summary   I implemented two levels for Transformers PSP -   Tasks   Create Level Proposal Doc (including Cutscenes w/dialog)
      - CS02 Water Treatment Plant       Create Whitebox of Level, Gather Art Reference
      - CS04 Highway Chase       Script Companion and Enemy AI, create AI Map and Paths
      Additionally, I was in charge of Sound Implementation       Script Triggers and Events, create and hide Spawn Points
              Test and balance enemy Hitpoints, Actions (FSMs)


CS02 - Water Treatment Plant    
  Challenge   The TF Game Design doc calls for a group of levels that take plan in a major metropolis. Levels have already been proposed which take place on a highway into the city and in a downtown area with lots of buildings. At this point in the story Optimus and Bumblebee have the Allspark and are being pursued by Starscream and other Decepticons
  Concept Proposal   I proposed creating a level in a massive drainage culvert where a building houses a water treatment plant. While escaping across a bridge that spans the culvert Starscream destroys the bridge, and Optimus and Bumblebee have no choice but to take refuge in the Plant as the Decepticons bear down on them.
  Exterior Entrance to Water Treatment Plant

Seen here is the enterior extrance to the Plant. To the left is a dead end with an enemy spawn point hidden in a drainage pipe. To the right is a dead end with a twist: there's an bridge above on the 2nd floor than can be destroyed. The bridge will fall, giving the player an alternate route into the Plant (this will also prevent enemies from using the bridge to enter the Plant from the second floor).

  Interior Shot of Water Treatment Plant

This shot shows the three levels of the Plant's interior. Large vats of water sit in the floor. The interior was intially more decorated, with pipes and animated stirs for the vats of water. However, due to framerate limitations it was necessary to remove much of this decoration.

Lesson Learned: This interior multi-level facility really taxed our engine, both in terms of AI navigating the level and in terms of framerate. Framerate issues weren't determined until late in development. In the future I plan to do more initial testing of AI capability and I plan to keep an eye on framerate from a much earlier stage in development.

  Opening Cutscene

The story at this point calls for Optimus and Bumblebee to be running from the Decepticons. Of course, Optimus is no wuss, so the Decepticon pursuers must have the clear firepower advantage. My first cutscene challenge was to depict this scenario. With Optimus and Bumblebee rushing toward the camera, Starscream appears and launches a missile that detonates directly in front of the camera. The pair fall into the culvert and transform, with Optimus calling out to Bumblebee to take shelter in the nearby human structure.

  Heavy Opposition on the Bridge

Truck drones are supporting Starscream. Two transform and take positions on the bridge, firing down at the Player. Two other truck drones, in truck form, race off the broken bridge and transform in the culvert to pursue the Player.

My Focus: I wanted to emphasize what I felt was the most compelling part of this franchise - transforming. I felt that other levels weren't making use of this property enough with the enemy AI, so I made sure to have enemies that would hit triggers to transform at appropriate moments, as well as dynamically when the AI are outside a given range and need to catch up to the Player.

  Chased Into the Plant
Once the player takes control of Optimus he comes under heavy fire. Bumblebee is already inside the plant. The player has the option to explore the areas around the plant. However, this is clearly an "escort" mission, and the primary objective is to protect Bumblebee. To support this objective, if the player should abandon Bumblebee for any signficant time there is sufficient enemy opposition inside such that it won't take long before Bumblebee is dead and the mission must be restarted. As mentioned before there is a spawn point to the left, hidden in a drain pipe, where more enemies will be entering the scene.
  Breaking Glass on Second Floor

With the intial intensity of the level I decided to bring the pacing down a bit once the player makes it into the Plant, which is empty when the duo arrive. Bumblebee is tasked with trying to find a way to open the south door of the plant to make an escape. To do this he traverses the second and third floors, looking for a way to override the electronic locks on the door.

Here we see the shot of the second floor. Drone Forklifts are approaching across a bridge, and will shoot out the large glass window in the process of chasing down the Autobots.

  Option : Cut Off Their Attack

On the ledge outside there is a tactic to prevent more Drone Forklifts from crossing over into the Plant. A large oil silo sticks out from the drab background with white and green paint. If the player destroys this silo it will fall and destroy the bridge.

Note that I've hidden the spawn point for these Forklifts in the building across the bridge, out of sight. The drones have a path across the bridge and a trigger to transform and attack. These actions have to be modified if the player successfully destroys the silo, to maintain the illusion of intelligent opponents - they will wait and stop spawning rather than continually plummet to their doom.

  2nd Floor Reinforcment Arrives

The Plant has three points of entry to defend from - first floor main entrance, second floor (described above), and a balcony on the third floor where aerial attackers can land.

This system of triggers and events was the most difficult for me to implement. An aerial drone must hover outside until Bumblebee is on the third floor. Then it must fly to a transform trigger where it transforms in air and drops to land on the terrace, where it is triggered to attack. This is where I learned the challenges inherent in AI which aren't confined to the ground. In the end I was very happy with the result, and my ability to add another transforming enemy AI to the mix.

