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[DEV] Frost
04-14-2014, 02:12 PM
11/21/2013 - Prison Concept

The first step of creating anything is to design it. With level design especially, it's important to try and get a mental picture of what you want to create before actually going through with it. For me, creating anything usually starts as a spur of random thoughts. I think about everything that might be cool and try to get it down on paper so I don't forget.

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Once I've got that, I start to think about how I can apply these ideas to what I want to create. I knew that I wanted a prison with three unique entrances, and so the first thing I did was look for a place that this style of prison might fit. I ended up finding the perfect location for it, and started thinking about architectural design.

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I now had a really good idea for how I wanted to organize it. Placing the building on top of this mountain gives a really good view of the surrounding areas, and the chokepoint of the bend is a great location for the other exterior entrance to the prison. I started to think about what kind of gameplay the prison would have, and so the next step was to get the layout I wanted to use down on an actual map of the world.

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Once I finished designing the prison, the next step was to actually get something in-game to play with. With level design, it's very important to keep in mind that the core experience isn't from the look of an environment but from the flow. I quickly threw together a simple mockup of what I was imagining to see how it felt.

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I liked the building, but I wasn't sure of the cave just yet. Some parts of it felt a little large, and I wasn't sure if the prisoner area itself was adequately large. The role of the prison changes dramatically with FoTD, and so it isn't as necessary to have vastly long mines for people to walk around in. I re-did the cave with a bit more detail to try and get a better feeling for it.

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After finishing everything, I was satisfied with the look and feel of the prison. I was thinking about interesting ways that I could play with light to change the combat with the daylight cycle, and interesting ways that people could use the terrain to their advantage.

The prison has three entrances, each with their own pros and cons.

Front Cave Entrance: The first of the entrances, this is the frontal assault approach. The main entrance to the cave, guarded only by a small guard hut, would be the first place somebody might attack. The trade off for it being so easily accessible however, is a significant lack of cover. It would be easy for the guards to just snipe down, or throw grenades to attack hackers. This method might be the least difficult in terms of having to fight through people, but the large opening can most certainly spell destruction for anyone that doesn't have people to back them up.

Guard Entrance: The guard entrance requires players to release prisoners through the guard tower. There are no security barriers on this path, but it's pretty much the perfect choke point. A small number of people with TARs would be very formidable here. However, with enough men, this is one of the easier entrances as it doesn't offer the same opportunity for retaliation. Having to hack a door means there's plenty of time for them to spread the word. If you steamroll through the guard tower however, you'll have the prisoners out before people even start buying their tickets.

Alien Entrance: The third and final entrance is through the alien nest. This entrance is most likely the most difficult, but it is also the most secretive. Heading through the back entrance to the mines, players will be able to fight their way through the alien nest and then walk any of the prisoners safely out. This also presents an opportunity for players to escape on their own, if they manage to outrun the aliens.

The final piece that I felt would really tie this together is the day and night cycle of Necars Field. On this world in particular, the darkness of night changes the value of these entrances, and the tactics that must be used to breach them. Under the cover of night it becomes much harder to see people coming, and so the advantages of the first two wear thin. Players will most likely compensate by spreading themselves a little more thinly, or bringing in more manpower. I've always thought that the worlds themselves are too static, and that atmospheric conditions should play a larger role than they do.

A foggy day bringing down visibility, perhaps the possibility of flooding in an underground area that makes it difficult to traverse, so on and so forth. There are some very interesting ways that the environments themselves can alter gameplay, and I wanted to bring some of that out with the prison.

11/22/2013 - External Staircase

Having finished my whitebox, I now had an appropriate scale and design that I wanted to make use of in the prison. I knew that I wanted the external staircase to be a cage, that way it would be possible to see people coming up it if you didn't see them walking across the terrain to begin with. A bridge would then lead to the guard building, and the cave beneath that. The first thing that I did was create the bridge and texture it, using another bridge on Necars Field as a reference.

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Once I finished that, I started working on the cage. A giant box is really ugly, and structurally, it didn't really make much sense. I decided I wanted it to be cylindrical, with a break in the cage to tie the look together.

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Then the question was how to go about getting up the cage.

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After completing the staircase, I wanted to see how it looked in-game. I'd already gotten an idea for what I wanted to do in terms of scale, so it really came together quite nicely.

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It's always a really nice feeling seeing such dramatic change. The last thing I wanted to work on was the cave. I'd changed it once before already, but I felt like it wasn't really that much like a cave. I went over it again and created something that felt more like what I wanted to create.

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11/23/2013 - Guard Building Exterior Modeling

The next thing I needed to work on was the guard building itself. At first I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with it architecturally. Everything else on the colony was very modular; placed down kind of randomly. This suits the idea of Necars Field, as it wasn't ever really meant to be colonized for human occupation.

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11/24/2013 - Guard Building Exterior Texturing

When I came back to it the next day, I felt like I wanted something that felt a little more manufactured. I went over the design again to try and find something that better suited the look I wanted the prison to have.

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Once the modeling was finished, it was time to texture it and add some detail.

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[DEV] Frost
04-14-2014, 02:18 PM
11/25/2013 - Guard Building Exterior Detailing

Looking at it the next day, I couldn't quite place my finger on it but I wasn't sure if I liked it just yet. It still felt a little fat in odd places, and the long stretches of balcony without any change felt a bit too repetitive. Some of that could be blamed on lighting, but I added more detail to break up the balcony a little bit.

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11/26/2013 - Guard Building Interior Concept

With the exterior pretty much done, it was time to turn my attention to the interior. I started by thinking about the design of the interior, and how I wanted to lay everything out. At first I thought about having it on a higher level and having a staircase down, and ran with that idea at first.

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In practice however, I noticed the curve of the building and the height kind of prevented this, and opted to do it the other way around, with an incline instead. Like I did with the exterior previously, I created a mock up quickly to try and get a feel for what I was making

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11/27/2013 - Guard Building Interior

The next step was to really bring the interior to life. I had the basic shape down, but I needed it to really feel interesting.

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11/28/2013 - Lighting

With the modeling finally done for the guard building, the last substantial task I had was to light it all. With consideration given to the way I wanted to use light as a tool, I tried to keep the amount of external light to a minimum, making sure that the guard tower had adequate light to be seen from below.

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11/29/2013 - Polishing

With the lighting done, the last step was to polish it up and make sure everything looked nice.

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While it isn't completely done, this is a reasonable enough stopping point for the time being. Before the prison can be finished, the mechanics that support it need to be finished. Once the prison system is complete, I will come back to Necars Field and finish work on the prison itself.