Over the last 12 weeks, I have been researching and designing environments so I can build my own environment. I have been documenting the processes that I have been doing from research, design, game assets and actually making the game all within this blog and now that’s its coming to the end I’m going to do one final evaluation to look through the entirety of my project to explain what I’ve done, what went well, what went wrong and how I overcame that as well as what I would do if I was to do the assignment again.
Before I could even start thinking of how I wanted to design my game I first needed to do my research on what an environment artist is that can be found in the project rationale post. I did this to get a better idea of what an environment artist does and his role within a game dev team. once that was completed and I was given the three themes that I could choose to build my environment around, that being Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Post-Apocalyptic, I could start looking for two inspirational games for each of the themes to help me decide which I would believe I could create the most unique and interesting environment with. I tried to get different game levels for a theme as I could to show the variety that a single theme could have. a good example of this was the two games that I choose for the fantasy game levels, one was for the legend of Zelda that level is set on a giant mechanical bird which sounds to be more Sci-Fi than fantasy but the fact that its built from stone and powered by magic crystals that make it fantasy. because its made from stone its covered in moss making the game look a lot more colourful and vibrant. whereas the second game I choose is a lot more of a traditional fantasy game level with it being set in a massive castle looking cathedral infested with undead knights and evil monsters. the colour and brightness from the first game are nowhere to be seen and instead of being replaced with darkness and a cold atmosphere surrounding the building.
Next, I created a mindmap for each theme so I could write down games within that specific theme and list different environments or aspects that they included within their game to use as inspiration for when it comes to designing my game. The next aspect that I needed to do was to create a moodboard for all three of the game themes that I previously mentioned, I collected multiple different pics for each theme showing the variety you could design within in a single theme, for example, the theme that I ended up choosing Post-Apocalyptic you could either have it where the environment id desolate and destroyed or you could have it where the plants have grown over man-made stuff.
because all the previous research is completed and I was able to see the possibility for an environment designed around each theme I could finally come to the decision that the Post-Apocalyptic theme would be the best theme for me to build my game around as that’s the one that I believe that I could create a more interesting environment than any of the other themes.
the image above is the game that is the most inspiring to me as I love the idea of plants taking over buildings and other man-made objects. it also allows for more detailed and unique looks rather than a simple destroyed building.it also allows you add more colour into the game as over post-apocalyptic games that don’t have nature taking over are just mainly brown and dirty looking, a perfect example is the Fallout series especially new Vegas which consist of mainly a brown pallet as illustrated with the image below.
once my theme was chosen I then had to decide what level design I was wanting for my game as there were multiple different ways I could design my level, out of five different level types, that being Alley, maze, Hub, Island or path. I choose to go with the island because the rest of the level designs where too linear especially alley as that would only have one way to go and because I was designing my game to be built in a destroyed area of a city it wouldn’t feel right if I had to build a set path to follow. whereas because I’ve built the game in an island level design the area is much more open and players can freely explore the area with the only restriction being a locked door that they must explore the level to find a key to open the door. the fact that they have to explore the ruined city looking for something important replicates what would happen if someone was exploring a real life ruined city adding to the realistic atmosphere that I am trying to build for my level.
To ensure that I built my level to be built so that I can get as many people as possible to enjoy it I created a survey and asked my fellow classmates to answer the questions to help me get a better understanding. If you want to see the full survey then it can be found within the Research section of my blog. The main points to take away is that they agree with the idea of having a post-apocalyptic level based in a destroyed area of a city with a realistic art style which means I could continue with my original idea for my level and not have to redo all the previous work which allows me to quickly move onto the next part of my research.
The last part of my research I had to do before I could start building the game was to do with assets for my game as I needed to create an asset list so I know what assets I would need when it came to creating my assets. I choose to create the assets list early into the design so I would have an idea of the amount of work I had to do concerning my assets and plan my time out around it. Next, I had to create another moodboard this time focusing on the assets, this was used as a reference when I started making my assets making them feel more authentic with the realistic look I’m going for.
