Unreal Tournament 4

Multiplayer Level Design

Try it out!

Level Showcase




As part of our preparation for the games industry, BUas’s IGAD study program had us design and build a multiplayer deathmatch level for Unreal Tournament 4.

The Theme I choose: Weapon Testing Facility

Body of Work

Structure of my work in terms of level design milestones:

  • Research – Learn about architecture and level design, gather metrics, and test block-outs.
  • Design – Pick a theme for the level, then design it using graphics and rough block-outs.
  • Iteration – Build and iterate upon the level using Unreal Tournament Editor.
  • Polish – Introduce basic lighting and architectural features to make the theme identifiable.

Research and Ideation

  • Research
  • Concepting, Blocking out, Planning
Acquiring the Necessary Knowledge

Since I didn’t have much experience with shooters, architecture, or visual design, I had to start from the beginning.

My mission – understand 3-dimensional space and how it relates to level design.

I tackled this phase following this pipeline:
  • First came the fundamentals that dictate multiplayer level design – composing geometry relative to tactics and dynamics.
  • Analyse UT4’s maps and extract logic behind design decisions.
  • Analyse UT’s weapons. Understand how geometry could add to a weapon’s attributes to create drama.
  • Conduct research into the chosen architectural style and look for opportunities to organically integrate gameplay gimmicks.
  • The UT Editor provided a gym level. I used that instead of building my own, jumping straight into building my blockout so I had more time to iterate.
Designing the Level

I designed the level by producing a variety of artefacts – rough blockout, nodemaps, reference materials, LD Document, etc.

  • As the engine tool which would be used to build the map was readily available to us and there was no explicit restriction on using it, I went a bit off-script and started building before sketching a nodemap or designing a layout. 
  • Once I had something good, I developed the aforementioned graphical abstractions to help me overview various aspects of the map. This made my iterations more strategic and purposeful.
  • To complete the blockout, I simply tried out ideas inside the level, as opposed to doing it in separate gym level. 

First rough Blockout

Final rough Blockout

Construction and Iteration

  • Initial Whitebox
  • Medium Whitebox
Narrowing Down on the Design

To advance the map, I focused on enabling and supporting the game loop – balance, navigation, weapon rooms & locations, pickups, etc.

There was a concrete list to check off: 

  • For navigation, I refined the geometry on a smaller scale. I framed focal points and exits, tweaked accessibility between areas, reduced visual noise, etc.
  • This organically flowed into the next step – pickups. Almost all of my pickup budget was allocated to breadcrumbs that would help navigation. The trick was to place them so that the most rewarding outcome came from utilising the map’s most dynamic features. 
  • Placing the spawn points and allocating the weapons were issues that had to be resolved together. This warranted adding new verticality to certain areas and even rebalancing the entire map several times.

In order to keep moving, I focused only on enabling the game loop so the level could be optimized for lots of testing. I would need that to finalise the map.

Rapid Iterations, Massive Improvements

Previous efforts allowed me to test the map extensively. This revealed multiple issues.

  • My general proportions were off. I used to have thin walls and noisy arenas. So I made walls thicker and reduced the clutter, increasing negative space to give navigational and visual breathing room.
  • To open up the general visibility as well as bind the map together via consistency, I introduced octagonal entrances. It got the map its memorable style.
  • Funnily enough, solving these problems seemed to then solve the issue with weapon imbalance.

Generally reducing the clutter and providing some respite between beats did wonders for enjoyment levels.

Polish and Finalisation

  • Final Whitebox
  • Finalising Textures and Lighting
Finalising the Level

Once the level achieved what it was supposed to do, it was time time to finalise everything gameplay related – fine-tune the pickups, weapons, and spawns as well as remove the last flow-breaking clunky geometry.

  • I first directed my efforts towards trying to improve the balance. There were ways to make it better by examining heat map data (3rd party plugin) and cross referencing that with complaints gathered from playtests and surveys. 
  • After the map was tuned appropriately, it was time to fix the flow by adding small polish that makes traversal easier and the level feel more like a professional product.

These final acts of balancing could make or brake the level. I made sure to go through the motions correctly.

Fixing final few problems with Navigation 

Making it Pretty

The final step to make sure my level ‘sells’ was to make it visually appealing in a way that complements UT4’s gameplay. 

I needed strong information design to combat the interconnected complexity of the level.

  • I started off with the fundamentals – matching colours of rooms with their weapon, texture-coding the floors, then complementing all that with lighting.
  • While doing this, I experimented with all sorts of materials. For example, I used translucent glass to increase drama and afford better flanking opportunities.
  • Lastly, I simply talked to people on what they would like to see more of.

The visual polish I put together helped the level stand out. The textures and colours gave a pleasant vibrancy to the world. It also helped players memorise rooms and travel along the layout. 

Crafting the Visual Information Design

Adding nice little touches just because it makes it feel better.

The Final Product

Mine was one of the levels that got picked to participate in a community playtest with professional Unreal Tournament players. 

I was fast in building the level, so I had time to introduce a more advanced level of visual guidance and polish, even make things pretty. 

The level of polish on display was above the set expectations which helped the level stand out despite its unusual nature.

Table of Contents


Inducing Behaviour

Inducing Behaviour

I balanced and visualised the level to manipulate people into playing a certain way.

Extreme Connectivity


Each room is always connected to all the rooms next to it, providing opportunity for extreme pace on both the vertical and horizontal axis. ​



I analysed the available materials and applied them to the level in a way that was both appealing and supported play.