  Cover Bumblebee!

This scenario is about the midpoint of the level, where the intensity really begins to ramp up. The arrival of an intense enemy drone with new weapons (the green disks he fires are mines) complements the heat growing downstairs as more truck and forklift drones gain entry to the Plant.

To be sure that the player is staying with Bumblebee I created a trigger to pause BB's followPath action here as he hacks the security systems. The player is told that they must cover BB as he breaks into the system. A breif timer counts down, then the system unlocks the soutern door to exit.

  Taking a Shortcut

One of the reasons I pitched a multilevel building as the primary location of my level was because the majority of the game, as propsed, would take place on flat land. I wanted to give players a different view with fresh gameplay options.

One option that this design facilitates is jumping over the railings on the walkways to drop down to lower floors. This tactic can help the player catch up to Bumblebee or to spring surpise melee attacks on enemies below.

  Let's Get Out of Here!

The Southern exit is unlocked and it's time to get out of here. With enemies flooding in from the Northern entrance and the second floor Optimus and Bumblebee make haste for the door.

But there's one more surprise in store for them, a trigger to activate Starscream's arrival at the Plant. With both Optimus and Bumblebee near the door, we cut to...

  Starscream's Cutscene

It's time for Starscream to make his second appearance in this level. Taking matters into his own hands, he approaches the second floor balcony and transforms, rushing to confront the Autobots before they have a chance to exit the Plant.

Savage has no GUI tools for setting up cutscenes (or for any other aspect of design), so much of the fine tuning is a matter of setting up a proxy in 3ds Max, taking measurements, then writing those into the scripts and testing in the engine. I created a Maxscript for converting our ASC code to objects in Max to assist with visualizing waypoints for AI navigation and made it available to the Design Department.

  Licensed Characters Must Not Die

When the cutscene ends the doors open, but Starscream is closing in fast. The player must decide to stay and fight Starscream or run. At this point Bumblebee is set to follow Optimus' lead : he will fight alongside his leader or will flee if the Player does as well.

I encountered an issue having used Starscream in this capacity - the licensor, Hasbro, does not permit any of the characters to die. Therefore I had to set up a trigger based on Starscream's health. If his health is low, a cutscene is triggered where he is permitted to run away. This cutscene occurs fluidly from where the interaction takes place, and does not cut to relocate the camera.

  Only One Way Out

Having escaped from the Plant to the South, the Autobots need a way out of the culvert. Bumblebee suggests that damaging the center strut of the bridge might present them with a way out. But the heat isn't off yet, Barricade is waiting on the bridge and fires down on them.

In order to reduce the number of active AI in the level, I teleported AI from the North bridge down to this bridge when the player is in the zone. They spawn to the right off the bridge, run to the bridge to take position, and fire on the player. When the bridge is destroyed they retreat. If the player should retrace his steps, the AI will be teleported back, out of sight, and respawn.

  Level Completed

The collapsed bridge provides a ramp for escape to the East. With the bridge destroyed, Bumblebee is triggered to make his exit. Once the player meets Bumblebee at the final way point, the Outro cutscene plays.

Each level in Transformers PSP has a waypoint system to guide the player. Waypoint markers on the MiniMap and PauseMap are turned off or on to guide the player to the next step in the level progression. Making sure that these markers provided clear instructions to the player took some testing and iteration, but I was very pleased with the final result.

CS04 - Highway Chase    
  Challenge   The original concept for CS04 was provided by Senior Designer Scott Holty. When one of the members of the design team resigned, and our workload increased dramtically, I was charged with taking ownership of CS04. This "chase level" was meant to be fast and furious, the player must never let Bumbleebee get too far ahead or the level fails -
(there is a meter added to the player's GUI to track this issue). But the consensus at this point in development was that the level was boring and the driving monotonous. I was charged with injecting new life into CS04.
  Concept Proposal   I proposed breaking down the action into segments where a breif chase scene would pause for a moment of fighting at a choke point before progressing to the next segment. I also added a mini boss fight before the conclusion of the level. I requested art changes to the existing level, and added new enemies, completely overhauling the exising AI. Additionally, there was quite a bit on finesse neccessary to make the vehicle traffic system work in this level.
  x Planning Encounters

The three red circles denote the main "pause" encouters, meant to break up the driving level into sections. At Point 1, Starscream destroys the bridge over the northbound portion of the highway, forcing Optimus and Bumblebee to the onramp and onto the eastbound freeway. Just as the onramp merges with the highway the player will see a trap set for him - drones have piled up rubble on the freeway and lay in wait to attack. Bumblebee hits a trigger to transform, attacks until all drones are dispatched, then continues. In between Points 1 and 2 are two bridges with enemies firing down. The supports holding the bridges can be destroyed with a single missile shot, allowing the player to protect Bumbleebee without having to transform or even slow down. The next encounter, at Point 2, is with two trucks drones who are quickly supported by a Helicopter drone. Likely, the player will try to run past this but will find strong opposition at Point 3 from drones firing down. When the player reaches this point the Heli will rush ahead, transform and land, then will block the exit ramp needed to progress. It's here that OP and BB make a stand - BB switches from defensive running to offense, transforming to attack. Once the threat is clear, the Autobots can make their escape down the off ramp.

  x The Chase Begins

Like CS02, CS04's premise is that Optimus and Bumblebee are being pursued by Decepticons as they fight to maintain control of the Allspark.

