OverDose has many different playing fields of combat, from dusty destroyed towns and rotting factories, to wide open terrains and vistas. Over the coming weeks, I’ll give you a brief insight into how levels are born for use inside OverDose, from the design process all the way up to final implementation. In Part One of our documentary, I’ll talk about Terrain, how its created and thought up in the first place.
Inspiration is a large key into building your own little world. Start by looking at photographs, pictures and even other game screenshots to see what turns you on, what you really like, and then go from there. What’s the use in making a tropical island if you really don’t feel like making one? As corny as it sounds, follow your heart; You are more likely to finish something if your heart is in it, compared to something that you don’t fully enjoy. For this documentary we will follow the progress of one of “owner’s” maps, which is set in a snow filled mountain range. Many different images have inspired “owner” with his creation, but here is one just to get a taste:
Shaping The World
Once you have a theme firmly locked down, its time to get down to business with the terrain. OverDose, while advanced, doesn’t have anything fancy like Mega Texture. Our terrain is limited to two textures per surface, but with multiple surfaces per model. This is because our terrain is what we call “Vertex Painted”. Texture is blended along a polygon, rather than painted directly onto the mesh. This means that polyflow (The direction, shape and scale of polygons) and polycount (the overall number of polygons on the mesh) will directly relate to the overall texture style the terrain will use. With such an advanced lighting model, this is the best and easiest choice available to our artists.
But before we get into that we have to actually shape the terrain. This is done by hand, by morphing, pulling, stretching and moving the vertex’s of your terrain around until you get the desired shape. I won’t go into too much detail with this stage, as it mostly involves some knowledge of modelling basics, but think of this stage as making your terrain have height where needed, modelling pathways, hills and valleys, that kind of thing. When you are done, its time to paint your terrain. This is done with black and white shading (With shades of grey in-between), which shows where texture A is blended into texture B. All the big name modelling apps support vertex painting, but some also allow you to draw, by hand, onto a separate texture for use later on inside OverDose which allows the blend to function. This is great for older model editors like Milkshape, as it allows you to do the exact same process, only with limited tools and model formats. When you finish up, you should have something that looks a little like this:
Clean, Tweak & Preview
Before you get too carried away it’s always best to check your results in game. This allows you to see things from a gamer’s perspective rather than from an editors. You may miss things like texture warping, size/scale issues, and other random bugs that are just impossible to track down in the editor. It also allows you to get a taste of lighting conditions, which mountains cast shadow, where would the Sun be, that kind of thing. Show below is a small example of the above terrain in-game with a little ambience to help set the mood:
So, Where To Next?
Onward, ever onward! The screenshot above has a few missing features, such as blowing wind, falling snow, foliage, ambient occlusion, colour correction, skybox, brush work, misc detailing etc, so that would be a natural next step. The best you can do however is to put all that to the back of your mind and move onto Brush Work. There is no point rushing into all the little details if you haven’t built half your level yet. It can be very tough to make a level when you have a lot of misc detail getting in the way remember. So leave smaller things like decals and detailing until the end. You never know, the terrain may not even fit still and you may need to make changes to some areas to fit things in.
NEXT: In the next few weeks, I’ll show a little more insight into how things are done, with brush work, detailing and all sorts coming up. Stay tuned and keep checking back to check on all the latest progress, and remember that our forums on the official Team Blur Games “OverDose” site is the first place to get info, screenshots and media. So sign up now!