After a brief summer lull the TA team is now back in gear and racing along. Also the PR machine has ground back into life and we hope to bring you plenty more updates soon. After the feedback from our previous map releases we thought we would do the same again and this week we bring you Deadlock, our latest map.
The making of TA-Deadlock
When Deeps applied to join the TA team he included the link to his website and mentioned that he lectured game design. It's not often that we receive applications of this calibre and suffice to say we jumped on him! He has certainly impressed so far and Deadlock is looking very nice indeed. We sent him some questions to get some inside info on the creation of his latest map.
What encouraged you to join the TA team?
I have been mapping for Unreal and Source for years, my website at www.unrealmapper.com has got examples of some of the previous projects I have worked on. In recent years I have been lecturing level design and Unreal Tech to students as a job. Having been a big fan of the original Tactical Ops game, working on TA brings back fond memories from what as an exciting era of pc gaming for me. My work on this mod is not for sentimental reasons though, I truly believe it will be a kick ass mod of high quality! Just like the original TO...
What inspired the setting and the visual aspects of the map?
The map takes influence from East Asia and ancient monumental architecture. Having travelled to Asia many times I have been fascinated with the ancient architecture which is still very much evident in the East. I also wanted to move away from the dirt, rust and grime setting which is prevalent in many Unreal Engine 3 titles. Nature was a very important theme throughout the visual design, I wanted to create a 3D environment where nature has degraded civilization over time, giving players a sense of isolation in nature. Natural lighting is a key component to the visual design.
How did the layout come about? Did you design it on paper first and stick to that or it is something that has grown as you have worked on it?
The 3D visualisation stage has always been a fun stage for me as you have so many cool ideas floating around. It is also a stage which can make or break a production if you do not have a core design methodology. In Deadlock I incorporated a solid workflow methodology in order to stick to the original design - which was drawn on paper and then sketched out digitally. The idea behind the level design flow was of a ‘Deadlock’ - deadly in movement. The map encourages teams to take a series of routes which can result in a Deadlock with neither side gaining any ground but being pushed into choke points. It seeks to recreate deadly outdoor combat in a broken down fortress in a lush rain forest type environment. (Being careful not to use the word Jungle)
What difficulties have you encountered working with the UT3 engine?
Workflow, workflow! Gone are the times of producing a map from start to finish in a week. I'm going to make a big statement here.. The days of BSP modelling are now long gone. Unreal requires heavily on static meshes and I feel that the asset production process adds an additional 40-60% time to the entire workflow. The major difficulty has been the additional detailing passes - which really add time and complexity to the map production. The Unreal 3 engine has become truly next gen, incorporating its own shader system, particle tools, post-processing effects, kismet system - these all take time to learn and have a steep learning curve which can be quite unforgiving. I feel level designers nowadays have to be able to produce their own assets using 3D modelling packages or at least have an appreciation of the conversion between the modelling package and the Unreal environment. This again has made the map making process more complex as it requires technical knowledge which has moved forward from the days of Unreal and Quake maps
And what would you say are the strong points of the engine?
The additional graphics horsepower! It is truly amazing what you can really do with this engine even if it is now becoming dated! The shader system is fantastic and used in combination with the lighting it can really add that pro look. The assets production process has also integrated very well with the Unreal 3 engine so you can use additional software such as Maya, Zbrush, Photoshop, PixPlant, Crazybump. The integration of these tools within the assets workflow has been seamless. I would love to see true global illumination lighting in a future patch from Epic games but perhaps this is asking too much...
What stage is the map at now? Is it nearing structural completion?
After conversion to the TA style game play and scale system I would say the layoutof the map is 100%. Lighting and post processing is around 90% but detailing and polishing around 70%. You are probably wondering why the lighting is further in completion? With the workflow I use, I set up a lighting pass early on in the level design pipeline so to use the additional computational power for detailing additional geometry/ light mapping passes. There is nothing like downgrading a map when you find your lighting calculations are too expensive! Trust me I have done this before! At the moment I'm trying to optimise some of the custom assets from Maya and trying to get as much out of them as possible. Given the environment is a fusion of nature, degradation, and destruction and the fact that it is very organic, has opened up issues with collision optimisation. Overall I would say the map is 80% complete
Got any plans for future maps?
Plans did I hear plans? Oh yes! Many ideas but I'm afraid I will have to be rather tight lipped at this point in time. Watch this space... :)
A big thanks to Deeps for the interview and also an awesome map!
Also an apology to all the people that tried to register on our forums in the last few weeks and have been unable to. Unfortunately an overactive spambot protection system was preventing real users from registering as well! We have now fixed the issue so everyone should be able to register.
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As well as early warning on media releases we also let you know what we are currently working on.
See you on the servers,
Your TA Team