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Omen is a narrative focused game. The main purpose of the level was to follow one of the characters from an ongoing project (Substratum: Into the Depths), Nina, as she continues her story. With this, create a functioning game level, and accompanying cinematic to further develop my design techniques and cinematography knowledge. 

I worked on this project in 2021 in a small team consisting of myself and a concept artist, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout this project I got constant feedback from other members of the project, as well as industry practitioners, ensuring the final project was delivered to a high standard. This feedback was implemented iteratively throughout the white-box, providing ever more complete builds for further development. 

Design Goals

  • Create an engaging focusing on narrative lead design.

  • Create a cinematic sequence using UE4's sequencer, developing my techniques and knowledge. 

  • Create engaging side quests that further support the main narrative. 

  • Use rapid prototyping in white-boxed versions of the level to integrate fast changing mechanics.

  • Design a level that encourages exploration, interaction with NPC's and characters. 

  • Design and implement NPCs that help drive gameplay through narrative. 

  • Practice using Unreal Engine's control rig and animation implementation systems. 

  • Practice using Unreal Engine's Niagra system. 


Microsoft Windows


Unreal Engine 4.26




6 Month, September 2021

Tools Used 

Unreal Engine, 3ds Max, Maya, Zbrush, Substance Painter


Game designer, cinematic designer, narrative designer, 3D artist.


The story takes place as Nina searches for answers to her mysterious past. Following the tales of the Omen she learned as a chilled, she arrives at the broken tower of Babel, said to chronicle all of early humanity's knowledge, wisdom, and hubris. Searching the tower, she finds the lost souls of those who came exploring before her, and that she was not alone. Being chased by an old friend who doesn't want her to learn of her truths, she hides and weaves between the never-ending book shelves of the library, trying to find a way to the top of the tower. solving the puzzle to progress brings the player to the top of the tower, where they're greeted by a cinematic sequence of the answers she finds, and the next steps of her story. 


Storyboarding & Planning

Omen Cinematic Storyboard 2.png

Early iteration of the Omen cinematic storyboard. Click the image for more information.

Master sequence with subscene tracks. Click the image for more information.

When beginning the design process, I drafted several storyboards for the cinematic to determine the direction it would take. This also included visual aides, shot actions and lengths, as well as the overall length of the cinematic. Using this method of planning allowed for iterative changes to be made based on feedback throughout the white-boxing of the level and progression of other elements of the project. This also acted as shot concepts in order to develop the cinematography of the cinematic further, creating more emphasis on drama and ambience. 

Overall, the use of storyboards for visual game and cinematic design assisted in visualizing the main concepts of the game, along with allowing easy prototyping and iterating.  

During the research and planning for cinematic I decided to go for the subscene workflow instead of a strictly linear approach. This was done on the premised of learning a more team-orientated workflow, which would allow edits on different aspects of the cinematic without effecting others. 

For example. I made constant edits to the animations of both the hologram and it's accompanying lights near the end of production without having to rework any of the shots or animation elements. 

Overall, this approach helped to broaden my knowledge of creating cinematics in sequencer using a collaborative workflow, as well as strengthen my editing knowledge. 

Shot Analysis

Establishing Shot.png

With this shot I wanted to focus of establishing the area of the cinematic, the top of the tower, and show the symmetry of the environment. As the camera pans inwards, it draws the viewers attention to the altar in the center, as Nina slowly walks into frame from the left side. 

POV shot.png

With this shot I wanted to focus on seeing the event from Nina's eyes, using a static POV (point of view) shot to make the player feel like they have agency in interacting with the artifact, starting the hologram. 

Wide Perspective of Hologram for context.png
Close up Pan out and fade.png

With this shot I wanted to focus on the hologram and it's all encompassing nature, watching it as it slowly rotates and fills the room. From this shot, the next one in the sequence makes more sense, as the camera traces Nina walking around the altar in wonder. 

In an opposite fashion to the start of the cinematic, I wanted to last shot to slowly zoom outwards from the main character, and fade out. This way the cinematic can come to a close on Nina, with the viewer knowing what they see, and wrapping up the story. 

Control Rig & Animation

Using UE4 4.26 opened up the opportunity to use the new control rig feature to more finely altar the animations in the cinematic. With this I could fix and polish any implemented animations for blemishes in either the translation or rotation of the character using the tool's backward solve feature. 

Accompanying this, I used the tool to create unique animations where appropriate. This can be seen with Nina's head and torso rotations, as well as the hand placements on the altar. 

Control Rig Sequencer Use.png

Control rig use in sequencer. Click the image for more information.

Control Rig BP.png

Control rig forward solve. Click the image for more information.

Control Rig BP 2.png

Control rig backward solve. Click the image for more information.


During this project I decided to practice using UE4's new Niagra FX system by applying it to the hologram and floating stars. I used three seperate Niagra systems, one for the planet, one for the moon & ring, and one for the stars. The planet, moon and ring used a static mesh system which kept the particles tied to the 3D meshes with a high spawn rate and low lifespan to keep the rotation more seamless with less particle strokes.


