Games Incubator: Portfolio

The accomplishments of environment & level design


Introduction

The goal with this project was to familiarise with the term, technical artist; thus, explore areas of focus around the roles and responsibilities which show exceptional value for understanding two fields of practice.


The learning curve always creates challenges along the process and requires excellent levels of commitment, which is something to expect as part of this documentation. As for the learning and skills, this document will demonstrate methods of basic and advanced research, for the practicality of using the game engine or other design software and implementation of content from experimentations to final design choices, which adequately align below based on the individual learning plan.


Game Introduction

As a brief introduction to our design plan, together with my team, we are aiming to develop a 3D, online, multiplayer third-person videogame. We consider on having two a players co-op lobby. The game is essentially a linear story platform with puzzles and stealth-based mechanics. The players can hide, escape and interact with objects/environment around them. Additionally, combining player skills and inventory tools will enhance the relationship between the two different parties to form a stronger connection.

It was important for us as a team to build meaning and to have a strong structure our story needed good narrative design. Here are some key notes to help boost the visual language of our idea:

  1. A level design based on Icelandic towns, in the early 2000s, near a volcano.

  2. Players are established as two young siblings aged, 9 and 12.

  3. The mood is cold with shades of blue, the moonlight glows faded, toiling in the darkness.

  4. The town was abducted by an unknown alien race & environment is under their control.

  5. The players leave their home in an emergency; their neighbourhood locks leaving them out.

  6. Their primary mission becomes to survive the night while alien drones patrol/chase you.


Visual referencing/Pre-production


Brainstorms/Moodboards

Real-life Referencing

Following a previous level of design documentation, where I identified the roles and responsibilities of other industry professionals, research had shown to be a critical factor — it is essential to complete several lumps of data collections, photographs of the environment, satellite map information or geographic/terrain data.


One needs to be aware that the type of assets used, the plants, the trees and ground textures all correlate and are from that same particular environment — this is a critical appearance and overall believability focus with the initiative to replicate real-life scenarios into the game engine effectively.


Unfortunately, I was not able to travel to the remote Icelandic locations. Instead, using online resources to construct mood-boards of photographs; also, having grown in a similar environment, I happen to have some basic knowledge of nature, and country/rural areas.


Therefore, in the progression of the map one is expected to notice some intuitive, individualistic design choices, around the evolution of the heightmap, plants growth and nature/behaviour of the environment.


Icelandic Environments & Vegetation

The image above provides a mood board showing some of the environment research done to date. Here I have assigned specific naming conventions to different elements; this will be useful when searching for a particular type of asset in the Unity store. Some of the images are to help with the process of correct implementation/population techniques and to understand how plants and vegetation grow in the remote areas of Iceland.


Icelandic Housing & Community (locations)

During this stage, I also was communicating with the rest of the team, dissecting the ideas and considering the unique ones for sketch planning.


Pia and Maris have often been supporting-guiding on techniques such as, google maps and using it to study Iceland's environments and architecture. Doing so lead to a continuation of particular references that best describe the sort of creative design I was aiming to target; photographs of housing and locations that would support the story visually. I was aware that the map must have an Icelandic, geographic theme for overall believability.

The mood-board below includes some closer detail analyses of these areas Icelandic photographs of smaller towns and countryside locations. With this research, the focus was to select visual elements which appear as rural areas.


Exploring concepts of level design from previous video games

Image below are digital concept arts of level designs; some are focusing on older and less developed times such as the Medieval fish farm below. With greener and outdoor, nature/wildlife-friedly habitats. Trees and forestation.

The areas that one should mostly focus on, ones that have a practical use to implement in personal designs, is the execution of smaller details. For example, in the small centre data design, we can see how the artist has drawn a edges pattern of shapes expanding to show the progression of higher or lower ground levels. This method will be useful when drawing out some of the mountains and hills that will be part of the game map.

