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About Me

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  1. Hello there NLD! Recently I ended up graduating from my University. In my last semester there I took an Independent Study on Level Design with my professor. Working off of Chris Totten's "An Architectural Approach to Level Design" I ended up building the project I have linked at the end of this post. Through the course of the semester I've worked on the levels within the project, making them once a week, with some semester scheduling and events delaying them. Each level is based upon one chapter from the book, attempting to execute upon one of the ideas in that chapter. I'm hoping that I can get some feedback on this project, I've worked a while on it but I've definitely run into a few hurdles. The main issue I ran into building this is that many of the principles with my text were based around showcasing the mechanics of the game you would be designing for. This being a semester project among many credit hours and starting from a base Unity project there was the issue of a lack of mechanics to inform the structure of many of these level snippets. I did what I could however! Thanks for reading and I'd love for any feedback at all! Project link here: Photos attached are screen shots of some of the more aesthetic levels.
  2. 10-hours Blockout for FPS genre (aim map for CS:GO almost) 2D Drawing, 3D Modeling and Rendering: Rhino v6 (Note: probs are taken from «POLYGON- Battle Royale Pack») Playtest engine: Unity More shots:
  3. The following is a recap of an article which is shared on 80 Level. It captures Jon Michael Hickenbottom's experience of the Level Design for Games course offered by CG Master Academy. Jon is currently a Level Designer at New World Interactive, and has worked on games such as Insurgency and Day of Infamy. Getting Started Off the bat, this was my first time using both Unity and Maya to block out levels. Challenge accepted! Coming from a background of Source Engine and Unreal Editor, I had never used a modeling package to create layouts in this fashion. While nervous on how I’d adapt, I quickly discovered the speedy back and forth between Maya and Unity to be very helpful with making iteration and refinement of shapes in the scene painless. Furthermore, Unity was quickly generating collision automatically to help me get from blockout to playtesting within seconds. With Unity and Maya synced up, I was ready to get started! Using Reference An important first step for me is to find reference and inspiration. Google Images, Flickr, and Pinterest are always solid sources for image inspiration and direction. I enjoy discovering supplemental inspiration from art history books, cinematography and “art of” books from various games. Assembling images into a mood board for assignments in either Pinterest or Photoshop kept me focused, and became a catalyst for creativity when encountering mental blocks along the way. The found images began to spark new ideas that may not have otherwise been considered. For a section of the course, the theme was centered around the Wild West. I wanted to create a sense of scale, beauty, and risk within each of my levels. I tried to focus my reference search on shapes and spaces that could communicate this to the player. Inspiration was found in the remarkable art by William Henry Holmes, the thoughtful cinematography of Roger Deakins, the detailed environments in the Desperados series, the splendor of Westworld, and childhood memories of Back to the Future 3. One exciting discovery was remembering the photos I had taken on a summer trip to Zion National Park. These became great references for the shapes and aesthetic of the blockouts. Carrying around a camera or camera phone is a perfect way to easily build a personal reference library that you never know when will come in handy. It also serves in sharpening one’s eye for composition and framing! Scale Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Painting with Shapes Emilia Schatz redefined my understanding of how to paint with shapes. I started a rough idea of my layout on graph paper, but I quickly jumped into Maya to get started. Throughout the course, I challenged myself in these projects to be more comfortable off the grid and break from symmetry. With a background of level editors that encouraged the use of the grid for either organization or optimization, it was a refreshing endeavor to live comfortably off the grid, while still maintaining the use of metrics and proper scale. Living off the grid allowed me to thoughtfully paint shapes without restriction and limitation, thus focusing more on the artistic aspects of level design. This focus was freeing, and I could foresee the creative synergy that would occur between designers and artists as we move to understand the disciplines of one another. Within the past few years, I’ve sought to become a better artist in my pursuit to become a better designer. This course strengthened that pursuit. Through Emilia’s lessons, I began to appreciate the thoughtfulness required of each shape I created and each object I placed; not just from a level designer’s perspective but in how my choices could, in turn, affect a fellow collaborative artist’s workflow. One wonderfully valuable tip was the power of the cube. I had always struggled to understand how complicated terrain and landscapes were created in games like Uncharted. Emilia introduced us to her use of the almighty cube. By squashing, stretching, and slicing a cube, the forms of various terrain elements begin to take shape. In moving these manipulated cubes within one another, it became clearer as to how to craft natural, seismic formations. The idea at this stage was