Mike Gonthier - Level Designer
Professional work
Lords of the Fallen 2
The next installment of the Lords of the Fallen series
I am working on an exciting new project here at Defiant Studios NYC!

The team is incredibly talented, passionate, and I am very grateful to be part of it. To be surrounded by amazing folks like this allows me to learn every day, and improve at a crazy pace!

Very few details about the game have been revealed so far, but I can't wait to talk about it when the time comes!
"The Avengers Project"
A new take on Marvel's Avengers by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montreal:
Very few details about the project have been revealed so far...

While I can't go into too much details about the levels in the game, I can say that working on them was a very cooperative effort to make the story, exploration and combat work together perfectly. Level designers have complete ownership over their levels from start to finish, and are responsible for bringing them to their maximum potential!

I learned to work closely with developers from other disciplines, better communicate my ideas, and assemble everybody's work into crazy gameplay sequences! I strongly improved my scripting skills, and introduced my method for scripting levels to the team. It became the model for how other levels would be made.

There is a mantra that I developed and will stick with me for the rest of my career: Always Playable. That means that at any stage of production, the level is as fun and "feature complete" as possible, so everyone can see how it plays and what we're shooting for. It just makes everybody's life easier and allows designers to make fast adjustments.

This is important to me because I think Level Design in general should always have as many steps ahead as possible compared to the downstream departments.

Working on this project also taught me how to use a new in-house engine, improve my communication skills, work with remote developers, and with a large team for a massive AAA project!

I can't wait to share more info about the game and level design process. Pretty soon, hopefully!
We Happy Few
A game of paranoia and survival, in a drugged-out, dystopian English city:
We Happy Few is a survival game set in a drug-fuelled, retrofuturistic version of 1960s England. The story is deep, the world is unsettling, and the gameplay is unforgiving!

My role on the project was to create a large amount of small, modular levels that can be procedurally distributed around the world, and would obey certain rules. Some of them were designed to be placed next to roads (like buildings, structures and parks) while others would spawn in the wilderness, or close to the coast. Not every level would spawn on a given session, so there's more new stuff the player hasn't seen the next time they play!

Some of the levels I built are designed to be simply filler with a bit of loot and perhaps a small encounter, while others are straight up dungeons or sets packed with story, quests, dialogue and scripted events! They would often start from a simple sketch in my notebook of a layout, diagram, or sometimes just in text form.

Levels, NPC encounters and quests also have some amount of randomness within them, which helps bolstering replayability. Things will probably play out differently the next time around!

I learned to quickly transform ideas from paper to gameplay, and basically "mass-produce" content for a procedural system that needs huge amounts of data to work with!
Personal work
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Plant or defuse the bomb in a Greek coastal town:
The terrorist team docked their boat at the port, and want to plant a bomb at either the Public Space, or the Water Treatment Lab. The counter-terrorists team moved out of the police station, and will now attempt to prevent the worst from happening...

Opal is a CS:GO map inspired by a coastal town on Skopelos, a Greek island in the western Aegean Sea!

My intention with this project was to learn how to map for CS:GO and create a simple, competitive defuse map for players to enjoy! I planned the layout to be overlapped, with objectives at different heights, have a good mix of interior/exterior spaces, and feature a good amount of verticality.

I wanted to have a vista on one side and something different on the other to help with orientation, so I chose to make it a coastal town - with the sea on one side, and a sprawling hills with houses on the other!

I am responsible for every aspect of the project, so not only Level Design, but also art, lighting, scripting, sounds, etc. This helps me understand those related disciplines, which in turn improves the way I design, and allows me to communicate better with these teams on bigger projects!

Even if this is meant to be a competitive map where players run around and focus on sightlines, I still wanted to make sure there's life and storytelling in the environment. Every area has a theme, buildings and streets are dressed in a way that shows how townsfolk live their life. There are also non-playable spaces that are only there for worldbuilding, to make it feel like there's more out there, just like a real place. Smoke and mirrors!

However these things are done in a way that never interferes with gameplay, because in a game like CS:GO, gameplay is king.

I'm using pale colors for a lot of surfaces because they help selling the theme, work well with lighting, and make spotting players a bit easier.

To me, the main advantage of working on a project like this is the access to the thriving community of players and mappers. Thanks to this project I learned to be more active online and talk with other hobbyists, on groups like Mapcore.