Another supportive gameplay design is the one from the Shadow of Prambanan, where the artist has chosen to draw out with a highlight the route that the player should take and the sort of mechanics to expect.


Another important aspect is how the artist had controlled the locations with a defined colour theme for interior (green), the exterior (purple) or other (blue); thus, this is an excellent method to distinguish between levels in height.


Design Research

Looking at the thought process behind the development of the map.

Together with my team, we have decided to choose, the countryside as a geographic theme. This choice is for the type of landscape, the type of housing, level of development (technology/infrastructure) and on average to maintain a low population number of game characters. Doing so offers the chance to focus on quality over quantity, and on an individual level, avoiding having to face the necessity to develop a large city map level. This choice also had practical reasoning for the limited time constraint of under a year.


As the level designer, I was expected to do the necessary research and explore ideas that would help to plan a map. In terms of vocabulary, one word to describe the type of design choice is to name it a rural area. For a rural area, as metioned in this encyclopedia, the majority of the map consists of open fields, woodlands, hills and mountains, population density is also very low. A rural area is known to have road links to industrial and commercial areas that are likely to be located in close distances.

This information has helped with practical and functional design choices in relation to creating the next 2d mapping plans. Furthermore, putting into practice, the knowledge accumulated, about the different geographic definitions. A rural design choice is beneficial to allocate a simple road system in connection to the chosen environment layout, to the low population and the placement of buildings.

By focusing on geographic research, I hope that the rural area design works with our video game, to seamlessly coordinate the player's navigation. Uplifting their experience and the nature of excitement, enjoyability or clarity when traversing the level.


Early development

- Software tools

- Experimentation


It's time to step into the shoes of a level designer.

From the beginning of this project, I was aware that I was approaching a new area, something I have never worked towards before. As any other individual, I began watching online courses and found a supportive and practical one, an interactive level design course in Unity. It was very informative.


The course discusses level design, its roles and responsibilities and whom from the team I'd have to communicate with closely. I have learned that using the assets store; one can import plugins that support in the design and development process. Rich Fiore, the tutor of this course, teaches about Unity's modelling tools methods of building a map, the practice was called grey-box modelling. It uses a plugin called Probuilder.

Probuilder Test 1, Player perspective

In the section below I began with experimentations. Here, I am focusing on learning the possibilities and constraints with the tool, with Unity 3D and experience with building basic structures hands-on learning of the first principles of level designers.


Grey-box modelling (ProBuilder)

Below we have the first buildup experiment, and it explores a map sketch. The challenging part about this method of level design is to determine the base structure on the map using a single object, although this is limiting the number of meshes. The method is useful to explore Probuilder's diversity of available settings and modifiers in each object and its elements; vertex, edge and face modes of manipulation.

The approach to expand the surface and shape of an object is similar to the approach of making a 3d model/retopology method starting from a basic plane or cube.

The second experiment, with the idea of challenging one with a sophisticated level of perspective, is based on a photograph from an Icelandic town.


The team decision was to develop the game from Icelandic references. In the example, I had set a challenge to build a realistic copy of the town using the skills gained from the courses and based on how much I had previously learnt from the first experiment. When choosing the reference, the focus was on a town which had a variance in the height map; this way there is a chance for a more complex traverse system as the player progresses. Additionally, this dynamic layout of the road system works well and visually enhances the game image.

During this period our team was instructed to design our first progress presentation; one with the main ideas and experiments that group members explored. The individual feedback for experiment 1 and 2 was positive. Tutors and classmates commented on the exciting progression on the town layout.



Planning/Generating ideas


Paper-based Draft Map Design

Here we have the first map sketch, and it uses the naming conventions as informed of by the story/script writers. The landscape with predominant colour fills has been done to represent high or low areas of the ground as previously discovered in other artists concept designs.