Once all my research was completed I could start designing my level as I knew what theme and style the level would be in, as well as the area that I will be designing the area in. because my theme is post-apocalyptic and I’ve decided to create it in a realistic style I thought the best thing to design my level around was a real-life area that I could alter to make look like its been through an apocalypse, because I know this area well ill be able to transfer it into unreal well and it’ll help to add to the realistic atmosphere that I was trying to create.
above is a bird eyes view of what sort of shape my level will be as well as some pictures I took myself to use as a reference while creating my game. the garden area is the main part of my game with most of the buildings being used to stop the player from leaving the intended area. all the roads that could be used to escape the area will be blocked off by debris as I needed some way to stop the player from exiting the playable area and debris made sense for the theme as buildings would be destroyed in an apocalypse. I didn’t just want players to explore the outside however as I believed it wouldn’t be as interesting and I also couldn’t think how I could implement a puzzle element to make the level interactive if it was simply outside. as such, I decided to make that building in the top left of the first image so that you can go inside and explore inside the building if you find the key hidden within a secret area of the level to unlock the door. adding this simple addition greatly improves my level as it now has a puzzle element to make it more interesting and interactive, a reason to explore the area and look at it more closely and also adds diversity to my level design as I have to design the outside as well as an inside of an office building.
using the google maps image as a reference I created the first idea of what my level layout could look like. it was a good rough idea but after drawing it I noticed that it was too simplistic and would be boring to traverse. it was too confined not giving the player a clear way to go and almost impossible to add a puzzle element in as the level design was too basic.
after a few more rough sketches I came to the decision that this design above would be the best as the level would be more open giving the player more area to explore, making the level more interesting. I was going to have it where you started in the bottom left and you had to explore to find a key that would let you get into the two buildings on the right. this worked in concept but when I started building the blockout for the level I realized that I wouldn’t be able to finish the level within the given time frame. not wanting to lose all of the element I previously added, however, I drew one more layout for the level which can be seen below. as you can see I made it more spherical but made it wider so the player still had room to explore as well as keeping an explorable building on the right like I mentioned earlier on rather than two to save time. I believe this is a good compromise as it’s not as basic as the original design but still achievable within the time period I’ve been given.
I created the blockout for the garden section of my level as that’s the center of my level and once I had done that to the correct size I could start to build the levels borders as well as the interactive building. I built the blockout and then ran around using the character to get a feel for the level and test if its big enough. the garden was too small as the player could run across it in 3 seconds which would be too quick for the game and its also not that realistic and as I’m trying to make the game as realistic as possible it wouldn’t look right and take away from the atmosphere.
this is a bird’s eye view of my block out as you can see I made the garden bigger than it was in the previous screenshot like I said I would and because I did that I could also add the building around the level. any part that wasn’t covered by buildings and was just left open I decided to put debris over. I could have it completely surrounded building as that would look unrealistic but I couldn’t have something like trees blocking the way as that wouldn’t make sense. in the end, I settled with debris blocking the exits as it does it job of blocking the player within the intended level area but it also makes sense why they’d be debris blocking the way.
this is the section where I show you all the assets that I have created and used within my game as well as a description of how I created them, why I created them and what issues I ran into during the process.
