Developer Blog 2: Blockout with Mischievous

17th May, 2016 | by Scratch, Lead developer

Yo peeps, Mischievous here, our Team Cat wasn't feeling as well as he normally does so this time, I'll be writing one of these "The DevBlog" things...

Now, Angelo did leave me his notes to work from... but... I've seen demonstrations of the theory of relativity that weren't as complex to boil down into a simple blog post, so I'll just write some stuff about maps instead.

This will be a mapper flick really, so those more inclined towards programming might want to consider leaving. Ok, are you ready?

The Blockout

It's kinda funny to me that what I normally consider just a barebone blockout for any current gen game, is really a complete level for a game like Sam Classic. Ok fine, not a complete level, but usually I have end up using it as part of the final architecture for almost every level so far, so it's kind of a win win. The idea of a blockout is simple, use a very minimalistic outline of your level to get an idea of stuff like size, time to get from A to B, and general gameplay. All gameplay of a level is really made during the blockout phase, after that come all the fancy graphics and polishing. Mostly because if it ends up that fight arena is too small, it's easier to change it without having already added textures and wall details and light sources and models and detail and all that crap.

How do I start?

On paper!

I will make a very simple map for this devblog to show the process I take, so let's see...

Well or digital paper, but nothing stops you from using a real length of paper and some amount of ink. As you can see I have a whole lava thing going on here, the player starts from the left, where the classic start entity is, and it's like this lava cave that goes like upwards then there's this open snow field? And there's snow and shit and some gnaars or something I dunno. After that proceeds to another lava ravine where he jumps down to yet another arena. I dunno I just made this up in my regular state of "Post Deadline Stress" so this map will be a really rough one... ` Anyhow, let's go and block this out. I'm using Blender here, it's a really useful tool to integrate for your classic or any other game modding. It's free, people, and the thing's as powerful as 3ds max! The fist thing I always do is get a player box...

It's a simple 1 by 1 by 2 meter box, and for almost all cases, especially Sam, that's a really good estimation of a human being.

After I know how big my player is, I start to add the main ground. I know how big I kinda want those, since I'm no concept artist, my "plan" is just to help me imagine how the thing should look like...

That's for just the lava caves for now..

Solidified, and I made all the platforms sort of slant down, so that the ascending player can see that there is indeed a path up there, it will also make placing enemies there easier, becuase they'll be more visible, than hiding behind the ledge. Now let's close this up... I will leave large portions of the ceiling open so that I can have snow falling in, and also seperate this from the lava caves level in Land Of The Damned.

Pro tip - Assigning different materials in Blender actually transports to Sam Classic as color groups, aka, you double click and it selects all the same colored polygons.

I start with a base outline of where I want the walls to be, then I add sort of, main scafold lines...

These will change but they're a good indication of my shape.

Now for the roof, I want to focus on it more, and leave what's left of my polygon budget for the walls.

Main roof holes, now all that's left is to realistically solidify this. And that's just adding more lines and connecting them... This is not a science, or art, nor does it have rhyme or reason, it's a blockout :P Still a good thing to keep in mind is basic rules of modelling; Maintain proper edge loops, Use Loops to define shape and avoid triangles like the devil.

It's starting to take shape pretty nice, can you see it?

There we go. And it's just 760 triangles, that's very roughly one onehundreth of the triangles the head of the Sam 3 player model... Kinda puts it into prespective how far Sam has gone...

Well that's our block out, time to export this as an obj and import into the game...

Pro tip - Recalculate normals inside Pro tip 2 - Merge your duplicate vertices with a larger threshold just in case

IN GAME YAY

Let's add some basic lighting and fog and test this sucker... Some cheap effects later:

And we're done, we have made our blockout. Roughly it took me about 2 hours to set this up, so like, you can see how fast your workflow can go, I mean imagine doing this in Sed alone :P

Thanks to this we now know that we have an interesting idea, (Imagine that there's falling snow that evaporated when hitting the lava) it takes 40 seconds roughly to get to the end of this sector, add fights and scenery gazing, and we can get that up to like 4-5 minutes, and also... That I should make the islands larger if I want to have any fights on them... See why this helps?

So, I hope you managed to take away something from my ramblings, next week it's back to Angelo's amazing coding exploits, and also, sorry for posting this so late, I started yesterday, but then things got in the way and stuff so yeah. Also, if people are interested in mapping, maybe I can post another one of these thingumies, but we'll see. Ask questions in comments or something and I will get Angelo to reply because I am a Facebook outcast...

Mischievous out.

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