Hellscape is a first-person platforming game with puzzle elements. The goal is essentially to escape from Hell by traversing up a variety of treacherous mountains and solve environmental puzzles.

Download the game here.


4 Designers and 3 Artists

Project Duration

2 Weeks

Game Engine



Discord, Unity Collab, and Trello

My Roles

Scrum Master, Environmental Design, Level Design, and Set Dressing

My Contributions

The main focus of this project was to go from concept to execution in a relatively short amount of time. In our case, we chose a concept that revolved around puzzle and racing (twitch skill). The short amount of time meant that we had to use Unity’s built-in tools and reuse a lot of assets from our artists in order to adhere to the eight-day timeframe for the production phase.

Besides being the Scrum Master during the project, it was my primarily my job to design the environments from our whiteboard and artist concepts by using Unity’s Terrain editor. I was also responsible for designing the level in terms of deciding how the player will traverse by jumping on floating rock platforms at both the starting and final sections of the game.

Concepting the Level Design

Our Lead Designer, who was also the Lead Programmer, created a whiteboard concept sketch for the overall Level Design, which allowed us to come up with a clear theme for the artists, and for me as Scrum Master to add task cards on Trello.

The aim was to initiate what would become the game state, game view and game space for the player. The sketches below were also used as the basis for my work with both the Environmental and Level Design.

A more elaborate whiteboard sketch of the Level Design. This was created so that everyone could get a sense of the layout from a top-down view.

Concept sketch of the Level Design by Tess Ideström. I was heavily inspired by this particular sketch when it came to designing the topography of the environment with Unity's Terrain editor.

Creating and Iterating the Environmental Design

I had difficulties in the beginning in terms of creating terrains due to their enormous sizes. I then realized that it would be wiser to scale them down to save performance and to mitigate other issues that I encountered.

One of which is that it was problematic for me to create two small mountains next to each other on the same terrain plane. Even with smaller terrains, it was difficult to get the mountains to look good. A majority of the time was spent learning more about terrain and its subsequent alternatives when it comes to manipulating its Heightmap.

The ability to cut a certain mountain was not an option, so I used Hydraulic Erosion instead to shrink the first two mountains, which also resulted in them looking better overall. I managed to successfully create a basic Environmental Design based on the whiteboard and artist concept sketches.

However, the design was iterated further by me adhering to new additions that were developed within the group. Blockouts for the pillars, platforms, bridge, and the large temple (which later became a gate) were added before I started working on the Level Design. These can be seen in the images below.

A whiteboard sketch of the iterated Level Design.

I expanded the Environmental Design by following the previous whiteboard sketch. However, I decided to divert from placing the mountains in a straight line, and instead use the classic horseshoe design from the first level in Doom (1993) so that the player can immediately see where the end of the level is.

Level Design (Platforms in the Starting Section)

The initial plan was to have a minimalistic spiral staircase that goes around the first large mountain. I quickly abandoned that due to the fact that it negates the main purpose of racing (twitch skill), which is to enable the player to make swift and challenging decisions that are based on speed and/or pressure.

This was done by the Sanity system in the game, in which the music changes to a faster pace and the camera filter changes color that signals that the player is near death. It was my responsibility to place the static (safe) and falling (dangerous) platforms around the mountain, and to ensure a rather challenging experience for the player.

There are two distinct paths that a player can take, namely the high or the low path, each with different challenges in terms of the placement of the platforms. The high path does in fact allow the player to make a last-ditch effort at not dying by quickly falling towards a platform on the low path.

I made sure to add some Set Dressing to the section before the jumping part, which consisted of horns that were sticking out of the ground that pretty much followed the artists' initial concept sketches. I also placed the torches with their respetive fire particles around the mountain.

Challenge, Precision, and Speed

I wanted the player to refrain from standing for too long to make a decision. I also wanted the player to be quite precise and quick when jumping in order to avoid death by falling or by the Sanity system, which also leads to death after a length of time.

It also helped on the graphics side, with platforms that were glowing magma were going to tumble after a while as soon as the player landed on such, and could only seek refuge on platforms that did not have said glowing effects. It was also fun to entice the player to be more observant due to me having occasionally rotated a platform in order to hide the glowing part below.

Overall, I think that this particular aspect of the design really shines through due to our vehement discussions regarding fun in our game and what we ultimately wanted in terms of gameplay.

Level Design (Platforms in the Final Section)

The idea was to have a more twisted version of the platform placement. I wanted the player to have a sense of unease when traversing through this particularly dark level. However, the idea was to refine this level even more, since it was simply too dark in the end.

Some of the rock platforms were placed vertically, where the intention was to force players to tread carefully when walking on them. Some of them can be quite treacherous, since there is a tendency to slide a bit when moving forward.

Nevertheless, this level could have been more improved if we had more time with playtesting it. Although it was still enjoyable to experiment with the Level Design, despite its unpolished state. Below are images of the level without the dark lighting.

Final Thoughts

The lessons that I learned during this project mostly pertain to the player experience and the design challenges therein. Specifically, the ability to refine the Environmental Design was made possible due to our zealous process in which the design was gradually revealed, discarded and implemented to the game. Overall, it was gratifying to work on the project and despite the setback of a lack of time, I strongly feel that this project was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in terms of learning more about Level Design in general.