Happy Birthday Sniper Elite 5!
Karl’s journey from the coastline of The Atlantic Wall to the Axis stronghold at the Chateau De Berengar in Loose Ends has been one of epic proportions.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, we sat down with Lead Level Designer Beck Shaw and Lead Environment Artists Saija Wintersun and Simon Richards a year after Sniper Elite 5’s release to reflect on some of their favourite features, and their experiences as developers on a project like this one.
Which mission did you enjoy playing the most and why?
Beck Shaw: I’m going to say War Factory. It has some nice sight lines open between warehouses for some pretty cool bullet cams but also tight enough for some cool stealth opportunities and close range combat with the new iron sights
Saija Wintersun: Spy academy, because every time I played there I found something I could improve on.
In the initial phases of design what did you find most challenging?
Saija Wintersun: The height variation! For impressive visuals and long sightlines we needed to get the player high up, but there wasn't a lot of space for stairs and we had to be quite creative with the routes between the buildings.
The issue was even more obvious in the cathedral. As it was built to follow real life proportions and scale, we ended up with a very small footprint of a building that needed a wild amount of stairs to get up all the way to the highest tower. It went through many iterations and definitely improved, but I feel that the spiral staircase is no fun at all. Luckily we managed to put in lots of alternative routes so at least the player is not stuck with just one.
Simon Richards: Finding a good balance between staying true to real world locations, while accommodating the level design & gameplay requirements.
Beck Shaw: When creating a level from scratch it can be very daunting as you have an empty level with no points of interests, no terrain, nothing to help with the sense of scale. This is where all of our research and planning comes in handy and really helps us try to imagine in our heads what the level may look like before anything 3D has been created.
So before we even open a 3D package such as Blender we first decide upon a location which fits the key story beats we're looking to hit in our level and go and grab a bunch of reference material. We gather references from a number of sources, be it from books, movies, or games. We even did a few research trips to real locations such as Saint-Nazaire and Château de Brézé.
We then collate all of those great references and plan what we might want to include in the level. Where do we want the radar to be placed? How will players interact with this submarine? Where should our roads go so our vehicles can loop around or even leave the level? Where do we want some of our high points to be? We talk about all of these things taking into consideration things like performance and difficulty along with the memory budget we will have for the level - This involves conversations with departments like Art, Code and Production.
Once we're happy with how the level looks "on paper" we then jump in and start building our 3D whitebox, and once you start getting those first bits of geometry in it can feel great to start to see the beginning of your new level.
But once you start getting those first bits of geometry in it can feel great to start to see the beginning of your new level.
What is your favourite skin to play with in game and why?
Beck Shaw: Jeff Sullivan, really enjoyed his voice actors portrayal of the character and I enjoy the characters arc in the story.
Saija Wintersun: The sailor boy. It's no good for invasion but I feel fabulous.
Which is your first pick when it comes to a sniper rifle and why?
Saija Wintersun: Whatever I find first, I suck with all of them anyway.
Beck Shaw: I don’t have a go-to rifle, I like to play about with them all and try to customise them to different play styles. I will say I get a kick out of being silent so I often end up with silenced weapons to play super stealthy.
Simon Richards: I tend to run and gun, rifles aren't my thing!
Which mission did you find most challenging to play through?
Beck Shaw: Probably Secret Weapons, trying to stealth through the dome was really tough!
Saija Wintersun: The Atlantic Wall because I played through it so many times I really hate it now.
Simon Richards: Spy Academy and its never ending supply of enemies!
What are you most proud about regarding your involvement in Sniper Elite 5?
Beck Shaw: I transitioned to the Lead Level Designer during the project and being able to help facilitate everyone on the team to create the best levels possible was very rewarding. This typically meant I would chase any issues we may have with the relevant departments, freeing up the Level Designers to continue working on their levels, along with ensuring the team had all their work scheduled and were up to date on the latest features and changes to the project.
I also worked with multiple Junior and Intern Level Designers to ensure they had the training they required. They produced some great work and it's always rewarding mentoring the next generation of talent here at Rebellion.
Simon Richards: The sheer amount of gnome puns I was able to come up with while creating the Guernsey environment!
Saija Wintersun: While fixing bugs for the first patch, I was watching someone's playthrough in YouTube in the background. They had found a way to get through the whole of my level unnoticed, which was very impressive. I noticed at some point they needed to hide in some art-placed foliage (not the designer-placed hiding grass).
I immediately removed the foliage and I regret nothing. People who play this level deserve a challenge.
Whilst we have reached the first anniversary of the release of Sniper Elite 5, Karl’s objectives are still not yet over with another campaign mission still to come as part of Season 2. We’re very excited for all you snipers to get stuck into the next explosive encounter with the Axis forces. There is no doubt that you will leave devastation in your wake and bring victory to the Allies.
Join us at 3PM BST for an exciting anniversary stream where we sit down with a number of the development team and play through some of their favourite moments as well as give away some prizes.
Go forth and pick your targets with skill and courage soldiers!