“Game Art is a fast moving industry and it is necessary to be able to work quickly, effectively and as part of a team. This project should give you the opportunity to understand what your chosen specialism would be like. Together we will be working towards a large goal (Game), this will have separate elements (Levels) and these levels should have individual content that you can put towards your portfolio.
This project has elements that will allow concept artists, character artists, environment artists and engine artists to develop their skills, and hopefully allow you as a year group to create something larger and more impressive.” – Project Introduction
As part of the Engine team for this project I was tasked with creating “a playable game that can load each level section. Each level should be lit effectively and should contain various events that can work with gameplay. The first half of the project should involve white boxing and flushing out the development of the gameplay. The second half should involve bringing in assets and finalising the appearance of each level.”
This brief was what we were given to understand what our job role was as a member of the engine team throughout the duration of the project. Knowing this we started off by collating everybody’s ideas for what they wanted to be included in the game, in terms of gameplay and interactivity and started to do some research and development into what was going to be possible to get working in the time that we had available.
Given the age of the engine there isn’t as much information online on how to get certain things working in engine. We found that some research was drying up rather quickly and to get things working would take more experimenting ourselves than just copying what someone has already achieved in the past. For example an early idea that was brought to us was to have large leaves that when you land on them they droop and you slide off them. This had to be scrapped as we found that it wasn’t going to be doable in the time restraints. But, getting something like having to pull multiple levers to open a door was achievable although there wasn’t any good pre-existing example of how it would work.
Having a lift system was going to be the key feature in traversing through the majority of the levels so I spent a good amount of time developing the blueprint to get that working. We had a working prototype from a very early stage of development but it was buggy and wasn’t as smooth as needed. The blueprint went through many iterations reducing in complexity but increasing in efficiency each time. Once I had it at a stage that it was watertight and bug free I was able to use it as a base and add more features and iterate off it for other blueprints. For example giving it the option to be triggered before it starts moving as well as making it so that instead of the mesh being a platform to stand on it was an enemy that killed you on contact. It was also used as the base for the ‘Space Whales’, so instead of having it move back and for between 2 locations they fly to the end location and re-spawn at the start. It turned out to be the most useful and diverse tool in our arsenal when creating the gameplay.
Building the levels from a visual stand point wasn’t too much of an issue. Each team had a vision for what direction they wanted the level to go in and with constant communication between us and them we managed to create something very close to their concepts. The larger issue arose when making the levels playable. Not only moving from A to B, Start to Finish, but back again. We wanted it so that the player could fully explore the environment. This meant constant play testing and tweaking to make sure jumps between platforms where achievable as well as fixing collision issues and other game breaking problems that we encountered along the way.
The main issue we had visually was getting the environment to start thinking about the levels as a 3D environment and less of a 2d one. The early whitebox assets we received where very flat, especially in the terrain, and having the sense of depth in the environment was key to getting the look that we ended up with. This was overcome by continuous communication as well as constant referral to the style guide and making sure everyone was working towards a single vision as to what the levels where going to look like.
[Final Level Engine ScreenShots]
There are several elements I would have liked to have seen in the finished product that got cut. For example having a character select screen would have been great given that we had 2 main playable characters working in engine. Unfortunately due to the limitations only working with blueprints and not a C++ build of the engine I wasn’t able to implement that, although I was able to get the real-time physics working on the cloth on the character so not all is lost when it comes to character related features.
I’d be nice to have more sounds in the levels whether it was just ambient or triggered as it helps really bring it to life. But due to time restraints we decided to push the visuals and put all our focus on getting it looking awesome and playable.
Overall it has been a unique experience working on this project. It’s the first time I’ve worked on a project this big with this amount of people and although it has had its low point I feel that I have come out of it will a lot better knowledge of the game engine and a better understanding of what it takes to work with such a variety of personality’s and the organisation and communication skills required to pull something like this off. Although it’s not quite the same it’s got me ready to move forward and take what I’ve learnt and apply that to my upcoming final major project.
I am Elliott Pacel, a Technical Artist at Reflections, Ubisoft.