The player must keep up with Bumblebee - the faster, smaller car sets the pace. It tooks many iterations of testing and improvement to harmonize Bumblebee's AI (following paths, stopping at encounters) with the mechanic of having to maintain a max distance (seen in red text on the right of the screen). Preventing issues with traffic collision was an aspect of this level that I worked closely with programmers to smooth out.

  x Starscream Sets a Trap

Setting up the first encounter is a trigger that commands Starscream to buzz low toward the player, blowing up the overpass ahead and forcing the Autobots to the eastbound onramp. Bumblebee's AI path was carefully constucted to cause him to swerve violently to the right at the last moment.

The AI map for the onramp to the right, and for the other curves in the highway, proved to be a challenge as it is constructed from rectangular planes in a propreitary tool. Trying to maintain the illusion of smooth driving under these conditions required higher resolution - meaning more AI map nodes and more points on an AI path.

  x First Encounter - Road Block

I designed this first encounter to provide for a pause in driving and to get the player's blood running. Bumblebee's actions are the focus here, and he charges into battle, hits a trigger to transform, and runs while firing at the drone on the left. The remaining drone on the right is the Player's focus. With teamwork this obstacle is quickly overcome, keeping the pace of the level. With both enemies down, Bumblebee is triggered to run around the rubble before transforming and getting back to full speed.

  x Enemies on Bridges (Before)

To keep the heat on without slowing the pace thru the next section I set up Drones on the bridges which fire down at Bumblebee and Optimus. A well placed missile launched while driving can bring down the center strut and destroy the bridge, killing the enemy as well. If the player doesn't take down these enemies they will do considerable damage to Bumblebee (coming and going).

Note that during this section there are also oncoming enemies in car or truck form, though they don't transform to save heap space. By carefully selecting the set of enemies I planned to use I was able to load minimal animation sets and keep memory low.

  x Enemies on Bridges (After)

The destroyed bridge collapses, which can kill any friend or foe (or self) caught underneath. Also note the destructible concrete dividers in the median. The art and programming teams did a great job of providing lots of toys for the Designers to play with and I must admit that I had to restrain myself from just gratuitously spreading them around.

Also, being the designer in charge of sound implementation, I was actively involved in selecting appropriate (and inspiring) sound effects for the game. It was a blast to run thru the level testing my choices with CS04 and CS02.

  x Second Encounter - Turn Up the Heat

My "special treat" enemy AI for this level is a Helicopter Drone. He comes to back up two of his truck drone buddies in the final stretch of highway. The Player pretty much has to ignore him for now, since transforming and attacking will leave Bumblebee unguarded for too long.

Late in development we were given the ability to dynamically adjust the speed of an AI based on conditions. This came as a great help to me in CS04, as I could allow Bumblebee to be a bit more forgiving if the player needed to play catch-up, by slowing him down before he gets out of range.

  Final Encounter - Decepticons Last Stand

When the player has the end in sight the Decepticons make a stand at the last overpass. The Helicopter flys far ahead and transforms, an ominous shadow on the horizon. With drones on the ground and on the overpass, Bumblebee transforms and starts to lay down heavy fire. Once the Player joins the attack Bumblebee will take out the bridge strut, if the Player hasn't already beaten him to it.

Here I had to be careful to prevent Bumblebee from ever getting stuck under the destroyed overpass. An art fix I had to request was the ability to prevent Enemy AI from doing damage to these bridges, as they would far too often destroy them before the Player has a chance to. This was just a matter of adjusting certain collision.

  Miniboss - Drone Helicopter

Here we see the whole sequence leading up to the Miniboss. Note that Bumblebee's AI personality is very cavalier - despite being damaged he rushes into battle with the Miniboss and dies, and the Player fails as a result. In general I try to avoid failure states that aren't directly the Player's fault. This could be considered the Player's fault indirectly, as he allowed Bumblebee to take too much damage in the earlier portion of the level.

Something I would have liked to have spent more time on was setting up a trigger based on his health to select a more defensive action in this situation. However, at this point in the project we were asked not to make anything more than the most basic changes, as the 9 months we were pemitted to make the game in were almost up.


My biggest disappointment in Transformers was that time didn't permit us to iterate enough on fundamental gameplay. We had a very tight development time, a "can't miss it" release date, and no room to backtrack. Basic AI controls (pathfinding, collision detection and resolution, target acquisition) weren't dependable until very late in the project, and far too much time was spent tweaking AI paths and AI maps that could have been put into balancing game elements like hitpoints and relative weapon power.

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