With this sketch, the design was basic; its role is to be discriptive and control the player's movement in a small environment. For navigation, the main road connects the player to the rest of the locations of the map. However, to make their experience more diverse, I have chosen to close down the way and make a change for them through the forest. For housing, there are four prime focuses, their home location, the church, a town and the local school. Finally, considering playability and gameplay by adding challenges and planning to swap map locations for an increase in objective difficulty and further backtracking.


The backtracking method, a derogatory term "used to describe a situation in a game where the player must return to previously encountered locations in order to continue advancing the game", is likely to be used for the school, town and church locations.


Block-out of General Game Flow (Unity Engine)

I used Pro Builder and began to map out a 3d version of the sketch plan. The issues were that the scale of the roads and houses was not to human size and things appear very unproportionate.

Although this was just a simple epxepriment, it includes the application of textures, such as the grass or cement. The issue was that Unity's Pro-Builder doesn't provide a smooth faces function as does other 3d packages such as Autodesk Maya. Instead, one can detach faces into individual parts and apply a texture to it, which in the example had distorted as faces were not equal in length or width.


Overall, the build-up was useful to get a basic idea of the player traverse experience through the level.



Drafting/Prototyping

First Detailed Draft

This draft is the first detailed version of a map design; it brings in many skills that I gathered from tutorials and courses, and an updated progression from the experiments above. I was a lot more comfortable using the brush options to paint geographic details; additionally, I was able to explore with some basic textures for ground and grass as shown from the screenshots. This map included the described environment using Unity's terrain tool, and for housing or the roads system, I was using the grey-boxing tools.

Additionally, I began making some more experimentation to populate the environment. A necessary vegatation based element were the trees. Trees were built using a speed tree set-up in Unity. It allows the user to modify the distribution, geometry and shape of a tree. Anything from the steam of the tree, the branches or leaves can also manipulative, and there are options to attach textures for leaves or body of the tree. I was fortunate to find some unity standard assets which provided the required data to use the speed tree option.

Screenshot below of the Scattering tool description:

Back on the terrain options, one can choose whether to paint trees individually or to scatter them around the terrain surface using an AI option that is available from the terrain tool settings, to randomly generate and place objects on the map.


This scattering tool is programmed to consider the height map of the terrain; however, the option doesn't seem to always work to perfection as some trees might end up on flat surfaces of the warter stream floors or in steep areas of the map.


Draft Map Plan

Below is the first detailed map including the height of the terrain, transparent road systems with more accurate proportions, that involves the bridges over the running water rivers, the village and the town. There are also bonus locations added with anticipation to add further quests. Such as the cave that leads the players to the core of the volcano and the landing spot where the aliens have first arrived.

Furthermore, with this sketch plan, there was more focus on the population of assets and objects to avoid having empty locations; the power stations with satellits is on the "could have" list, to develop a quest where the player uses this location to proceed in a plot to hurt the alien's order by removing the dome. This, of course, sounds ambitions as is the plan to design a landing spot, where the alien's ship first landed before moving to another remote location.

Arriving at the next location, the player can spot a fallen drone, location C, where the priest explains how to use the drone and use their technology to survive the night out. The rest of the script is due to be developed. However, the town and school locations were drawn out; these can should and will use the backtracking method to lengthen gameplay.


To quickly summarise the basic plan with this map, ideally, we decided as a team that we want the player to start with their home village locations marked with H, continuing through the forest while being chased by these scout drones. The use of the forest comes in play to integrate a sneak/hide mechanic to lose the drones trail. Another is for the placement of the treehouse, and together with the team, we decided that the best location for this safe zone is to keep it within the deep layers of bushes and trees.

Players, continue from the tree house to the church as they spot movement(light source) coming from the church location. As they cross the farming domains, they are in the open, exposed and at risk, they can choose to take the town route or follow through the fields and sneak through bushes.


Final Detailed Draft

Going over some more details, as the title suggests this piece of work is the late and updated draft experiment. The skydome is a standard unity shader, used to light the sky in the scene and can be edited to change the mood and atmosphere. This draft takes into consideration that the game's atmosphere and mood changes during the second update of the script. Additionally, our team hasn't been able to structure a detailed design document, which made the script the next closest in line.