not to worry about optimizing and welding vertices; it was more important to paint shapes, compose compositions, and create interesting spaces. Composition Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Landmarks & Internal Compass Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Crafting Districts & Nodes As we moved from singular areas to large spaces, Emilia introduced us to the idea of nodes, edges, and districts. As I began to map out my level, I began to discover the points of intersection— these are considered nodes. Nodes can be described as intersections and decision points within your paths. They also become great positions to form your compositions around. We can be certain the player will circulate through these points, and therefore be perfect for framing your compositions. Emilia encouraged us to set up various cameras to keep our focus on shaping and refining strong compositions at these points. Edges help communicate that you are entering into a new space. These can be thought of as linear elements that help divide one area from another. I tried to place these around various districts within the level. For example, a grand wall and gate at the entrance help communicate the borders of the town, a small fence shows where a graveyard starts, and a large archway was placed to divide the market area from a military camp. Finally, building your spaces to include identifiable districts helps promote identity and contrast within your levels. It also allows for interesting points of connection between spaces. Bringing all the elements together, the following image shows some of the various district identities I tried to communicate: a marketplace, jagged graveyard, elevated upper class, separated lower class, and the nature surrounding all of these. By employing compositions at these nodes, structuring identifiable edges, and creating distinct districts, I hoped to implement a spatial composition the player found interesting to explore, discover, and inhabit. Bringing It All Together Follow the link at the end to read this section of the article. Conclusion This course provided me with a masterclass of knowledge that I’ve only scratched the surface on here. I’ve found a renewed outlook on crafting levels with intentional shapes and heightened shape language. It continually stretched and challenged me as a designer, and helped me build a sturdy confidence in tools, perspectives, and genres I had never explored before. I learned how to trust myself more, and free myself to create designs that expressed what was true to my heart. I count myself fortunate to have learned from Emilia Schatz. Her constructive feedback never wavered, and what she shared was always what I and the class needed to hear most. I encourage anyone—at any experience level—to take this course. It has fundamentally changed how I will approach level design. I highly recommend CG Master Academy and especially Level Design for Games with Emilia Schatz. For the full article, follow this link: Follow John Twitter: Website: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  4. Great looking models, textures, and ambiances and lighting are very important to making our games look as good as they can. Yet without a solid composition to build upon, the visual structure of our environments will be never as compelling or attractive as they can be. The Challenge: Creating compositions in a real time game environment is different from static images such as a photograph or painting in the sense that the camera or the player’s frame of reference is always moving. The player moves through a 3 dimensional space, which effectively creates a brand new composition with every frame. This is similar to film, but can differ if there is a ‘free camera’, where the player has physical control over what the camera is looking at. If this is the case there are no guarantees that the player will be looking where you want them to, when you want them to. With a free camera the artist needs to persuade the player’s eye (and camera) to the places they want them to look, or go. Due to the complications created by an ever-changing frame of reference and an unpredictable camera, level composition should be looked at as the sum of many smaller compositions instead of one large one. All possible viewing angles and player/camera positions should be considered and then the appropriate compositions built from these starting points. Creating Compositions: Elements and Principles The “elements of design” and the “principles of design” have been called the language of art, or the building blocks used to create art. For the environment artist, they are the modular pieces, tile sets, prop objects, and lights we have to build our levels. 1. The Elements of Design The elements of design provide a tool set to the artist similar to visual Lego pieces with which images can be constructed. There are 7 types of elements... Line shape size space colour texture value Line: Line is anything that is used to define a shape, contour or outline. It communicates length and direction, and can have an emotional impact on the viewer depending on its angle. The 4 different types of lines are horizontal, vertical, oblique, and curved. Here are some examples… Horizontal lines: These imply calm and rest. Vertical lines: communicate power and strength. Oblique lines: suggest movement, action, or change Curved lines (S lines): portray quiet and calm Lines are a very useful for leading the eye of the player to a desired location, or in the direction you want them to travel. Shape: shapes are created through combinations of lines, but can also be made by a change in colour or tone. The following are the different categories of shapes... Geometric – architectural