Sunday, January 19, 2014

Testing and Internals

In addition to my ongoing testing, I've been working on some level design lately that is a little more challenging than previously - primarily because I'm working on an interior rather than an exterior.  I don't think it's a significant spoiler to say that the vast majority of The Shattered War will occur outdoors.  This is an adventure focused on the events of an area within the wilderness, and the natural landscapes, forests, hills, valleys, and the settlements built on these are where the bulk of the action will occur.

However, there are some times where the player will have to go indoors. For these areas, I've largely been taking existing areas from the campaign and making some modifications so that they're not immediately recognisable - but I'm hopeful that this will be to far better effect than was done in Dragon Age 2.  I'm definitely avoid repetition within my own adventure, but there are a couple of layouts that will likely seem very familiar to those who know the campaign intimately.

That said, I have been working on getting the structure down of some completely new areas largely created from scratch.  Here I've been using an existing levels as a base, but only as a starting point from which to add my own rooms - effectively stripping the original level down to very little before adding my own new rooms in.  This gets around some of the initial level creation issues, and also gives me a base of model names for room components and structure models to use for my own work.  I became quite familiar with model names for exteriors, so having to do interiors meant learning a whole new set of model names, which increases the amount of time taken by quite a bit.  Also critical in indoor levels is ensuring that everything is lined up. Exteriors are a bit easier to "eyeball it", when it comes to placement, but interiors really require that everything fits together nicely in order to work properly.

Working shot of part of an interior

This shot is one of the "easy" options - stone corridors are far easier to match up than caverns and cave interiors.  What's worse is that the models in Dragon Age really don't match up very nicely and often require you to match specific pieces with each other, making it harder to get a more unique look and design without copying the original Dragon Age levels. I want to ensure that the "special" locations in The Shattered War are exactly that - special - and not make the player think "wait, I've been here before." Hence the need for the effort required to create these unique interiors for the adventure. 

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