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To support two players, Arkane made Deathloop's levels more open than ever

Deathloop game director Dinga Bakaba break down some of the challenges of putting a second player into the open-ended levels Arkane Studios has become known for.

We’re still months away from the release of Arkane Studios’ Deathloop, but the fabled immersive sim developer is chomping at the bit to share more about its new time-loop themed game with a swinging ‘60s vibe.

During a press event last week, developers Dinga Bakaba and Sebastien “Seb” Mitton took time to show off the game’s incredibly open-ended levels, and discuss some curious new design quirks that add depth to the conceit living the same day over and over.

One notable design and technical shift for the developer is that in Deathloop, Arkane is adding a layer of online multiplayer capability. Julianna "Jules" Blake--a character shown in trailers hunting the player character--can be controlled either by the game AI or another player.

It’s a feature that mimics the world invasions of the Dark Souls, and it means Arkane’s open-ended levels full of AI-powered rube Goldberg machines need to be built to accommodate that second player.

When asked about what technical challenges Arkane faced in dipping its toes into the multiplayer waters, Bakaba explained that its level designers built on the open-ended level concepts previously seen in the Dishonored series. “Those environments are made by level designers and level artists who…have an architectural background.”

“[For example], a level of Dishonored can be traversed in various ways. The story moves you in a certain vector through a level, but as we’ve seen with player videos, you can traverse those spaces in various ways.”

“We make sure those spaces make sense [in Deathloop] using this philosophy---it’s an extension.”

During the preview, Bakaba showed off the fact that Deathloop’s levels (referred to as “districts”) have different versions for each time of day, and different entry points for players to set up the process of going after different open-ended objectives. “The traversal in those districts, even in the same time period….those spaces were just right for adding another player.”

For the level designers reading this, Bakaba said the greatest challenge for these 1v1 PvP moments involved establishing clear lines of sight and preventing exploitable chokepoints.

“There’s also a ton of different things not linked to level design,” he pointed out. “A lot of choices to make when someone else can be at the other side of the district doing things, the system has to respond to that. The number of AI characters that can be in combat is doubled from the number in Dishonored.

Bakaba also indicated that the improved AI power was a result of switching over to next-generation consoles (more specifically, the PlayStation 5, since Sony locked up a brief window of console exclusivity at before Bethesda was purchased by Microsoft).

There's a lot more incredible work from the folks at Arkane to come in Deathloop--an open-ended objective structure and reusing levels at different times of day mean the studio will have much to brag about when the game launches later this year.

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