above are the assets that I created within 3DS Max so I could simply export them with the embed media (the texture I add to them while still in 3DS Max) and drag them into unreal where I could alter the size so they fit correctly into my level. most was as simple as adding an editable poly and extruding certain faces to get the required look. the best example was the table as I only had to do was add a square shape into 3ds and change the sizes so that it looks like a real tabletop, once that was done I add more segments onto the shape which allowed for more faces to use to create the table. I selected the four faces at either corner of the table that I needed and extruded them to create the legs. to make the table look more realistic I grabbed the all the lines on the corners of the table and chamfer which give the table them more looking smoother edges as they would never at a perfect 90 degrees angle in real life as they would be too sharp yet again ruining the realistic atmosphere. they weren’t all as easy as that however as some wasn’t simple straight shapes, the best example of these sorts of shapes are the candle and bolder as they needed to look a lot more random in its design. to create that random design I used a cylinder for the candle and a sphere for the bolder, added segments onto and randomly grabbed and pulled different faces to make it look like a rough bolder or a melted candle with uneven wax. the asset that I thought was going to be the easiest was the wall as I thought with a simple case of grabbing enough faces to create a door and do the same to create a window and that would be it. that couldn’t be further from the truth as I had to add segments, remove certain lines, bridge areas together so there weren’t holes in the wall. I managed to get it to look like a wall but even now I’m still unsure on how to fix the door completely, as you can see in the picture of the wall above they’re two random lines on the door that didn’t need to be there and I couldn’t get rid of. I tried deleting the lines but that deleted the whole door but while trying to figure out a way I realized I didn’t have too. I was planning on having the door blocked anyway so I didn’t have to texture all the insides saving time, so I created a wooden board that I can put in front of the door blocking the player from entering as well as hiding the lines for the door solving two problems with one solution.
Making my Environment-
this the final part of the game that I needed to do before I could start this final evaluation and complete the assignment. because I had already built my blockout in the design aspect of the final evaluation so I could move straight onto adding my assets to the level and adding the textures getting it ready for the assignment end. this aspect has been the most time consuming as due to the fact that it was the first time that I’ve properly used unreal I made a few little mistakes, nowt that ruined the level just ones that slowed down the process. the best example of this is the brick texture as the texture that I used was too big and looked completely unrealistic when added to the wall asset that I created. the best solution I could find at that point was to add it to a new geometry block and add it to that block before resizing the block till it looks realistic. then I had to copy and paste the block lining them up like a jigsaw creating the wall. once it was completed and I had time to research a solution I found that if I uvw wrapped the texture while it was still in 3DS max I could change it till it was the correct size, so in the future when I create other environments within unreal I can use the more effective solution saving time allowing me to focus on other areas. because I want the level to be covered with nature and plants I decided to have the floor completely grass rather than roads, I did this by adding the grass texture onto the plain I was using as the floor. it was originally grey and didn’t look as vibrant as I wanted but while trying to figure out I found the texture options where I had to change it from emissive colour to base colour which fixed the colour returning it to the green I was wanting. I also added the trees into the environment and poppies around the monument to further add into the atmosphere that nature is taking back what is its, that I’ve been trying to build through the entire assignment. any area that need a hole adding into the geometry like a door or a gate instead of wasting time using two separate geometry and trying to line it up I added a geometry box and turned it from an additive to a subtractive which turned the box invisible and any other geometry that came in contact with it to have that section cut out. combine that with a box being hollow means you can create a building with a hole for you to add a door into later. I was previously a bit worried about how I was going to make it look like my level was part of a city as I didn’t have time to build buildings outside of the level to simulate a real city but I didn’t want to leave it as it wouldn’t look realistic, while looking through the included object in unreal however I came across an object called ExponentialHeightFog which basically adds fog into your game and you can choose the density of it. this turned out to be very helpful as it didn’t matter what outside my level looked like as the player couldn’t see the outside anyway keeping the realistic atmosphere that I created.
In conclusion, I feel that the assignment overall went well, I feel that I’ve created an interesting and unique environment and fits well within the theme of post-apocalyptic. I feel that the strongest element of the assignment is the creating the assets as I’ve tried new techniques that I’ve never used before to good effect and as such been able to create assets in detail that I’ve never been able too before. however, this assignment isn’t without negative as I believe my designs could have been stronger and that my weekly reflection should have been done in stronger detail. as such for my next assignment ill make sure to focus just as much on my blog as well as my level to ensure that I have the best assignment possible.
below are the two videos that I had created that show off my games and its design. it would have been a single video but I was experiencing issues with my capture software.