The map has now over 4000 subscribers, and more add up every day since its release on Steam Workshop. I am continuously making improvements to it based on user feedback, in fact I am probably working on a new update as you're reading this!

I'm documenting the whole development process over on Mapcore if you're interested. Enjoy!
Defend the Core
Defend the core as long as you can against an endless wave of demons:
"Defend the Core" is a fun, tricky custom game type for Doom 2016!

Endless waves of demons are throwing themselves into the core at the center, dealing damage to it. If you die or the core's power reaches zero, it's game over, and your score is based on how long it survived!

You need to kill the enemies in their tracks, and preserve the core's health for as long as you can. The waves become harder over time, while all you have is a powered-up pistol that can shoot as fast as you can press the input!

One of my goals with this project was to see if it was possible to make a Doom level that has constant action, with zero downtime from start to finish. I managed to do this by using a smaller layout to increase the density of combat, by spawning enemies on a timed loop instead of all at once, and by capping the number of enemies to a lower amount than the game's limit. This way, there's a few enemies that are "in the bank", ready to spawn at any time in case a lot of them get wiped at once.

The core moves up and down between floors every 15-20 seconds, so you need to use stairs, jump-pads and portals to navigate vertically.

Every 60 seconds, a power station will activate somewhere in the arena - Interacting with it will fully restore the core's power, at the cost of spending time to get there, and turning your eyes off the objective for a few seconds. So it becomes and interesting gamble, especially when the core is at low health!

This project allowed me to practice certain aspects of design, for instance tells and feedback: Every gameplay event has an appropriate amount of feedback linked to it - Like the color of the lights and the core itself are linked with stages of health, and there's a PA voice that plays when a new stage is reached. This is to make sure the player is aware of the remaining health, since this is the utmost priority with this game type.

I also learned to work under limitations, and create something fun even with big technical constraints. Initially, I wanted the waves of enemies to be composed of only explosive zombies, but since they are very easy to kill I needed to spawn more of them to compensate. But Doom does not support that many enemies to be spawned at a time, so I had to change the design, and instead spawn tougher enemies that would add more "fighting time" for a lower enemy count.

You can download and play it directly in-game with the code ERW8FCU9
Die Hard
Kill as many demons as possible - The more you kill, the stronger they get:
"Die Hard" is a brutal and fun twist on the classic "survival mode" seen in other games, but raises the stakes the better and luckier you get!

You spawn in an empty room with a demonic nest at the center. Once you interact with it, the doors open and the game starts. When you enter a new room, a wave composed of 2 random types of enemies appears, and you are locked in until you defeat them all. Then the lockdown is lifted, and you are free to move to a new room. The goal is to get as many kills as possible before you die, and your score is saved on the map's leaderboard!

The layout is shaped like an "infinity" symbol, so no dead ends, and you are never forced to go back into the previous room you just clear, you can just keep moving forward & forward into the next!

Every 10 kills, enemies get a +25% damage bonus - That means the game gets very challenging over time, and past a certain point, any hit will kill you instantly!

Your weapon is replaced by a new one chosen at random among a specific selection, also every 10 kills, and the waves of enemies can be composed of anything, from the puny little Imps to the powerful Barons of hell!

The purpose of these features is to add an element of luck and increase replayability - Even if you're good at the game, you might find yourself in very tough situations, or you might suddenly the BFG 9000, which is so powerful it's basically a "free win" on the 10 next enemies, no matter their current power level!

There's also a shield item in each room, which respawn whenever you re-enter it. They can help you survive longer if picked up often!

Get the map in-game with the code TYTLYB2V
Frantic Mode
Race the clock - The more you kill, the more time you get:
I had the pleasure to build a custom map for Doom, using their SnapMap editor. It's a real joy to mess around and build level when the mechanics are already so solid and fun!

In Frantic Mode, players try to get the highest score by killing demons as fast as possible within a time limit.

The idea with the timer is to encourage players to be aggressive and fight fast, but they must be careful while doing so - if the game ends by them dying instead of the timer reaching zero, they get no score at all!

On top of that, the level features a combo system, which multiplies the score received for each kill, up to 10x - if no kill is registered for 10 seconds, the combo meter resets.

These elements create a fun tension during gameplay. Encounters become a "gamble" between killing fast to get more points, and taking time to be safer!

