Monday, June 30, 2014

Blend textures to add subtle wear and tear

I want to talk about tiles. Tiles are a nice texture to use because they have a lot of innate detail. They have grout, which provides opportunities for nice normal maps and variations in phong/envmap specularity, they can have cracks on them which looks cool, and the tiles themselves can have cool designs or just alternating colours. The problem with tiles though is that this inherent detail is misinterpreted for ease of use. As nice as it is to slap a tile texture down and give yourself a pat on the back as you sip you freshly prepared congratulatory cognac on the rocks, it's not at all that simple - as usual, como siempre.

Tiles are actually a pain in the ass to lay down in real life. I tiled my toilet and bathroom once. It was horrible. You have to cut here, lay there, measure this, and it's all such work. This experience led me to look at game tiles in a different light. No longer can I drop a tile texture down, rotate it 45 degrees and think no one will look twice.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Simple hallways aren't at all simple

Gameplay in DA is poised to be liquified awesome, as are the environments. Looking at some professionally made maps helps put your own environment art in perspective. I have taken a screenshot of a simple random hallway in CS:GO and analyzed why it is the standard people expect in modern games. I thought it would be nice to point out what makes a simple scene awesome, and hopefully our loyal readers will gain a bit of an insight into how to look at an environment as more than just an environment. If you can quantify what makes something look good and then replicate that, you'll progress in your skill faster than the average noob

Here's a simple screenshot I took, and the resulting revelations:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Continuous Boogaloo and Hotspot Distribution: Map design principles for Double Action pt 3

As we have already seen, DA is all about continual, flowing movement through the environment. We have managed to tailor the environment to uninterrupted slides and dives, but what about the greater picture? The very layout of a map should allow our action heroes to continually run, dive and slide without hitting a wall or a dead end and having to recalibrate their path. My favourite way of ensuring this is to plan our map in terms of:

Overlapping circles of travel

When planning a map (which is something that needs to take place before starting) you should take into account the greater travel paths of our intrepid heroes. A simple way to think of this for now is three circles overlapping, like a ven diagram:

Doors: Map design principles for Double Action pt 2

Doors are a bit of an 'in joke' for game designers. For something so simple there are a million variables to consider. In DA we have a similar situaion. Considering what we already know about DA's gameplay mechanics, we find that we need to use doors in order to enhance the probability of an uninterrupted boogaloo, which is contrary to the very idea of a door: to stop people.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Divey wivey and smoothin the moovin: Map design principles for Double Action pt 1

Double Actions gameplay is heavily reliant on smooth, fluid and continual movement around the environment. A player is having the most fun when sailing through the air and sliding around corners, akimbos blazing at a similarly horizontal opponent. DA doesn't have any cover system and the crouch key is rarely used (except to stunt). Taking these factoids into consideration we see that it is important that DA maps have long, unobstructed avenues for the player to exercise his right to boogaloo as a verb. Have you ever taken a lateral dive around a corner, vindicator poised to deliver a lead-whoopin on the briefcase bearers behind, only to clip into a stray pole or lonely brush face? You'll realise that this is heavily not fun.

The problem with wide open, unobstructed lanes of fire is that they look bare, but as we start to add detail we also start to block the player. As a small mod dying for attention on the scene we want to have nice, detailed environments to show off to our adoring public, but we can't sacrifice anything in terms of gameplay. So in order to tackle these problems we have a few options.