When the Institute Attacks

Level Summary

In this standalone quest made for Fallout 4, the player takes on the role of figuring out why the Institute is attacking a small town, Nova. Not only do they need to fight off synths and Institute operatives, but they must also unravel the truth behind the town’s history. In the end, there’s an important decision to be made, and it’s up to the player how the story will turn out.


Game: Fallout 4

Engine: Creation Kit

Development Time: 12 weeks (March – May 2023)

Role: Level Designer

Team Size: Solo


Design Goals

Morally Grey Choice

One of the goals for this project was to have a story with a morally grey choice at the end. I wanted this choice to pull on the player’s heartstrings and make them evaluate their values. I achieved this by establishing the main character that is affected before the end of the quest.


For the combat in this level, I wanted to have several opportunities for fights with verticality. To create these opportunities, I made an interior with an atrium and included two story buildings in my exterior space.

Compelling Story

My third goal for this level was to create a compelling story. I wanted the player to become immersed in the world of Nova and its inhabitants in a way that encouraged them to find out more. I accomplished this by dropping little hints throughout the level about what happened in Nova’s past.


First Floor of Town Hall Map
Nova Exterior Map
Second Floor of Town Hall Map
Map Key

Post Mortem

What Went Well

  • My level was greatly improved by the end of the development process because I took notes of all the feedback I received. Afterwards, I read through all of the feedback and identified fixes that were top priority
  • As I moved into creating the functionality of the level, I realized that there were some things I didn’t have the skill to create in a reasonable amount of time. But I was flexible and found similar events/behaviors (or removed them entirely) rather than spending too much time trying to figure them out
  • I was able to create a story that 1) made sense, and 2) was supported by the gameplay

What Went Wrong

  • The dialogue system that I set up in this level was slightly different than the traditional Fallout 4 system. Because of this players would sometimes become confused when they had to select multiple options before progressing through the dialogue tree
  • My initial design for this level was overscoped for the amount of time I had to make it. It also took me longer than ideal to cut down the length and amount of content in the level to a reasonable amount
  • I was far more focused on the narrative than the gameplay when I first set out to design this level. because of this, some of the pacing was slower than usual. This also caused me to end up having far too much dialogue at one point¬†

What I Learned

  • The most important thing I learned is that it is important to scratch an idea quickly and reiterate rather than pouring an unreasonable amount of resources into solving a problem that is too big to handle (considering the timeline)
  • I learned a better way to take feedbck and how to directly translate the feedback from one sprint into the next one
  • The third thing that I learned is that it is important (and helpful) to break up tasks into the smallest components. Doing this helped me to approach large tasks that were overwhelming to think about and speed up my process