Article written by André Vitorino
Hi, André Vitorino here, the Programmer for Caapora - Oath of the Forest! Today I’m going to give you a brief look into how the levels are built, presenting some of the tools we have available to facilitate the work.
Tools, in their most basic form, are something you use to facilitate the job. However, in video games tools serve a second purpose, helping the designer and/or the level designer to build levels better and faster.
As a programmer, it’s important to understand that the designers should not be faced with a barrier to build the game how they see fit, but rather help take the load off of messing with the code and engine, to invest valuable time tuning parameters, testing the game or creating a new level from the ground up. It’s important to note that some of these tools can also help other members of the team, for example exposing variables in shaders and other controls for the artist to easily tweak the look of lights or bushes so it fits their artistic vision.
The first tool in our arsenal is a simple Path Creator in order to define AI routes. This tool evolved a lot during development, starting off by just dragging points around and requiring the Y position to be precise. As of this moment, new points can be added, removed, and moved, handling the Y problem automatically. Along with editing the path, the designer can define how long the AI lingers on a point and in which direction it should look.
Another tool we have is a simple Cable Generator Tool. The user can drag the mouse creating new points, add them individually or add a point in between the other two, choosing the closest edge to insert the point. Deleting points is as simple as holding the CTRL key and hovering the points to delete, finally, it automatically connects the tips to the center point of the machines, and creates it in a way that the code can know what cable belongs to what generator, allowing the cables to change color or texture when the generator turns off.
Lastly, there's a built-in debug console. Although limited in what it can do, it works both in the editor used by the developers, and in the executable app ready to be played by anyone, allowing to easily switch on and off gameplay elements to test specific areas and gameplay elements of the game, or to avoid unwanted scenarios during demonstrations and presentations. As the game grows we hope that this console matures to control more aspects of the game and maybe even debug graphics to check for problems after making the executable.
There are still some necessary tools that aren’t implemented yet. One would be a window to inspect each AI and its specific behavior and timings, as well as turning on and off the flashlights along with its logic. Another tool would be something to change the flashlight color globally instead of one by one, giving the artist control over all the lights at once or one at a time if needed. Finally, allowing more flexibility with the vegetation and detection ghost shaders, having only a very limited amount exposed.
Hope you liked this short article, if not, I need to create a tool to help you like it!
Take a peek at Catarina’s last article on how we created the visual concept for Caapora - Oath of the Forest and created the floodlights here!
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