Monday, February 28, 2011

Broken Promises

Firstly, let me apologise for breaking my promise to the world to update my blog at least once a week. My personal work kind of fell by the waist-side this past week whilst I was trying to complete other projects but I'm back on track now and resuming work on my DM level.

I've spend some time this evening working on specific sections of the map rather than the level as a whole. I got the basic layout sorted and for those of you interested I decided to stick with the old, but trusty, UT3 engine. This allows me to use all the DM specific features of the Unreal engine and its also nice not having to worry about different UDK updates and whether certain things will work..they just do in UT3.

So here are some shots, it may not look like much but I have spend a long time finding the flow to this one section of the map. I would have had to post hundreds of screens to portray the real flow of the level, as is the curse of the level designer when trying to present their designs. However, at least these screens give you a feel for what I'm actually working on.

The first image shows how the bottom iceberg got a bit out of control with the size once all the game play was added. The rest of the icebergs will stay the same but I'm not sure whether this will become some kinda of refinery or building now. There's also a jump pad bridge if you check out the bottom of the image which plays really well.

The second and third image are from the largest room in this refinery/building. There are multiple paths shooting everywhere and lots of focus on game play along with some nice shapes created purely using BSP.

I'm focusing this map to use 90% BSP brushes in Unreal along with minimal static meshes (from Unreal) in places that need them, such as light sources, vents etc that I feel would add to the level but I mainly want to focus on the flow.

I am however going to create a full pack of hand painted textures in photoshop to go along with the level which will hopefully give it its unique feel along with the help of a few shaders in Unreal.

I think thats all for now, back to the unreal world!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

UDK vs UT3

I think I should really decide now before I get too far in to the project. There are a few things that I have to weigh up really...

The pros of using the UDK are not only visual. The work-flow is much quicker in the UDK, they bring out updated versions every month with extra little tweaks saving previous click time. There is also a large community of UDK users right now which I can depend on when, and I do mean when, I run into trouble. Theres also the lighting system in UDK that brings life to maps. Now, you could argue that lighting has little impact on game play, but I would argue otherwise. Lighting can bring an environment to life and with the Lightmass feature of the UDK it brings a fantastic realism with soft bouncing light.

However, the main reason I'm tempted to use the UT3 engine is for game play purposes! This is what this engine was built for. It includes all the weapons, pick-ups and bots a designer needs to create a class Unreal DM game whereas the UDK features a mere 3 weapons and 1 bot with a selection of the core pick-ups used.

If UT3 is the forgotten middle child screaming for attention, UDK is the experimental new baby of the Unreal 3 engine which allows users to customise the hell out of their projects so that the projects no longer look like Unreal workhorses are driving the game. After all, did I not want a distinct visual style? Was that not one of my criteria? I feel for game plays sake I may have to compromise on this.

I'll sleep on it but for now heres a test shot I did in UT3!

...Although not the new born child with the fat cheeks, I think the middle child still has its charm wouldnt you say?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 2

I began my second day on the project by trying to block out the rest of my DM-level. I think I found a good flow with it, I'll just drop a few screen shots so you can kind of get an idea how its going to be played. I've not added any detail or materials to the surfaces but I have however, added a bit of game play in the sections I wanted it in just to get a feel.

This first shot demonstrates narrow close combat with red lines. Slippery patches/fast paced game play in Yellow. Open but still quite close range combat in the blue sections. These bits will have objects and meshes blocking paths and breaking up the game play but that's pretty much it for now. The three circles are indicators where players can 'camp' on the map, picking out enemies across the level, however there are multiple paths to these sections so players will have to react fast.

The second screen demonstrates similar game play however the circles this time focus on the jump pads. I've made use of the Unreal jump pads which can catapult players into different area of the map quickly, however these places are harder to reach.

The third screen shows the meat of the game play so I'll go into a little more detail in this section.

01. This shows the camper spot from a different view, as you can see the player has views of the multiple routes to their position, however, they can not view them all at the same time.

02. I've made use of the double jump off lift mechanic that a lot of players don't know about in Unreal. More experienced players will be rewarded with their knowledge of Unreal by being able to access the UT Damage pick-up with makes you God Like for a small period of time. You can access it by running onto the lift and before it stops tap double jump and by using the momentum of the lift, players can access higher places. Then can then make a quick exit down the slope of the iceberg which is very quick paced.

03. If players shoot the box on the wall the doors that players use to access the room inside with shut and inside pipes will blow ice cold water and kill any players inside. In these rooms are valuable pick-ups, the players must choose whether to take the risk of death to gain the pick-up or wait for other players to get lured in. The doors will reopen after 30seconds and the system will be reset. The meshes used are Unreal assets which will not feature in the final map, they're just for demonstration.

04. This screen shot shows the bottom half of the map. There will be an icy river flowing through here with a snow storm, the whole lower section of the map with have reduced visibility because of this and players will have to get close to other players in the map before they can see them. This makes the area slightly more difficult however pick-ups in this location with reward the players for taking the risk.