The stars used a large spawning volume with a low spawn rate. Several of the same effect were used in this system, each representing the different colours and spawn rates depending on them. On spawn, the particles slowly drift upwards, choosing a random X or Y axis to drift along. 

All 3 systems were composed together and attached to the 3D meshes in a blueprint, Following the embeded animation. 

Hologram BP.png

Hologram blueprint. Click the image for more information.

Hologram Niagra Main.png

Hologram Niagra system. Click the image for more information.

Core Mechanics

NPC Interaction

In the level they player can interact with NPCs on the ground floor to learn more about them, the world, and gain side quests that tie into the main narrative. The NPCs have branching dialogue and narrative trees, depending on how the player talks to them, they will either help you or leave you in the dark about how to progress. was used to plan the branching dialogue trees. With this I could detail the choices, responses, and how they would effect the narrative moving forward. 

Similarly to the item interactions, NPCs used a proximity based UI to determine when you can talk to them, indication them first as a person of interest, then becoming interactable when within distance.

Dialogues-Lost traveler soul.drawio.png

Sige dialogue planning and final product. Click the images for more information.


The level is broken up on second floor with a puzzle, slowing the player's progression. The puzzle uses a cryptic symbol combination, with the correct answer rotating the stairs for the player to continue. 

It was designed this way to encourage the player to explore the environment, interacting with various assets in search for the symbols and clues to the right combination. 

After interacting with the puzzle the first time, there's a UI prompt for the player to search for the symbols. 

Combination Lock Gameplay.png
Tome Planning.png


The tome was designed by both myself and the concept artist on the team to act as both a narrative and UI tool, to help log all information the player needed and guide them through the level. It was also designed to begin blank and update naturally as the player interacts with the environment. 

It was designed using to show how each page interacted with one another in a logical manner. This made it easier to digest and edit later on in production, as well as understand what elements go where. 


In terms of narrative tools, the tome keeps track of all the players quests and choices. As well as the puzzles they come across, providing descriptions and nods to help them progress further. 

Tome planning and final product. Click the images for more information.

Item Interaction

Throughout the level, the player can interact with various items. These items can be picked up, held, and rotated with a UI that provides more information on it. The descriptions range from the player's inner thoughts, through item description and book blurbs. 

I designed this mechanic to work in harmony with the tome, so when the player picks up the books in the environment, it provides clues to solving the puzzle, and stores that information in the journal to be seen again later. 

This mechanic also acts to show of the 3D assets in more detail, as well as helping the player feel more immersed in the level and narrative. This mechanic made the best use of the rapid prototyping, developing through fast changes and feedback from team members and peers.

Book Interaction Screen.png

Book Interaction. Click the image for more information.

Story Design

Game loop.png
Story Flow-Story Flow.drawio.png

Similarly to previous projects such as 'The Escape' and 'Substratum: Into the Depths', a gameplay chart and story chart was created in the early stages of production. The charts made it easier to determine the flow of the level in a logical and simple to digest manner. 

With the gameplay chart I could see the loop, and whether it worked or not. In addition to this, we was able to visual when and where the side quests would fit in to the loop, how they would affect it, and if they needed changing. 

With the story chart I could see the paths the player could take in more detail than the gameplay chart, as well as whether it makes sense in terms of overall narrative. With this we could make design decisions that would benefit the overall experience. Overall, the use of this practice was continued throughout the project, being iterated on time and time again until it was finalized. 

Gameplay and narrative charts. Click the images for more information.

Level Design

Designed by myself and the concept artist on the team, the tower for Babel was designed to follow a linear path with room for the player to explore within the confines of the destroyed path. The whole level is set a broken tower, with floors, walls, and various smaller assets ruined, guiding the player through an accessible route. 

Similarly to the cinematic, a storyboard was designed for the level alongside the map to lead the visual game design. With this storyboard we could plan out the flow of the game from the player's perspective, accounting for additional side quests and impacts on gameplay along the way. This was altered throughout the project depending on feedback from peers and design decisions made. What started off as line drawings to visualize character placement and interactions changed and iterated over the course of the white-box to include assets and 3D references for better visual scaling and development. 

The level map was designed in a layered, isometric way to show all the floors the player will interact with in the level. This also allowed the map to be redrawn depending on design decisions made in the group. In addition to this, the map was designed in a way to best make use of the key system, clearly indicating what's on each floor and where, keeping to the layered approach. Story can also be seen as the player makes it to the top being seperate and designed solely for cinematic use. 

This map served throughout production, with mostly minor changes implemented, other than the redesign of the central staircase and 2-floor window(s). 

The story and history of the level was told in the overall architecture and atmosphere. Such as the ruined floors and discarded piles of books/scrolls, giving clues to what happened in the tower in it's prime, and leaving mystery as to how it got to it's current state. 

Similarly to previous projects, the lighting system was designed to guide the player around the level. Highlighting areas and items of interest with either cold moonlight or the subtle warmth of candle light. 

Gameplay Storyboard 1.png
Inital level Design.png

Gameplay storyboard and level map. Click the images for more information.


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