shapes, manufactured or ‘inorganic’ Organic – natural shapes, or those created by curved irregular lines Positive/Negative – the shapes created by the physical objects that occupy space, or lack thereof. Static – stable and immobile shapes Dynamic – shapes that imply movement or activity Size (scale): Size is the relationship between the proportions of shapes, since you don’t know how big anything is until it’s placed in reference of something else. Differences in size will place a visual emphasis or lack of emphasis on a shape. Space: This is the negative space (or negative shape) created through the arrangement of negative shapes. Colour: The subject of colour would be a whole separate paper, or book even, so I’ll define it very briefly. Simply put, every colour is the result of mixing a Hue, a Value, and an Intensity. Colours can be warm or cool. A wide range of contrasts can be created using colour. For a more thorough explanation, refer to Johannes Itten’s “Art of Colour” Texture: Environment artists are well acquainted with textures. As an element of design,' texture' refers to the way a surface looks. Matte, shiny, bumpy, etc. are all textures. Value: The final element is value. This is also sometimes called ‘Form’. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of an object, a shadow, or a colour. Value can be increased or decreased by adding white or black, or increasing/decreasing the intensity of its lighting. The location of light sources and their intensity has a huge influence on a appearance of the scene and on the emotional response of the player. 2. The Principles of Design: The “Principles of design” are the techniques used for the effective arrangement and distribution of elements into a composition. The principles are... Balance Direction Emphasis Proportion Rhythm Economy Unity Just as multiple elements can be combined together, so can multiple principles. Artists are definitely not limited to one principle per image. By understanding and applying these principles to our levels we can be more effective in achieving our visual goals, and communicating our ideas to our audience. Balance: Balance is a result of the fact that the player’s eye will unconsciously use the middle of the screen as a fulcrum, a center point of the left and right side. Balance is achieved by arranging elements so that neither side is visually overpowering or heavier than another. All the elements an artist has to work with have a visual weight associated with them, depending on their colour, value, and size. Dark elements weigh more than light elements, large elements weigh more than small elements, etc. Maintaining visual balance requires consciously distributing an appropriate number of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ elements on either side of this fulcrum, at appropriate distances. There are 2 ways to balance elements on the screen, symmetrically, and asymmetrically. Symmetrical Balance is pleasing to the eye and has an emotional effect of peace, calm, and tranquility. There are 3 different types of symmetrical balance… Translatory, Rotational, and Axial. Translatory Symmetry is where elements at the same height in the Y axis are copied from right to left. Rotational (Radial) Symmetry is the rotation of elements from a common pivot Axial (Mirror) Symmetry is where elements are balanced equally on both sides of the fulcrum Asymmetrical Balance: Asymmetrical balance is achieved by arranging elements of differing size and weight unevenly around the fulcrum so that they balance each other respectively. Another asymmetrical balance is one large dominant element offset by many smaller/lighter elements. Asymmetrical compositions generally have a greater sense of visual tension and have an opposite emotional effect on the player than symmetrical balance. They instil a feeling of excitement, curiosity, or anxiety. Direction: Direction is given by the arrangement, angle, and distribution of elements. The visual flow created by direction is used to lead the player’s eye through a composition, or even more literally, used to physically lead the player where the designer wants them to go. Direction can be used to emphasize depth and the scale of a location or area. the placement of dark and light values are very powerful tools for creating direction. Emphasis: The emphasis in a level is the environmental focal point of a location. This is also known as a ‘center piece’ or a ‘hero object’. Direction can be used to lead a player through an area, but you don’t stop them with emphasis points of interest, the area will not be interesting and they’ll run past all your hard work. Proportion: Proportion in composition refers to the size relationship of elements versus each other, and vs. the world as a whole. Structural proportions (like the distance between a ceiling and floor) are used for a number of things. They can create visual emphasis and importance, and can have an emotional effect on player such as power, intimidation. Proportion also refers to the Golden Mean and the Rule of Thirds. In videogames our dynamic and player-controlled camera’s make it difficult to implement these aspects of proportion into our compositions, but in certain circumstances they can be a used. These proportional ‘rules’ have been studied for hundreds of years, and are very important in composition due to the emotional response it brings from the viewer. The golden mean is 1 : 1.618, or this… The rule of thirds is the division of screen into 3 equal sections vertically and horizontally. When elements are placed at these intersections the composition will be more pleasing to the viewer. Rhythm: Rhythm is the repeating occurrence of visual elements. Rhythm is visually soothing to our eyes and people