We rehearsed the story more than once during group meetings, this time was used to make notes, which helped to visualise the effects or colours. The game build happens during the night hours, and as night falls the terrain gets darker so to maintain the light in the streets or neighbourhood locations there had been street lamp built and set up to (spotlight) elements to illuminate the player's navigation.


For this process, I used the object and element modifiers from Pro-builder. Another practical tool in Pro-builder is the option to inverse faces; the dome sphere needed to show the material shader using the faces from the inside of the shape, that way the colliders face the inner faces which holds the players within the walls of the dome sphere.

Dome design

The design of the dome sphere includes experimentation with solid textures and sharp contrast of colours for dramatic purposes. To randomly generate a this filed of energy texture detail, I used current assets of tree barks and attached those to the Normal map option in the material shader, thus, by playing around with the colour selection and transparency of the albedo layer it had given the shader the mist and dark velvet contrast.



First Prototype:

Grey boxing, Vegetation, Textures


The First Concept Art of Framandi

After the previous draft plans of the map, there was room for improvement. Inspiration and provocation manifested after exploring the highest level of map designs in the current most successful third-person platformer video games. Here we have some screenshots from the open world of "Horizon Zero Dawn", the symbols and layout appear simple which helps to keep things clear for the player.


Another, design choice which was also implemented below in the development of Framandi Concept Art, is the colour shades for different height levels. The colour pallet that shows the progression from lighter grey to darker grey areas describes the drastic or slow height increase in ground levels.

The locations and navigation have been approached with minimalism in case the concept art is due to operate as the game's minimap; each area uses a large icon to make it easy to remember, some have letters and others symbols. The minimalist approach also keeps the map cleaner, and clearer, should the player use it to navigate.


Listed locations are as follows, based on the quests and story drive:

1. HOME

2. TREE-HOUSE

3. CHURCH

4. TOWN

5. SCHOOL

6. CAVE


This image below uses the green arrows to describes a potential gameplay plan.

In conclusion to the design, one could improve the map by replacing letters with basic symbolic icons, as drawings can appear to be more descriptive and are more practical when applied in video games. Furthermore, there should be more painted details with diversity and colours to map out the forestation and vegetation and to ultimately support with the believability of the location by presenting a map that traces the geographic imagery on an Icelandic environment.


Environment Detailing and Assets Implimentation

The design of the prototype strongly references the concept art plan; besides that, the terrain tool from the prototype version begun from scratch due to new road systems or variance in height map information. This drawing with the map concept was attached to a flat plane which was later aligned and scaled after the terrain size to draw out the roads system accurately. This method was used in the past when exploring the possibilities of blocking out the map with Pro-builder.

With this version of the game, the goal was to have a standard base from which to update the terrain, after learning new techniques and concerning the feedback. The main focus areas were the spawn development and maintenance of control over how much or where the player should and must be allowed to navigate. This version of the map also includes a world fog simulation, found inside Unity's, Lighting settings window. The tool is easily manipulative and enables the user to change the density or colour of the fog effect.

The spawn location is inside the village perimeter; this is where the kids live at one of the neighbouring houses. From the image below we can see the layout of this place. Previous housing, street lamps and the dome concept utilised again from the grey-boxing stages. Besides that, new assets were implemented to populate the environment some of which support with accessibility and maintenance of navigational control (wooden fences, stone walls, path trees); others are in planning phases to be used as wall scanners and to trigger scouting drones.

Problems Faced

Some issues with this prototype looked at the light information and how colours and textures of assets were not displayed correctly.

Another issue, with standard ground textures, did not correlate with the grass details painted and more research around the method of layering textures/terrain details remains demanding.

Lastly, to create large scaled areas with mountains or footpaths, the landscape generation had been sufficient; yet, over time there had been signs where, as the player runs, there seems to be much flickering. The image below shows some glitches of light and shadow that forms an unpleasant outcome.


