Sunday, 25 January 2015

It’s this week I realize how awesome modular components are. Our level is huge but we've managed to model and have it function as a game within three weeks because so many things were repeated. It’s also meant we can just model general assets that belong in the universe and then have them make up most of the busyness of the level- for example, computers, trash, bins, chairs, papers. We've actually modeled and abnormally large amount of small ‘population’ assets, to the point where we've literally just tossed them together to make a blockade on one of the corridors. It’s also meant we can easily change paths and routes (like how we made the broken and dangling drop off point last week.) It’s a very adaptable way of working.

Unfortunately it was a rocky modelling week on my end, but it turned out pretty cool I think. Basically I had manually to build a reception room for the level, and the plan was at the time was to make the reception unique and non-corridor based so I made the walls in a different way to everything else. In our presentation shortly after a point was made on some rooms not being ‘containery’ enough for the brief. As a reaction to this I revamped the room and removed all the custom walls and instead dismantled the containers and used parts of them to make the walls instead. So it was literally built out of the containers.

I also put thought into how it would connect with the hallway, so I left in fairings and metal beams so it looked like the wall had been roughly torn out but some of the foundations were still left in, holding the area together. I also thought about how I would light it while the power was down, and made a ‘grate’ which  bridges the lower containers to the stacked containers where the sun will filter through and hopefully speckle nice shadows over the center of the room.

For engine stuff, this week was massively progressive. I learned how to make matinees, which I used to animate all our doors so they automatically opened upon proximity to the player. Unlike blueprints, they were massively simple and intuitive, and with some basic research, you can accomplish some really cool animations. I also had it so lights came on when the doors opened, briefly lighting the next room. Following this, for locked doors, I lit them red and when opened had them change to green. But as much as I praise matinees, they break on a dime and cannot be moved.  This was the kickers as for some reason the engine file had to be changed or moved slightly, so the 20 odd doors I’d individually animated (there is no copy paste) were instantly useless and had to be redone.
The effect was really cool though and made the scene more interactive and immersive for the player. We also go our lights working! I mentioned a few weeks ago that the goal of the level was to make it down to the engine room and turn on the power, which opens the final door and turns on the lights. After getting the blueprints sorted for that (we had some trouble linking it to the door as well as the lights) the issue was that it absolutely tanked our engine. The frames dropped to sub 10 and it was virtually unplayable. This was because having 3 light bulbs in one of the rows to make an even spread of light in each of the columns was too intensive for the engine. Also, and perhaps more importantly was the attenuation raises were huge, and while this gave a great bleached effect, it was too intensive to keep, we also cut one of the lights and settled for 2 per row. This mean the corridors aren't quite as contrasting but it will suffice.

Regardless, it’s worth noting that our level is finally playable from start to finish, with all the mechanics successfully implemented which is a huge relief as we managed some really ambitious technical stuff and it's paid off, including action queues like 'press E to pick up' etc when close enough to an action.

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