CryEngine 3 SDK Fun
SO finally started building my first level based from the distilled design methodology derived from the work on ‘Virtual Landscapes’ (my 3 volume book on natural environments in games over the last 30 years)
1) Key images from V.L research
2) Research & Reference phase, using Deepzoom as a tool to collate all the research & reference into one visual space: this has proven to be a very very important and pivotal step in linking R&R to the actual level when contructing it.
a) Using geocontrol2, generated an island terrain, imported into sandbox, not really happy, yes it’ looks good(naturaleroded cliffs etc..) but there is very little in the way of interesting geology to look and explore….
b) I scapped the use of procedural tools to build it by hand, scuplting the terrain with forms based on reference and artistic license!
Reflections in Action: Constructing ShadowMoss Island
1) Tools really can dictate what is and isnt possible when creating a landscape,
2) Constant referring back to a folder for inspiration does not work as it breaks the fluid process of constructing the level, after an initial bout of confusion, the distance between your thoughts and plans for designing a level and the virtual landscape becomes less and less, until you reach that magical point where your hands can effortlessly glide over a keyboard and mouse, instinctively navigate the full toolset via shortcuts and menu selections to build what you imagine
3) R&R can sometimes minor be comparable to the actual physicality of building a level, ideas, and unlinked concepts can suddenly join to become a feasible physical concept, function of a particular part of the landscape(i.e lake) can lead to thoughts about how, where and why the environment around the lake would form, everything appears to interlink, although I would not by no means lessen the importance of R&R phase, there is something can only be felt when actually building the virtual space piece by piece,
1) Block out on paper(topdown map, based from painting of the island map)
2) Build basic form using large brush tools in CE3 SDK, size is EVRYTHING, too many NE environments are nothing more huge boring plateau’s , this is ONE LANDSCAPE! it’s boring and very very limited in terms of what actually exists out there, I resorted to a 1024×1024 pizel map with a 1m/unit setting=1 sq km, which is more than enough for a environment that can be made to be fun, interesting, mythical and incite a player to explore.
3) Block out key features, i.e starting from a macro level, block out the 3 or 4 major features, breaking the sialnd into 8 zones(essentially a circle divided into 4, then subdivided into two parts each(inner circle and the out edge) gives you 8 zones to work on, which when broken down is much more feasible to imagine, reference and construct.
4) Refine each area with your references, for geometry this involves both creating the form(i.e sloping mountain pathway) and actual testing(can you walk up and down the path, is it easy or hard, can you make multiple sub-routes?
5) Finish geometry stage
6) Create the terrain texture(export large 4096×4096 or bigger preview) save this as the base template.
7) use this as a template(heightmap) for WorldMachine/Geocontrol2, the trick is not tot generate the terain by these two tools, but to import them and use the toolset to help generate a far-LOD colour map, giving your terrain a realistic eroded terrain from a distance.
8) Now in PS add the LOD map(ir normal map) onto your greyscale terain texture, and start to paint in your colour layers(grass, sand, rock etc..), I tried grass, but this does not work with a grass type texture it’s way to detailed to form an aerial shot(my next task was to source an aerial shot of a grassy island that I could use as the grass layer…)
So far pretty happy with the result, bit more work and this part should be done soon! A few issues with Sandbox 2:
a) terrain tools are good, but need improving, i.e brush that can follow a shape(block or a spline) useful for carving cliffs at an angle
b) Strange corruption of the terrain(single pixel) which detroys very finely made paths, took me around 5 hours to fix all the path I had initially created and tested meter by meter!
c) Voxel tools, slow and fiddly, needs improvement, fantastic tool though
1) Voxel Caves/Tunnels, overhangs etc..
2) Terrain close detail textures/normal maps(i.e tafoni!)
3) Rock formations, generic & unique
4) Surface Vegatation, generic(grass, shrub, tree’s)
5) Water(rivers, lakes etc…)
6) Weather and Atmospheric effects
7) Tweaking and playtesting….