Testing and Development of Prototype #1

Testing Week Feedback:

  1. Map feels too large!

  2. Objectives not easy to locate

  3. Sections of the map feel empty

Resolutions:

  1. Decrease in scale by 25%

  2. Edit specific terrain heights for better sight & vision

  3. ADD ROADS PATTERN TO ILLUSTRATE FAMILIAR GUIDANCE

  4. FURTHER CLOSURE IS PLANNED TO DENY PLAYER ACCESS

  5. BUILDINGS ACCESSORIES, STREET SIGNS AND FOLKLORE SYMBOLS

Summary of directional focus

The prototype testing went as expected, as the process of development usually goes, there are several/many areas that require further research and experimentations. To either fix or enhance the overall look of the environment. The testing feedback and the list of resolutions, highlight, that the environment needs rebuilding.




Further Development...


Deep Volumetric Fog

Unity's basic fog simulation is not the most immersive and supportive tool. One requires better methods of developing the atmosphere and mood to improve on the appearance and realism of the level.


Unity works closely with Github where a group of developers have provided post processing sources such as this DeepSky Haze plugin. Following the instructions of the plugin, guides the user on how to create a Haze Zone, as shown in the image below.


The next step in creating this more profound fog effect is to attach the "Haze View" script to the camera in the scene that triggers the haze zone and shows the asset context. This asset context is the script that holds the modifiers on the fog, the height and number of layers, how voluminous/transparent it needs to be or what colours to assign.

Haze Fog Implimentation

Below is the modified version of the fog effect, for moonlight and cold moodiness.

I achieved this, by making some small adjustments to the colours, the variance of fog in measure of distance and the three layers from the bottom, mid and high sector. Afterwards, I attached the Haze View script to the camera, in the player controller.

At this point, I had also updated to a new Unity version which helped to fix some of the wrong lighting information that was causing the assets to lose colour and material values. Additionally, there was a possibility to fix this issue without updating versions, by selecting a different way of baking the light information.


With the current setup, it uses the mixed light information which bakes some information and allows for real-time rendering also. Furthermore, it also turns out that some of the flickerings were caused depending on the type of shadow level selected, such as the hard shadow. However, as the Unity version updated, I also received a Terrain tool update that enabled for more modifiers and cleaned up some issues around the terrain tool, which may have helped overall to fix this issue.

Implement draft assets: houses, placeholder character, story/quest props and alien-tech


Advanced Research

Advanced Tutorials

Using a 3d mesh painter to layout quick smaller items gives a better sense of randomness, and it saves a lot of time when working on the outdoor environment” is a sentence extracted from an online tutorial on Unity 3D, environment design. It reveals simple and efficient methods of using lists of smaller major components needed to add to the overall believability of the scene.

That list includes:

  • Plants

  • Sticks

  • Smaller/Larger Rocks

  • Trees

  • Green Patches

  • Tall Grass

Josh Powers who is an industry veteran uses Quixel: Megascans asset pack to demonstrate how to fill a unity scene with outdoor environment assets. His focus in that tutorial is to teach a method called the deprecated workflow of building an environment. As explained the artist breaks down in details the required elements to achieving high-quality environments and explains how useful and necessary Quixel Brush toolset and Megascans/Valley asset packs are to save time on making assets.



Night Environment Exercise

The new post-processing effects improve the atmosphere of the game, yet it would be foolish to say that there is no room for improvements, in particular, the approach for achieving realistic landscape generation.


"WatchFindDo Media" provides a tutorial demonstrating ways of improving the quality of the landscape and the believability of a night environment. This video was handy, and it covers many focuses such as working with Unity's standard tools. Including, the terrain tool for outside environments, Skydome as the source of sunlight, Light render settings, water simulation and wind zone simulation. From those tools, this tutorial demonstrates ways of building depth and volume, setting ambience to the scene, and adding believable simulations.


