Rise to the Top: A Retrospective

Level Design

In Rise to the Top we wanted to show core FPS gameplay through a child inspired lense. For our level we wanted to give the players choice between fighting larger group of enemies and rocket jumping to avoid obstacles.

Kevin did the early layout for the level of Rise to the Top. Most sections were designed to allow for multiple paths forward.

While making Rise to the Top we assumed that our audience would know how to rocket jump.

Most of our testers were unfamiliar with rocket jumping. We added multiple sections that would require a rocket jump to pass, starting first with a simple introductory jump and then later reinforcement throughout the level.

We later added a shield mechanic to the boss that required the player to shoot a floating cactus to disable the shield.

To prepare the player for this we added cactus shield locked doors earlier in the level, training the player on how to use the mechanic and then reinforcing it later in the level before the boss confrontation.

Encounter Design – The Boss

Later in the project, Kevin focused on the final boss fight against the evil neighbor Old Lady Tylers.

Old Lady Tylers is a multiphase boss fight with damage shields, teleporting, and an arena that falls apart as the boss loses health.

When the player leaps down into the boss arena they immediately get set to a checkpoint inside of the arena. While this happens a kill sphere appears around the arena which kills the player if they fall out of the arena.

The kill sphere, the boss’s shield, the shaky terrain, and the cactus all use custom shaders Kevin made in Unity ShaderGraph.

When the boss takes enough damage their shield is enabled preventing further damage. At the same time a linked cactus appears. The shield persists until the cactus is destroyed


After the boss takes enough damage parts of the arena turn blue and translucent, hinting that they are dangerous to stand on. Shortly after turning blue, they start to fall off in sequence giving the player a chance to see what is coming.

As the boss fight continues more and more of the arena starts to fall away, forcing the player to rely more on maneuvering to complete the fight.

While the fight does become more difficult, we avoid punishing the player. Falling off the edge or getting killed by the boss resets the player’s position to the center, letting them continue where they were in the boss battle.

This was important for our game pillars, keeping the game playable and enjoyable for children.