Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 2

Last week we had a look at whiteboxing out the major details of our level.  We then brought that mesh into a 3d package and started to refine the meshes.  Today we’ll look at bringing them back into the game engine and replace all the primitives with some refined models.  I’d call this the medium detailing portion of the level, so things like structural supports and landmarks should all be placed with first pass meshes and materials.


The modeling process at this point is nothing too complicated.  Simple shapes and basic texture sheet for a majority of the assets.  As you can see on the prop screenshot I try to keep things modular as possible, this way I can try different looks out by piecing parts together.

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Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 1

The whole idea about creating a level from scratch, is to always gather reference, design on paper and begin white boxing.  So let’s say you are a level designer that wants their vision fully fleshed out once it gets passed onto the world art team.  It’s really up to you to lead them to ensure that all the ideas you had from the beginning come across in the game.

What I’m going to show you is my progression in creating a scene in UDK (the image above).  Before set dressing an entire world, it’s wise to create a “visual target.”  In this case I will be using a small section of what would be part of a larger world and fully build it from the ground up with custom models, textures, lighting and finishing things off with a touch of post-fx and screen overlays, to get the unique look I am going for.

I had this idea that I wanted the player to traverse through a roman castle hidden up in the mountain tops.  I am a big fan of Cecil Kim and his work on the God of War series, and I really wanted to capture the feeling of being in an epic environment, after all, level designers want players to feel immersed as if they are part of a living world that extends the gameplay space.  Other than that I did not really have any solid ideas for the level, so it was really up to me to experiment and try different things with size, scale and lighting to convey what I wanted the player to feel.

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Graduation and Awards Show for the 30th class of Game Design

It’s almost Halloween, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on October 17th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a speech from myself, then the student-elected class speaker Anthony Bruno broke down some vital statistics of his past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Andrew Laing closed the speeches with some heart-warming words and stories about fog.

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Anthony, Andy, Elad, Eric, Joel and Adrien, all who graduated with honours.
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Level Design, Game Programming, or Game Art?

It’s about time to choose streams now.

The time flies so fast. 4 months passed, since I have studied here.
Term 2 is going end. Term 3 with more specialized courses is coming.
To become more specialized in each game development’s field, VFS let us choose 2 major streams in term 3.
We still have other Game Design courses, but these ones allow us to go deeper in areas we are interested in.

We have to choose 2 from the following available 3 streams

1. Level Design: More level design on UDK and also game environment design in Unity. We are going to get our hands on these tools and level design tips!


 2. Game Programming: Advance programming in c# with more complex topics such as AI, network, etc. And a course for HTML5.


3. Game Art: More on 3D modelling and lighting techniques. The most artistic courses!


In Team management class, teacher Rick Davidson (GD02) reminded everyone about “specializing”. This course really clicks everyone’s passion and also motivates us.

He told us to think about and write down what we really want to do, and what we want to be, and MAKE THIS STICK! DO IT! GO FOR IT!

For me, I choose level design and Game Art, because they are the top two things I love to do. I have found out that I enjoy doing the assignments of both Level Design and Game Art courses.

In conclusion,

“Choose what you are passionate about”

You have to work hard on the assignments in your chosen stream. You are going to make your portfolio and go to work in these fields.

May the passion be with you! :D

Nicha Jaijadesuk is Game Design student at VFS, and a winner of the Women in Games Scholarship

Pitch & Play for the 30th Game Design Class

Every Game Design class has a special day that they look forward to, it’s called Pitch & Play. It’s the night that the whole year builds up to, it is the culmination of 8 weeks of planning and design, and 12 weeks of development.

Pitch & Play is the event where student teams show off their games, first with a formal 5-10 minute presentation, followed by a social mingler where invited industry guests have a chance to sit down and play their games, ask questions, provide feedback and get to know the students better before they graduate.

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Level Up: I Got My Job, Now What?

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So you’ve just graduated VFS and landed your first job in the industry.  All those late nights and hard work has finally paid off and you’re set to enjoy your first pay check doing the job you love.  Time to cruise along and work 9-5 right?

