JCB Pioneer Mars

Software Used


-Unreal Engine 4


-Microsoft Office Packages

Game Studio

-Atomicom Ltd




-May 2016 - August 2017




-Junior Level Designer


Project Category


-Professional Project

Game Trailer



Platform: PC

Genre: Adventure Survival 

Steam Link


I was tasked with creating an interesting, realistic (scientifically accurate) and large open world map.

I began work by setting out several design goals which are listed below.


  • Complete a radial design for hazards and resources where they change and improve or become harder based on the distance from the player's starting location.

  • Use hazards such as Corrosive Gas to block the player’s path, thus moving them through certain areas to help progression.

  • Make sure the player is challenged by the hazards. Hazards need to work like enemies.

  • Ensure that the contents of the resource pools are balanced to allow good progression.

  • Use ‘Mars Data’ to produce a map with terrain nearly identical to the Martian surface.

  • Create ravines, mission areas and abandoned bases that will give the player a different type of play experience aside from exploring the open world.

  • Position landmarks to help guide the player and draw them towards areas of interest.

  • Use mountains and ravines to create boundaries and segment the world into coherent areas that provide different types of gameplay.

  • Work with the art team to produce an interesting and appealing version of Mars.

  • Improve and iterate upon designs. Base the iteration upon player feedback.


Map design began with height maps and NASA scan data to help create a realistic Martian surface. I examined different height maps of Mars and decided which ones would create the most interesting experience for players. 



















With the height maps in place I began choosing the positions of unique locations, landmarks, outposts and areas built specifically for missions. The positioning of these key features did require some changes to the landscape that the height map created. For example the players start location and the tutorial were created and white boxed using UE4s landscape tools.


















Some mountain ranges and ravines were also positioned by hand. This was to help split the world into nodes and modules that allowed me to gate the player and stop them from accessing parts of the map too early by using the geometry and high level hazards as deterrents.



















Hazards and construction resources were positioned in a radial pattern away from the players base. The further out the player explores, the better resources they find but, they encounter more difficult hazards. This worked in conjunction with the leveling system and the missions to try and give players a constantly challenging survival experience.



















On top of this I was tasked with pacing the introduction of mechanics through the missions that were outlined by the game director.

These design goals were hit with varying degrees of success when the game came to Early Access. I was the only Level Designer on the project and the whole game world was my responsibility.


NOTE: Screenshots and video are from the Early Access build. 

NOTE: All screenshots and video reflect the work of the entire team (art, design, code, etc) 

All work is copyrighted to their respective owners © 2018 | Tom Pugh,