Last of Us Part II: Urban Ruin

Aesthetic: Action Adventure, Third-Person

Platform: Console (PS4)

Game Engine: Unity

Software: Maya, Adobe Illustrator + InDesign

Development Time: 2 Weeks

Team Size: 1

Role: Level Designer

Tasks + Responsibilities:

  • Conducting a breakdown analysis of level design structures and patterns found in the game Last of Us.
  • Formulating a level brief with high-level specifications of narrative scenarios, environment design directions, and gameplay goals.
  • Conducting research of reference materials and resources for environment language development
  • Designing the level layouts around key gameplay beats and pacing.
  • Greyboxing the level geometry using Maya and testing the build in Unity.

Level Document: v1.0v2.0 (Latest)


I decided to take up designing a mock level for Naughty Dog’s much anticipated sequel Last of Us: Part II.

Last of Us – Design Pattern Study

Before designing the level, I played through the original Last of Us to identify the existing design patterns and conventions that I should echo in my design.

1) Using dilapidated architecture to create interesting traversal paths and challenges.

2) Using moments of revealing distant landmarks to tease and remind the player of the current goal.

3) Using tight spaces to create a sense of claustrophobia, deliberate prop placements to create a sense of danger and dread, and scripted events to create a sense of surprise and vulnerability.

4) Using visual composition and scene staging to elicit environmental storytelling.

5) Using nature overgrowth as an emotional catharsis in between moments of tension and anxiety.

6) Using nature overgrowth as a wayfinding pattern to lead the player through the level.


Initial Design Notes and Sketches

1) Brainstorming and defining the level goals, environment setting and atmosphere, and gameplay beats and pacing.

2) Researching and gathering environment reference images.

3) To help visualize the disorientation of ground plane and wall surfaces, I quickly made a cube out of paper to study the changes in architecture caused by flipping it around.


Map Layout Sketches

1) Overall level layout sketch, showing the player path, gameplay sequence and pacing.

Revised Sketch of overall level layout:


2) More detailed layout sketches of the collapsed building (on the left) and the parking structure (on the right).

Revised Sketch of the collapsed building:


3) Combat space layout sketch, showing the interior-exterior connections through doors and windows, possible player paths, enemy patrol paths, and general cover placements.


1st Beat – Traversal through the Urban Ruin

1) Overview map of the exploration + traversal beat.

2) In-game screenshots of the traversal beat.


2nd Beat – Combat Space

1) Overview map of the combat beat, designed to support different play styles: stealth, melee combat, short range combat, and long range combat.

2) In-game screenshots of the combat beat.