Posts Tagged ‘Level Design’

Last may I was invited by U-tad to give a Master Class in Level Design for students of the Interactive Design degree and Game Design Master. Since I didn’t want to make a too theorical class, I chose to speak about my experiences in Level Design in some of the companies I’ve worked in.

I’ve been lucky to work in a broad field of genres and game editors, so I was able to cover very different areas of the field.

The students were a really nice audience and I hope to come back someday!

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This post is the second part of how to create a map in War Leaders: Clash of Nations. You can see the first post here.

The next step is to create an orography according to the 2D design. We will work with heightmaps, where the greyscale indicates the heights.

To add realism to our mountains we will create some elements using a terrain edition program like Terragen, and once we have something that looks nice, we save it to use it in our heightmap.

As shown in the picture below, we create the river, the plateau and some hills. We can use the photoshop to adjust the levels of greys and to copy and paste the pieces we got from the Terragen. We can add some features that will not interfere with the gameplay, but that will enhance the visual aspect of the map.

The heightmap has the levels adjusted so we are able to appreciate the range of greys

Once we think we are done with the heightmap, we load it in the map Editor. At Enigma Software Productions we worked with an own Editor that was being developed at the same time that the game. We had terrain edition tools, but we used them to smooth the details and to add small changes. At the end we mostly used photoshop. While we worked on the orography we usually added one texture layer of the main color that would have the final map. In this map, we used a grass green. It helped to get a better view of what the final map would look like.

The next step would be setting the roads according to the desing. We had a tool to create roads setting ponts over the landscape, and the editor would join them together using a bezier curve. You were able to choose between several different materials (asphalt, dirt…) and a wide selection of crossroads and forks. I used to set the roads adapting the curves to the hills and variations in the terrain, to give them a more realistic aspect. There is an option to apply the roads over the map texture, but we will not use yet. Only when the map is finished, with the final textures.

The Map texture in this game consisted on one final texture that was projected vertically over the terrain. To create this map texture, we used masks assigned to each different color texture, painting directly in the editor.  One of the big problems we found was that in this game the cameras could be very close, as in a first person shooter, and really far, while using the airplanes. So we had to add, on one side, detail textures in addition to the color texture, and on the other side, variations in the color of the main color (grass, dry grass, dark grass).

River's bottom color texture mask

Grass detail texture mask

So we ended up with one mask for each color texture and one mask for each detail texture. The final touch was given editing the mask of each texture and painting them with photoshop, because the editor brushes were not as accurate. Once we were happy with the result, we had to collapse all the masks in one .dds file that was the final texture you see in the game.

At this point we could apply the roads, but keeping in mind that we will have to make further adjustments to the textures once the objects are placed in the map.

Final Texture with roads applied

Once we are finished, it’s time to place the objects as we will see in the next post.