The waves of enemies become more and more difficult, up to a certain point where it peaks and stays really hard until the game is over. This has the quality of giving players time to understand the concept, instead immediately throwing difficult encounters at them while they're still learning, which would be frustrating.

Players must move to a new room every 10 kills, and fight a new wave of enemies there. All rooms are linked by portals, allowing players to move between them in any direction.

Each room also contains 2 bonus items that add an extra 30 seconds to the clock when collected. Picking them up will give players more time to get a higher score, but again, only if they survive!

Get it in-game with the code HLHBULF3
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Explore and uncover secrets in an old, gloomy residence:
"Daniel's peril leads him to this place. He must find a way out of the guardhouse..."

Guardhouse is a crazy shape-shifting map that is, in a true horror game fashion, filled with surprises!

The goal with this project was to make a moderately difficult level that would feel like it was meant to be part of the original game, half-way through the story. This means that it had to be built with the same design rules, down to the little details.

We unlock new areas one at a time by walking back and forth, creating many intentional backtrack moments. This would have a negative effect in most games, but here it allows us to create expectations and surprises, by using triggered events and by changing things behind the scene!

Each room is unique and has noticeable elements, which helps with orientation while creating a surprise effect when those elements change at a later point. Strange alterations happen in the house as we progress, even the layout itself changes at certain points! Some of the changes are based on the player's sanity level, while others are linked to progression.

This project was a great exercise to practice certain Level Design principles such as subverting expectations. This is used in a lot of games and stories to create emotional moments, but also inversely strange gameplay/visual "silences", to shock players in a different way.

The way the monster is introduced is also very carefully done: It appears a minimum of 4 times, with an increasing amount of "danger". For instance the first time we see it, it is simply wandering in the mansion, up until the end where it directly hunts us in a dangerous chase sequence!

I made this map a while ago, but now that the inspiring game "P.T." came out, I kinda wanna go back in there and push things further, or even make an all-new Amnesia project!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Fort Bryce
Explore and uncover the secrets of a frozen underground fortress:
Fort Bryce is an underground garrison holding a Nord community, beneath the cold mountains of Tamiel. We haven't heard about them in a while...

With this project I really wanted to bring to life a classic dungeon, just like one you would see in a tabletop RPG, while making it fit the world and design of Skyrim, as if it was always there!

I also wanted to make sure the place makes sense and tells a story, without words. Each area was given a theme from the start, and I tried to sell that a much as possible with the tools I had.

Frostbite spiders have taken hold on the place. They laid eggs, trapped the habitants in cobwebs, and generated cold over time, transforming the fort into a frozen lair!

We are gradually introduced to this story through the level. The first few areas are quiet and foreboding, then we see the effect of the spider (the ice) without seeing the cause, explore a bit, and then we introduce the spiders. Near the end, we come across the "spider queen", a larger and more dangerous version of the Frostbite spider.

The layout loops on itself to avoid backtracking. There's a secret passage near the end, which contains a reward and links back to the entrance!
StarCraft II
Phaeton Oasis
Conquer your enemies on a dangerous, arid desert planet:
I had the pleasure to use the SC2 Map Editor to work on a fun little side-project, and exercise my mapping muscles!

The intention with this project was to create a fast-paced, competitive map that can support up to 6 players, in a very short amount of time (1 day).

Players start at 1 of the 6 possible starting area, at random. That means they could start and have their main bases right next to each other, even in 1v1 scenarios!

There's a limited amount resources near each start location, which forces players to move out quickly and fight for more.

Each starting area has 2 choke points and 1 high ground, ideal for placing defensive buildings and units.

You can play the map by searching "Phaeton Oasis" directly in the game!
Zerus Jungle
Establish a base and conquer your enemies on a hostile jungle planet:
The goal with this project was to create a small, competitive map for 2 players, in a short timeframe (1 day).

Both players have a fixed start location for their main base, and ideal locations for 4 extra bases, 2 of which are easily reachable by the opponent.

The entry point to 3 of the 5 bases are choke points, ideal for placing defensive buildings and units!

There are only 3 lanes to allow ground units to cross to the opponent's side, so air units certainly have a small advantage here! Both of the "outer" lanes have a building that can be captured to offer vision on the area, and an advantage of information.

Even though the map is designed for 2 players, it supports up to 6, in teams or Free-for-all battles!

You can play the map by searching "Zerus Jungle" directly in the game!


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