The experiment below was developed based on those methods of implementation and modification. The goal was to explore how specific tools work and the sort of compositing available to achieve with the use of these tools. While working with the brush modifiers, the density makes a significant impact on the outcome; however, I noticed that during real-time rendering the camera view slows down as there are considerably more chunks of details to process.


Zbrush Plugin: Terrain Tool

Additionally, as shown below, sculpting is another option. In Zbrush, there is a terrain tool plugin that was used to build the base level shown in the moving experimentation below. To use this data inside unity later, it requires exportation as a RAW file format.

Images above are sourced from the creator of the plugin.


The raw-data comes as a black and white image; it uses these two sets of colours to identify changes in the height. If the area has softer black to grey the likely result will be a smooth hill; a black to white progression will mean that the data has jagged and sharp mountain peaks.


Traditional Artforms

In the search for country and wildlife scenery, and the search for natures intense vibrancy of beautiful and contrasting imagery. I have stumbled over a painter, Shelleen Stoesz. “The prairie woman” as she calls herself, a term which is understandable and communicative to the artist image she strives to portray, thus, about the sort of artistic approach she focuses on — the beauty of nature. Her mediums and techniques are traditional and classic, consisting mostly of acrylic paintings on canvas.

From a technical and composition analyses, I find that the organic formation of objects, the perspective of building depth and the small focus to details to show a blend of stylisation/realism are the aspects that help her work to stand out. Undoubtedly, on this occasion, another crucial factor is the use of colours. To be able to control the progression of them and to create this contrast of shades, of luminance, thus, a method of focalisation of the eye to a particular set of objects in the scene.

These 4 elements help to aspire excellence. From the first moments, her artwork offers clear guidance on how to approach the environment development from technical points and the distinct points. I intend to implement these ideas when layering trees, plants, colours and ground textures to build complex sceneries within my work.

By exploring the composition in the following examples below, ideally, one should able to understand the levels required to build volume, to populate and structure assets uninformed. The composition includes different elements such as scrubs/bushes, plants, tall grass and a silver birch type trees forest. Given the diversity of assets needed I intend to do in-depth research for public assets that might support me to achieve such high levels of compositing in our video game.


I adore each of the paintings, and how it reflects a different message, beginning with the fertile and warm valleys of autumn, continuing through dirty yellowish hills, towards grey and rocky mountains. Others show bright shades of blue skies and matured golden woodlands.


Research on Design Methods

There seem to be a variance in methods one should use to create a 3d environment for the game. Unity provides a terrain tool which allows the user to modify several things, painting heigh map details, paintings textures, paintings trees and smaller grass or mesh details, to help create that real-world design.


Mothods identified:

  • Pro Builder & Polypaint

  • Unity Terrain

  • Ground Mesh Assembly

Out of each method mentioned, the most effective choice when building an environment that requires realistic outcomes and that mostly consist of outdoor landscapes is to use the ground mesh assembly. However, our team does not own very high-quality assets, also we have to stay within budgets, and the next best choice is to use the unity standard assets and terrain tools.


The method of Ground Mesh Assembly is pretty much self-explanatory. One can use smaller geometry planes and stack them together to composite a corner of the map slowly. It is a tedious workflow, having to move small assets into position individually, however, the results are amazing as one has full control of the design choices.

This method was discovered in a tutorial by Josh Powers. The use of rocks and boulders is also useful to step up in height.





Production Stages: Level Design and Development

2d Mapping & 3d Projection

Using the sketches and concepts to form a visual guiding reference.


Advanced Development of Mechanics with visual and written plans

Second Prototype:

Environment Design

Acting in accordance with the feedback received and resolutions the decision was to start using a new terrain tool. The initial plans, however, were to continue from the design of prototype one. The issue came as the previous version was too large in scale and downscaling causes the whole heightmap information to reset from ground zero.