instinctively will follow a rhythmic pattern. In a composition, Rhythm can be used to create depth in a scene. It can create a sense of movement, or place emphasis on an object. Economy: A level in a videogame is typically filled with movement, VFX, sounds, and maybe a little too frequently someone trying to shoot you. With all of this action (and distraction) a composition needs to read very quickly and clearly. If it is too complex, cluttered, or subtle, it will be missed and lost. This is where ‘economy’ comes in. If you can remove an element within a design and the design still works then you can communicate your composition more efficiently. When creating a composition there is no need to offer more than what is required. Use what you need, optimize where you can. (Just like polygon modeling:) The following are different examples of economy, using symmetry, direction, rhythm, and size, and emphasis. Unity: The last of the principles of design is Unity, also called ‘unity within variety’. Unity is the relationship between all the separate elements of a scene or level. It creates a feeling of ‘wholeness’ to a scene, the sense that everything is tied together visually. One method of achieving unity is through proximity. When placing props for example, small clusters or groups is more aesthetically pleasing to a composition than randomly scattering them about. Repetition also results in unity. This can be the repetition of colour, shape, texture, or other elements. Continuation is a more subtle technique involving controlling the eye movement and intentionally leading it back into a composition. -jeremy price *Note: This article is posted on Next Level Design with permission from the author Source: Follow Jeremy Twitter: Website: Follow Next Level Design Join the Forum: Follow us on Twitter: Discuss on Discord:
  5. This was a final submission for the CG Master Academy's course Level Design for Games course. PROJECT DETAILS Platform: Windows PC Genre: Third Person Shooter Engine: Unity Language: C# Tools Used: Adobe Photoshop Autodesk Maya Assetpack done by REDBEE Completion: Full Blockout Singular level that followed pre-determined level beats* Team Size: 1 Role: White box, enemy placement, objective placement *Level beats provided by Emilia Schatz Download: Dastardly Dirty Dan's Stolen Treasure PROJECT PROMPT Note: Given only a level-beat to go off of, I took the liberty of beefing up the scenario to give the level some more personality and emotional attachment. Assignment Scenario Assignment Prompt: Many years ago, the cowboy’s mother was a prospector, and struck it rich. Unfortunately, her partner betrayed her and stole all the gold for himself. The cowboy’s mom tracked him down, but he died before she could find out where he stowed all the gold. Recently, the cowboy happened upon a some clues about the gold’s location. But his sworn enemy overheard his plans to find it, and has gotten here first, with an army of desperados. They’ll use any means necessary to keep the cowboy from his treasure. Personal Scenario You were just a child back then. Your mother was a prospector and a very good one at that. Your foggy memory recalls that one day you were playing down river on your own, just within sight of your mom and her business partner. Your mother shouted out in absolute GLEE with what she found! The biggest nugget of gold ever found within a 10 mile radius! You started to see several gold chunks reach you and her shouting turned into a heated argument with the other man nearby. He shoved her on the floor only to pull out his gun. You saw her turn to you to say “RUN” but it was too late. As you stumble through the cracks of a small opening in the rocks, you use the CRACK of the gunshot you remember so many years ago to muster all the strength you have for the journey ahead. That dastardly Dirty Dan stole what wasn’t his. It’s time for you to get what was stolen from your mother; take what’s rightfully yours. Mechanics* Over-the-shoulder third person enemy wave shooter. Cover mechanics are heavily involved when fighting in combat spaces. Controls are as follows: Player can run (shift) Jump (spacebar) Vaulting over waist-high obstacles when pressing forward (W) and jump (spacebar) Focus aim (right click hold) Save points (as trigger volumes) Three (3) weapons Holster (1 key) Pistol (2 key) Machine Gun (3 key) Grenade (g) *Note: Cover, shooting, grenade, animations, and AI systems were done by Redbee. A link to the Unity store posting can be found here. Deliverables For this final assignment, a full level was created using the following level beats. A singular level Following this structure: Explore Valve, then Small Combat Explore Valve, then Big Combat Find the Treasure! Use what was learned about speaking to the player with the voice of archetypes. Try to incorporate aspects of each. Begin with the Herald and Mentor. The Mentor should decrease over the course of the level as the Shadow increases. Upload a jpg image of your level along with your project file. Liberties: Free to use any means to create the geometry, including borrowing from previous levels created for this class. I personally made it a goal after the deliverable duration to create the following: A compiled Executable / Build of your complete playable level. Please ensure that the build target is for Windows (32 or 64 bit), and that any DLLs or External File Dependencies are included alongside the EXE for the level. For more information and thorough breakdown of my workflow, you can visit my portfolio breakdown here:
    Cover Image Intro / Exploration Beat 1st Valve + First Combat Beat 2nd Exploration Beat 2nd Exploration Beat End of 2nd Exp Beat + 2nd Valve 2nd Combat Beat 2nd Combat Beat 2nd Combat Beat 2nd Combat Beat