Finally, it’s time to add some finishing touches to the scene. It’s been about 8 months since I began this scene (yes, I started the original white box way back in January 2013, finished around September). So you can imagine how good it feels to wrap this project up after such a long time.
Today we are going to add a few elements to provide even more depth to our composition. The first is fog, and no we are not using fog in a Silent Hill kind of way where we are trying to get back framerate, we are using fog here to simulate atmosphere that would naturally occur outdoors (have a look at the mountains, the further they are the more they are in haze.)
We previously ended off our scene by refining our blockout with custom meshes, and did a quick pass on integrating medium details into the level. At this point the overall layout should be set and now it’s time for the nitty gritty. I only get to doing finer details once all gameplay spaces and layouts are finished, that we can keep our focus on the task at hand.
After having played The Last of Us I was inspired to have an overgrowth through the level. After all, this level takes place in the mountain tops and having some vegetation would give the sense that the area has been around for quite some time, nature slowly re-claiming its place. Not only that, I had to find a way to break up the ground surface, since this is the player’s immediate view I did want to invest time into making it interesting.
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.