I decided to focus on the forest and to build the ambience there and later grow the rest of the environment after setting up the forestation details. It was a long process of testing which trees fit best, scale, correlation, the textures and to show the diversity and not seem cloned. Iceland does not have many types of trees, so there were three main choices of trees to use aspen, birch and the rowan tree.

In the process of searching for copyright free assets, a blog post in the procedural world's website constructs an extensive list of 200+ curated quality assets.

Again, trying to observe the rich details from Iceland's photographs for visualisation and to inspire on painting the grass with variance. In the left hand side image, the grass noise spread levels have been modified to achieve more random differences in scale when painting the grass details. This modifier can be found via the terrain inspector, in the details option settings.

Besides, the noise information extra tweaking has to made and tested relating to the increase or decrease for width and height information.

Here are some option available for painting trees using the terrain tool. Out of these, the brush size and tree density are the standard handy options. Let us give an example of planning to paint a large area with trees that do not need different shaping or to hold individual scaling information. To creating a particular correlation or a dynamic view.

In that case, using the random options that enable the user to set a tree guide limit for the height and width; this will be enough to create a simple growth variance, and rather quickly. This method was used to paint the majority of the middle and outer sectors of the forest which are less visible in-game.



Towards the centre, however, I limited the height and width variance of randomness and only tweaked the height/width if needed. Also, trees towards the centre were painted manually using a small brush scale averaging from 1 to 4 in size. This way, the brush tool allows for trees to be painted one by one.


As shown below. During the previous version of the map designs, there was no or limited focus on guiding the player using the environment. With this design of the forest, the footpath through the centre acts as a navigation guide.

The workflow here was slow, and it required many play tests to tweak certain spots and set heights or high/low density each time it was needed. One thing to take into consideration is that when painting dense patches, sometimes the tool does not allow for more trees to be added in that space, however, by using the lowest brush size and highest tree density, one can implement the trees wanted.


As a conclusion, the layout of the forest, with the different details of trees, with bushes and the grass, was to make the traverse experience immersive and to imitate real-life.

To make the player want to spend more time, to observe and to feel a slightly relaxed state, that one usually gets to experience in the real forest environment.


Environment Animation

Engine animation, outdoors environment assets movement, in this case, was achieved by creating a wind zones component. To develop the movement even more and to build an animatic link between the trees movement and ground details. The terrain tool provides options to tweaking wind settings to enable for grass movement.

Advanced lighting techniques were being used to explore the behaviour of the skybox. Here one can see that I have modified the colour tone and the light source, position of the moon to the top of the scene to generate a mystic feel surrounding the player.

Village Design

The collection of images from the left and right describe the top view of the map layout, and in the screenshot from the right, this includes the colliders assembly. It was necessary to add these, in order to maintatin the player in a designated environment and not be able to access places which must not be part accessible based on the script documentation or gameplay plans.


It is clear that more time was utilied for the forest location as the level of quality varies, yet to test the game, this village implementation was a necessary element to have.

In this version of the village, the majority of the assets populated are received from the environment artist and implemented. The role here involved positioning and assembling the assets appropriately to slowly build a layout that supports the concept of a village neighbourhood.

The rockfall design, adds further details with visual interest by setting up an area to shown awareness and present a danger to the village. This design element tries to create a visual idea in the mind of the player, whereas the aliens arrived, they have been causing movement in the soil which weaken the landscape. That there are seismic frictions causing damage to the ground soil.


In conclusion, it adds to the story by acting to inform players about the alien's digging operations and mining done inside the volcano.


Testing and Development of Prototype #2

Testing Week Feedback:

  1. I was following my teammate, in some part I got a bit lost and I didn't know exactly where to go.

  2. Less fog

  3. Perhaps add a UI system or a minimap that tells you where to go

  4. Initially it is simple to navigate the beaten path, however, without the co-op partner navigating me, I would've been easily lost. I think that the use of a breadcrumb trail, or a map would help out in making it easier.

