Level Ex is a Chicago-based company that makes free-to-play mobile medical games. Their business model is to build experiences that are both appealing and professionally relevant to veteran doctors, then build additional content into those games that feature the products of their clients - medical device companies and pharmaceutical companies.
Post-launch level design on Pulm Ex was my first responsibility after I was hired in October of 2018. Pulm Ex is an interventional pulmonology game in which the player uses a flexible scope equipped with forceps, an argon plasma coagulator, saline spray, and a suction device to clear mucus, stop bleeding, and remove foreign objects and/or cancerous growths from inside the bronchial tubes of patients. Because Level Ex only had four designers at this time, I was also technically the lead designer on Pulm Ex, and was in charge of proposing ways we could improve the game over time.
Level design within the human anatomy is constrained by the fact that, for most of us, our organs are the same shape as everyone else's. To create level variety, I had to think of novel placement of growths and novel types of foreign objects. For instance, one of my first projects was to implement a foreign object removal level in which a toy figurine has been aspirated, and depending on how the player approaches the problem, can break into several additional pieces.
I realized that, by breaking the figurine into its component parts, I could create a fun scavenger hunt that skirts the boundaries of medical plausibility but still offers a pleasant challenge to our doctors. Piece placement allowed me to create breadcrumbs for our players, while mucus was a great tool to both point players in the right direction and also provide a moment of surprise when the suctioned away a mass of mucus to find one of the pieces they were searching for.
I created several more foreign object removal and cancerous mass removal levels, including a squamous cell carcinoma level that required me to prototype a wound that could not be permanently closed, and a task training level for the argon plasma coagulator level.