Created By: Dookie2 on August 31, 2010 Last Edited By: Dookie2 on August 31, 2010

Ship Level

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Many video games, particularly stealth games and First-Person Shooters (oftentimes in multiplayer maps), feature levels that require the player to navigate the inside of a ship. From a game design perspective, there are good reasons why a level taking place in a ship is convenient, some of which overlap with the reasons why it might be fun to play hide-and-seek on a ship:

  • Ships are generally surrounded by water (unless they're in drydock), giving the level convenient boundaries, eliminating the need for arbitrarily-placed Invisible Walls and the like by having an endless ocean surrounding the ship, which is more convincing.
  • Below deck, ships have narrow corridors and sneaking through a well-lit corridor is quite a challenge.
  • The corridors also facilitate linear level design very well due to being, well, corridors.
  • A ship far out at sea is surrounded by water, which can be used to make the game world seem very large (with less effort than creating an epically-sized game landscape, for example). Additionally, having gameplay take place on a large ship that is steadily moving through water can convey that great distances are being covered, which can give the feeling of progressing through an epic journey.
  • Ships can be sunk! This can make for convenient plot excuses to have the level take place on a ship (either sinking or saving a ship from sinking), thus taking advantage of all of the aforementioned aspects of ships. However, it is hard for an individual video game protagonist or even a team to sink a ship and the lengths that must be taken to do this can also prove convenient from a game design perspective (for example, as in Deus Ex, the player might have to plant explosives at specific points to sink a ship, necessitating that the player navigates through the ship and also forcing the player to leave the ship afterwards). This can also make for a transition into an underwater level or something similar if it is not possible to leave the ship before it sinks.

A specific subtrope of this is Gangplank Galleon. Related to Down the Drain in that a sewer level and a ship level can share some qualities, such as maze-like design and aesthetic similarities. It does not necessarily coincide with Get on the Boat.


Stealth Games:

  • In the Metal Gear series:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2 begins with a prologue taking place on a fake oil tanker that is actually transporting carrying Metal Gear Ray. Solid Snake must sneak below deck to find proof that US Marines have been constructing a Metal Gear.
    • The finale of Metal Gear Solid 4 takes place on a gigantic ship, namely Arsenal Gear, the home of the Patriot AIs.
  • In Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series:
    • The second level of Chaos Theory takes place on a small ship called the Maria Narcissa. The level is very linear and the player must use ventilation shafts and the like to avoid being detected in the narrow corridors and to find and assassinate Hugo Lacerda.
    • In Double Agent, one of Sam Fisher's missions is to infiltrate a cruise ship and blow it up with a bomb.
  • Late in Deus Ex, the player must destroy a Chinese military ship docked in a New York harbor by scuttling the weld points in its hull with explosives.

First Person Shooters:

  • From the Call of Duty series:
    • The first game had a level where the player must infiltrate the German battleship Tirpitz. The map is also used in the multiplayer.
    • The first mission of Modern Warfare is a raid on a cargo ship.
  • From Unreal Tournament and its sequels:
    • A map in Unreal Tournament, "DM-KGalleon" (Koos Galleon), is modeled after a ship, as is its continuation in Unreal Tournament 3, "DM-KBarge."
    • Also from the first Unreal Tournament, the Assault map, AS-Frigate, is about infiltrating the eponymous and taking control of it.
  • The E3 demo of Half-Life 2 took place on a ship called the Borealis. The level didn't make it into the final release though Episode 2 makes clear that Episode 3 will feature the Borealis.
  • Cryostasis takes place entirely on a shipwrecked icebreaker called the North Wind.
  • One of the levels in episode 4 of Duke Nukem 3D is set in an oil ship.
  • A level of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth takes place on a Coast Guard cutter.

RPGs and other games:

  • Pokémon: Red, Blue, and Yellow feature the SS Anne. Other Pokemon games have the player go on ships, but usually there is not as much to explore as in the SS Anne.
  • One side quest in Oblivion takes place in a ship (which is used a hotel) that is hijacked by a band of bandits.

Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • August 30, 2010
  • August 30, 2010
    The first level of Modern Warfare
  • August 30, 2010
    Cool Ship?

    • Duke Nukem 3D, Episode 4. One of the levels is set in an oil ship.
    • Unreal Tournament: DM-KGalleon (Koos Galleon) and it's continuation in Unreal Tournament 3: DM-KBarge.
  • August 31, 2010
  • August 31, 2010
    Stealth Games

    • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent. One of Sam Fisher's missions is to infiltrate a cruise ship and blow it up with a bomb.
  • August 31, 2010
    Not sure how much this counts, but the "Daisy Cruiser" level in Mario Kart Double Dash was a track set aboard a cruise ship. As the cruise ship swayed from side to side, the tables, chairs, and item boxes in the dining hall slid from one side of the room to the other.
  • August 31, 2010
    ...I don't really get the current title.
  • August 31, 2010
    I was wondering whether it was a good idea. I'll change it back to ship level.
  • August 31, 2010
    Another example from Unreal Tournament: the Assault map, AS-Frigate, is about infiltrating the namesake Frigate and take control of it.
  • August 31, 2010
    Lufia: The Legend Returns has a pirate ship dungeon. It's randomly generated (like the other dungeons in the game), filled with bushes and hidden rooms, and is far bigger than the outside dimensions of the ship would seem to allow. A level of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth takes place on a Coast Guard cutter.
  • August 31, 2010
    Call of Duty (the first one) has you infiltrate the German battleship Tirpitz. It also comes up again as a multiplayer map.