Resolutions:

  1. More efficient placement of assets

  2. Bugs testing

  3. Team collab to develop mechanics, navigation and starter tutorial

  4. Completing major map locations

Major Change and Updates

  1. New unity version for patching issues to lights and shadows terrain flickering

  2. Terrain Update: further choices of modification around resolution, brushes, details and advantage of tiling multi-terrain objects together

  3. Use of plugins for Volumetric Lighting and Advanced Fog, Depth of Field and Atmosphere


Post Processing Effects

During the late days of February, together with my best pal, we left his neighbourhood and set off in a journey to the nearby corner shop. As we continued making ground progress, the effect of the fog grew thicker, the mist was setting, and in the air, I could feel a chilly wind breeze. The atmosphere, filled with wet particles, it felt like moisture and was frosty.

Discovering real-life inspiration for the development of the atmosphere. Here I was studying how nature builds these layers of ambience and how the fog caused blurriness and how details in distance began fading. It was beautiful to see how colours and lights behave or affect the landscape — especially the colder and warmer contrasts of colours that expanded projecting volumes of light data in the radius of the source.


Volumetric lights

The volumetric light implementation was quite straight forward, developed by Robert Cupisz, and sourced from Unity-Technologies/VolumetricLighting repository inside the GitHub platform. This effect used depth, height fog and light shaders to create physically based scattering. It uses the point set from the light component and sets a new location, based on the light's range to project samples of volume in-between which is what builds up this effect. The shaders include a bilateral blur which turns out to support the result by making it more smooth during the downsampling.


I learnt about the functionality of the volumetric light from studying the code and shaders provided in the source offered by Unity's developers via the GitHub platform.

The stages of attachment were primary; there are two main scripts to include; one is for the light component that should adopt the volumetric effect. The other consists of code that gets attached as a camera script component; it tells the camera to render the information of the volumetric scattering effect.

A more complex issue came as Unity did not automatically build new element slots for the attachment of the additional set of shaders. From the project settings window, under Graphics one can choose to insert more shaders and link the necessary ones to create the volumetric light. In my case, the elements numbered 7, 8 and 9 are connected.


Camera Frost

An effect which influences to imitate the frosty moisture from the rea-life example. It behaves around the exterior edges of camera. A blur/grain filter that could potentially take effect on object and light components during circumstances of real-time as shown below.


Third Prototype:

Advanced layout and design decision making

(this planning process focuses on Village and Forest)


I am using a design style that will allow us to offer gameplay with more vibrant and focused visual appeal. The updated map plan includes more details of height information and with cleaner minimalistic design for the housing/roads assembly. This design choice was inspired by the simple design layout of the London Underground map.

Development of gameplay and player mechanics with focus on interactions that provides intuitive and repetitive content


Together with the creative and programming members of our group, we used the closeup sketches of the village and forest path to improve the playability and player drive. We were mapping out symbols and notes for assets which should and must be implemented to guide us for when it comes to setting up functions and gameplay elements. The goal with the new map layout of the village was chosen to minimise the area of exploration, that allows for more time to focus on the process of design, and use the time to apply details in small areas rather than aiming huge and not being able to apply proper levels of details.


Additionally, this layout was chosen to support navigation and to control the area of view or interests by setting higher grounds. The ground surrounding the perimeters of the village will aim to act as a fence wall that makes the player feel trapped and communicates to them that the alternative direction is down towards the road or through the neighbouring forest. If one is to imagine the shape of the village, it is the same as placing a heavy ball in the sand to create a circular mould, then houses are positioned around the exterior of the mould with pathways leading down to the center of the mould where they each reach the road.


The Village to Treehouse design plan of gameplay, used to support the programmers and to visually analyse the player progression and also to plan interactions.

Visiting Museums & Galleries

V&A - Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt


Inspiration from The Last of Us, and the post-apocalypse by Darran Anderson. Where the team uses a written game plan to visually explore the flow of the gameplay and script together as one large notes plan.