The answer to this is yes and no.  Yes, because you’ve earned it and deserve a bit of a break after an intense year of school.  But after you have settled in your job, I would say no to cruise control.  Just because you’ve finished school and earning a paycheck now, your education should not stop there.

The games industry is a very creative field and we as designers are creative.  We have to keep creating to keep our minds at ease; to have that outlet after work hours.  Not to mention the fact that technology keeps changing constantly.  New tools and techniques are continuously being developed to enable us to build our imaginary worlds quicker and more efficiently.

Unfortunately when you are in the midst of crunch in a studio environment, there may be long periods of time where you are stuck using the same tools over and over, only to find at the end of the project a whole suite of new dev tools have come out which you’ve never heard of.  You could dismiss them and keep with your old ways, or you can spend some time after work hours to do research and potentially learn the new software.

Sure this takes time and effort after work hours, but we work in an industry where studios are hiring people with skills in cutting edge technology.  This will keep you competitive in the job market when the time comes to renew that contract.

I always recommend graduates keep working on levels at home even after they have gotten their jobs.  This is a great way to keep your portfolio updated, as well as giving yourself a way to be creative building something that is personal to you.  We’ve all been there, after a day of work the last thing you want to do is sit back on the computer.  The process will take much longer when you are working full-time, but bit by bit, even an hour or two a week over the course of several months will yield something that is portfolio worthy.  Hopefully during this time you can learn some new tech along the way to help you build with the most current tools and workflows.

So don’t know how to use Zbrush? Never heard of nDo2 or dDo?  Have you used xNormal?  When was the last time you touched that level editor?  It might be time to get out of the comfort zone of 9-5 and be proactive, pick up some new skills and create your next masterpiece!

Victor Kam is a Level Design Instructor at VFS Game Design

Designing With Portals

After nearly two and half years of the release of Portal 2, I felt it was time to revisit the facilities of Aperture Science. With the release of the Perpetual Testing Initiative, Valve gives people the power to create challenges of their own and not just be a test chamber Guinea Pig.

When you enter the test chamber editor of the game, you’re provided with a starter test chamber and a small toolbox of assets to use in the creation of your level. The construction of the level is very easy, to build your chamber you merely need to select the surface of a panel and pull it in or out. With this, you can have the design of you chamber laid out in no time!

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Level Up: Planning the Vista

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When planning any level out, we usually think of pacing out our gameplay moments and intensity over time.  While both are vital, we can also do the same by pacing our scenery.

What I mean by this is creating visual contrast in the space outside of the gameplay area, so let’s focus on creating the vista point in our level and see what we can do to maximize it’s impact.  Keep in mind, any time you do the same thing over and over it will lose its effectiveness over time.  So we have to create this contrast, or in this case, a narrow space going to a vista back to a narrow space.

Uncharted is great example of this, here we see Drake standing admiring the view which is quite breathtaking to look at.  For the most part of the level you are traversing in a forest with no clear sightlines, and then as you turn the corner you get treated to this great shot of the world only to return back within the trees.

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GD29 Pitch & Play

Dave Warfield introduces the 29th pitch and play, excited again to see what VFS students can do with 4-5 months of creative control.

VFS recently hosted the Pitch & Play event for GD 29 and we were fortunate enough to be invited in order to write this article. The games that were presented tonight were The Banishing, Draka, Sneakpunk, Infinite Spectrum, and Nuts for Gems. As members of student teams currently in pre-production on our final projects, it was really interesting and inspiring to see the final result of these five months of work.

Sean Smillie acts as master of ceremonies and gives a personal introduction for each team and their game and explains that student teams get an industry mentor.

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Tech Talk: The Voronoi Diagram

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Procedural generation is an umbrella term for various ways of using algorithms to create game content that might otherwise be hand-crafted – things like levels, music, and game content.  One tool that can be useful in procedural level and art generation is the Voronoi diagram.  In this post I’d like to tell you a little about the Voronoi diagram, what it can be used for, and how you might go about using Voronoi diagrams in your own code.

A portion of a Voronoi diagram

What is a Voronoi diagram?

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