Today, we speak with Mikael, one of our level designers in the shark tank, as we look back at some of the most iconic maps in Warhammer: Vermintide 2, and the thought process behind their development in celebration of our fifth anniversary.
Hi, my name is Mikael, and I’m an experienced Level Designer who’s been at Fatshark since 2016. I started working on four of the levels for the main game and have been involved with all of the adventure levels since then, particularly focusing on level art. And of course, level design can be a process until we get to something we’re happy with. Here are a few of my favorite stories from the past five years of development.
Against the Grain
The end event here was originally intended to be an open arena, but it was confusing and hard to balance, so we made it a linear event with a number of smaller “arenas” instead. This way, we could balance the event and control the experience better.
The boss in the barn was originally always a Rat Ogre, but as we added more bosses to the game, we added randomized bosses to the barn as well. But for a long while, the concept art with the Ogre in the barn was an accurate depiction of that section.
When we originally started designing the Skittergate, it was not intended to be a normal level that would be part of the regular quickplay mission rotation, and Rasknitt was not initially meant to be the focus of the mission. Originally, the idea was that players could only choose the level at will.
Normally, all level missions were made to be replayable, as if the story repeated itself, so we couldn’t make changes to an area that would be too substantial to logically be rebuilt, but this was a unique level, and a lot of the story points fit into it—Rasknitt, the Skittergate, the journey to Norsca, and how the Uberserik Five were supposed to destroy it all. So we decided that it would be okay that we’d have to basically tear down a huge chunk of the city during it, even if it was a definite conclusion to the campaign maps.
Back to Ubersreik
When we decided to remake some levels from Warhammer: Vermintide-The End Times to Warhammer: Vermintide 2, we chose the levels that we felt would work best with the new game. A lot of the levels in the first game were too short, and there were discussions about potentially combining them, but we ultimately went for some of the most popular and that would work best with the new game mechanics.
The new challenge puzzles were made based on one philosophy: one puzzle should be co-op oriented, one should engage the community, and one should be randomized to be different for each playthrough.
The candles in the cemetery were initially set up with such a short timer that players would have to cooperate to light them all, but we felt it should be possible to solve it when playing solo as well, so we made sure there would be enough time for each candle, just in case.
The secret brick in the Horn of Magnus we set up with the intent to be just about impossible to simply stumble upon the right combination. The hope was that the community would find different bricks and post about their findings online, and then hopefully someone would notice that there was a room with some candles behind some bars that wasn’t there in the original level.
While we were working on Dark Omens, we felt that it was a bit out of character for the U5 to walk into a Beastmen trap, but we also felt that it was a nice way of introducing the Beastmen, so we went with it anyways. We were at one point joking about, “What if the players could somehow ambush the Beastmen as they lay waiting?” but we felt it would be a bit too tricky to implement it, so it remained just as in-joke between level designers for a bit. A couple months later, we had the idea to have the players walk around the trap. But it needed to have its own perils as we didn’t want players taking the detour every time without weighing the risk in doing so. Originally, these perils were supposed to have two patrols you would have had to avoid, but for performance reasons, we replaced them with specials shortly before release.
The Curse of Drachenfels
We wanted to keep these similar to the Drachenfels level these were based off of in the original game, as they were already a player favorite, but still give some fresh looks and things to discover. It was important for us to give the player the feeling of entering a grand castle in Enchanter’s Lair, so we added a longer entrance section, but at the same time, we wanted to start the level deep in the castle catacombs, so we needed a solution to get players from the entrance floor down to the basement as fast as possible. We actually wanted to add an elevator here, but for lore reasons, elevators aren’t allowed in castles, so instead we decided to add a trap door that dumped the player into the basement, which felt more in-line with the story.
While Castle Drachenfels in the original game was originally more maze-like, we decided to streamline and make the rooms more unique so it would be easier to understand where you are and find your way around, and balconies were added to a give a sense of progression upwards from the basement as you went through the level.
The voices the Uberserik Five hear speaking to them was inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Coppola. In the movie, there were lots of whispering voices and disturbing noises, and we wanted to do something similar. But since games are an interactive medium, we felt we could make it more personal by having the voice speak to the player character, hinting at some dark secret from their past that only the player could hear.