Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Small details

Today will be another short post, as I've been spending quite a bit of time doing some polish on previous quests and content.  It's the small things like making sure that a shot looks exactly how you want it, that all the quest entries are laid out nicely and clearly explain the plot and so on that make a big difference in my book. That attention to detail is something that I really feel makes a difference between an engrossing adventure and one that has you cringing at its technical or artistic aspects.

In order to demonstrate the kind of small details I'm talking about, I'm going to show two screenshots of a small area within Fort Velen. The first shot, which is the "bad" or unrefined shot is below. (You may want to open up both images full size so you can compare them properly)

Initial terrain

This is a fairly narrow area we're looking at here, so it would potentially be feasible to not pay any attention to it. There are small patches of dirt in front of the training dummies, which are there because people practicing on the dummy would likely wear away the grass in front of it with constant steps. However, I still wasn't happy with it.

"Better" terrain

Now I've added some height variance into the ground, with divots in front of the dummies and small mounds between them. This wouldn't typically be because of the training dummies, but such small bumps would have helped dictate the initial placement of them. The main thing to take away from this is to avoid having sections of uniform terrain.

Flat terrain is unnatural and looks out of place, especially if you're dealing with a natural surface like grass or dirt. Large sections of stone might be flat, but they quickly become monotonous and boring for the player to look out. The same applies to texturing, in that having large swathes of ground covered in exactly the same texture with no interruption looks boring, and usually exposes the tiling of the texture quite clearly.

Now, you might be thinking that the difference between the two shots doesn't look that big, and I agree that it's not, but it will be noticeable. As the player walks along, they'll note their hero going over the small bumps. It will also be more visible because when you're viewing it in game, you'll have proper lighting rather than having everything full lit like you do when you're working in the toolset. (Or at least as I am here) This means that you'll have shadows to further accentuate the height differences.

This might seem like a picky and trivial thing, but trust me, even a small amount of height variation can make all the difference in making a level feel more interesting and more organic. It's a principle applicable to any terrain editing you might do.

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