Delaney King

Delaney King



Another bit of a repeat of an earlier subject, if you are having players complain they are getting lost in a level or that everything feels "the same".

This can be a problem with kit based levels as by nature you are plonking down lots of the same stuff. You may also have tight constraints on budget and memory. So what to do?

Okay, so my advice is first look at describing the areas of your level in a sentence. Your first impression. "I am standing in a crypt with grey stone walls and candles." Now go into another part and see how you describe it again. "A crypt with grey stone walls and candles"

Yeah, see? That's the problem. The trick is to get that first impression and add something describable to it. "I am in a narrow tunnel with bones sticking out the muddy walls". "I am in a round tunnel with little waterfalls streaming down from the cracked roof"

If your kit doesn't have enough of these things to make many variations, it will feel samey and repetitive. If you can grab the players attention with one key feature or landmark, that can help them navigate a space better, especially if it can be seen from a distance.

But one thing that will absolutely help break up your repetative level cheaply is to use materials that use shaders that have a bunch of tweakable values. As you move around the level, the higher areas may shift from dark mud to more dry orange clay based dirt...

Stone that was wet and mold covered to the lower parts of the level are now dry, lighter and dusty. The plants go from a rich deep green to a more dry yellow. Flowers here are whites and amber colors, whereas in the swampier parts dark violet flowers are more common.

Trees that are barren of leaves with mossy trunks covered in fungi get progressively lighter with more leaves as you progress. Leaves are more round to the north, star shaped to the south. The gold paint is flaked off the wall trims, but the closer to the temple you get, the...

Less worn away and more lusterous it is. Stone walls with crude trims give way to marble walls with delicate knotwork trims on the upper floors. All this is just using material values (shader instances).

However for the real powerful break up of levels, you want to play with the shape of the spaces the player moves through. Descriptions like "narrow, cramped, vaulted, overhanging, winding, square, oval, round, triangular, angular, organic" are super powerful.

That stuff needs mesh modules in your kit though. Again, a few modules for roof, arch, pillar and doorways can really change the feel of a space.

For a technical artist standpoint, a clever trick is to automate the transition of things using objects or volumes you place in the scene to effect the look of the surrounding area assets with scripting. So I can place down a "rusty as fuck" marker in the scene and...

...all objects within range of that marker get gradually higher "rust" values in their shaders. Use this for spawning plant types, fogs, particles, types of mesh variants and even enemy types.

This allows level designers in open worlds to quickly set a mood or theme of an area, adjust it to match the vibe they are going for and have hundreds of objects update.

Takes some planning, but again, you want smart automated things like this when doing large open worlds.

Hope that helps. X

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