Hello everyone! This week, our update comes to you in the form of a behind the scenes making of one of our levels! I will be giving step by step tips and tricks as each iteration is made on the map and I hope this helps you understand our procedure. (:
Step 1 - Blocking
Procedure - Layout the entire level and block in the basic architecture. At this point, the most important thing is to visualize the level and how the player will move through it.
- Try not to worry about lighting or detail. Here, I only use static meshes in the form of cubes, and a single light point.
- Time yourself. Use a timer to record the amount of time it takes to move across your room or level. Modify it until the time is what you feel it should be.
Step 2 - Mood
Procedure - Start to set the mood in your environment. Place the main lighting of the scene in and adjust it to give a sense of style or feeling. I wanted the apartment to feel cozy and laid-back so I made the lighting a little dimmer and colored slightly warmer. This is also the moment you want to start thinking about textures and meshes that will be included in the environment.
Tips: - Make sure the level is completely blocked out BEFORE doing this step.
- SAVE MANY TIMES. I had 7 save files but could have easily made more. Make sure to label them with a common name. Ex. Apartment_WIP_1 / Apartment_WIP_2 etc.
Step 3 - Light Sources and Texturing
Procedure - Now is where the fun begins. You have your idea and you have your level blocked out. Make it look good! Start by texturing the floors with simple textures that are prominent in your design. Also, add in your main lighting sources in the scene! As you can see, there are 4 lights in the room. They cast most of the light throughout and help illuminate details.
- When lighting, USE COLORS. I have seen many people who light their scenes with white light. Why though? Light is almost never white and the mood it creates is sometimes too bright for a level. I have 2 warm colors and 2 cold colors in this scene. Warm being orange/red/yellow and cold being green/blue/purple.
- Clashing warm and cold colors can result in some very pleasing looks, but it can also be used to guide players without them knowing! The blue in this scene is used less than the warm oranges, but is lit brightly in a corner. The player is drawn to the brighter lighting and led into the kitchen that is past the door. But don't overuse the technique too much or it can easily confuse a player as to where they are going, or can break immersion when he/she realizes they are being led.
Step 4 - Texturing
Procedure - Finish the texturing on the walls and ceiling as well as any large objects. And add in your main static meshes that will be in the level. Make sure that the textures on the wall and ceiling compliment each other and the floor. I have seen countless games in which the textures look out of place or just too loud and they break the immersion for me.
Tips: - RESEARCH. I researched what materials were generally used during the late 1940's through 50's and found wood and wallpaper to be very prominent. I then created textures based on the understanding of what worked and what didn't. It would have been strange if there had been metal and composite everywhere, wouldn't it! (:
Step 5 - Details
Procedure - Start adding the details now. This includes things like decorations and small objects. Light the scene more and give it a good color pallete and don't forget the mood you are going for! Any last details, sound, and lighting are added in at this point, including animation and characters as well.
Tips - Sound design is very important. Make sure to add sounds that make sense in your level. A clock beeping like a car, or a light humming a song does not work and should be avoided.
- Add a radio! A very good way to introduce atmosphere to a level is to have a radio with music playing. This room is based in a 1950's aesthetic, therefore it is playing 1950's music in the background!
Step 6 - Polish
Procedure - Go crazy with the post-processing. Add things like bloom, DOF, or motion blur to the mix and see how it affects your level! Play with lighting colors and give your level a story.
- After polishing, try and not change anything on your level unless absolutely necessary. This is the final step and you should be done with this section or level.
And there you have it! My tips on good level design! If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below! Have a grat week and thank you for reading! (:
- Jordan Michalski