05. The final shot shows a small bridge below the iceberg right above the frozen water. The path is very narrow and players must navigate carefully and will be rewarded for their efforts. However taking this route leaves you very exposed from above and both sides.

Next up I think I'll be refining some of the paths in the level making sure there are no dead ends and making sure the flow is right. I will then start to add more pick-ups and focus on the ecology of the map making sure everything is balanced but also rewarding for players that take the risks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It didn't take long to change my mind

Don't worry Scott, I haven't scrapped anything, just "developed" my idea.

It occurred to me, my level had no real silhouette. I wanted something towering in the middle of the level, something to draw the players in and although I have 3 industrial towers, I don't feel that they are strong enough, they may come back as the design progresses however for now, I've come up with a better idea.. He says.

I think it would be cool, if not badass, if my level was based in a huge crevasse! I know what your thinking, cool right? Similar to the image above you would see the sky shinning through this central ring and wherever you were in the map you would be able to see this focal point. I'm interested to know what other people think of this idea and whether I'm just changing things for change sake or whether it would impact my design in a positive way?

I'm not quite sure what the central structure could be but there are would be so many different possibilities to play around with adding extra game play and would also still be able to incorporate Jim (where's the game) Thompson's suggestions about decreasing players visibilities in certain areas and also still have the cave like feel to the map. I would be able to create tight corridors of ice with added vantage points on higher ledges. This also highlights for me, the importance of using BSP's in Unreal to block out my idea, the quick mock-ups only took 5 minutes and if I need to change them then little time was wasted.

All of these are just thoughts however and I will have to go back to the drawing board known as UDK to decide which path I should pursue.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

DM-Iceberg level

So I started my Deathmatch designs this morning. There are a few things that I know I want to achieve in this project;

a) To gain an understanding of solid gameplay from a multi-player aspect as well as SP
b) To model and create most of the assets myself (get help if needed)
c) To create a unique and non unreal visual style
d) To make it fun!

The project

I'm not quite sure on the visual style yet but I want to try and make this level less Unreal looking. Maybe someone has a suggestions about a good art direction? I want a strong visual style making the most of the post processing power of the unreal engine, I'm thinking nice vibrant colours not unlike team fortress. My main goal is to make a solid Deathmatch experience but I may also add a capture the flag game mode in there as the layout would be perfect for two different teams and would also allow me to explore team based puzzles which I have no experience in so far.


The game is set in the middle of an icy environment which is not related to anywhere in particular as there will be 'unreal' elements to the map. The players are here to part take in a battle royal/death race/kill 'em all, style arena where the winner takes all.
The objective will be to either get the most kills, or I'm hoping to develop this gameplay further by having a central tower hold the trophy and the players must navigate different puzzles to lower it. I will have to see how successful this is through game testing but I think it would add depth to a Deathmatch arena.


The map will have pressure chambers like the ones featured in earlier unreal Deathmatches which will add an extra element to the game

There will be chokepoints in the form of central towers with jump pads allowing for free flowing gameplay

The map will be a small size as far as unreal maps go as I want to model all the assets myself.
Visual style undecided.

The map will be memorable because I will have icy surfaces in places allowing for fast paced game play. There will be different elevations that will aid snipers and rocket guys alike. Large pressure chambers that will destroy the players if they enter.

Possible Problems

My modelling and texturing skills

Creating a unique visual style

GAMEPLAY! - Will it even be fun to play?

Incorporating puzzles which don't stop flow of gameplay but have huge impact when implemented.

So I started by creating a basic overview of game play that I knew I wanted. I created a large loop because I do not believe Deathmatch levels should ever have dead-ends. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as if the player is highly rewarded, however I'll get in to that on later posts.

I then moved on to designing each individual Iceberg and then I will move on to the Industrial towers in the center. I first planed out in PS what game play I wanted on each of these islands, each one will be distinctly unique and offer different game play challenges. I then went into UDK and roughly blocked it out with BSP's. I find that this is the quickest method of testing whether the game play will actually work. I added a few extra details here and there and was happy with Iceberg_01. Now to move on to the rest!

I won't be moving into Maya until the entire blockmap is finished and I have sorted my game play. With game play comes adding bots, weapons and pickup's. There's no point starting to model geometry if the map isn't fun! I will then import the BSP's into Maya so I have a good idea of scale and go from there. Whilst I am sorting out game play though I may be designing and modelling different assets on the side.

I'm sure I've missed out the most basic information so let me know if have any qualms but in the mean time..

"Kill 'em all... Let God sort them out"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Be a better You

Life is full of new starts. New job. New car. New Friends. New shoes.
New Year.. Well, surely that means a new you?

...for now though, I think I'll just stick with a new blog design.

So put your new gym memberships away and sit back and hold on whilst I unless my blogging madness.