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I will record , the obstacles, journey and other things I encounter

while trying to make games. Perhaps it may help you, perhaps


  • Writer's pictureZine.E.Falouti

Crafting a small town (Environment Design)

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Let's talk environment and level design, a process that can break or boost your game timeline evolution.

While starting the base prototype for my previous game The Stones of Yalmrith

I encountered a serious problem, which is how many assets do I have to design, how it will be composed, How can I even plan ? the questions started pouring and I found myself in a loop and all the project processes on hold.

Until I found the keyword I needed "Modular Design", many veterans will already know this process, but working on a Modular design really helped me go through the production easily, and not even feel the rest of the blockade until I found my self preparing the Steam Store page.

For those who never heard of Modular design, It is like Lego, you buy the box and with various pieces you can create anything you want, in Level/Environment design though, you don't get the pieces , you make them yourself, and you don't need to build a million piece, sometimes like in my case I have built maps with less than 15 piece including "Architecture pieces", "Vegetation" and "Props/Decorum".

Examples of Modular Assets I've designed for the Stones of Yalmrith

On the Shadows of Larth, I followed the same principle, but this time I had to work differently because my objective was to build a small town, by small I mean the composition will be as the following : - Town Entrance / Main Entrance Street, Post Gate/ 6 or 5 Intersection Streets/ Town Square & Finally the Town Keep.

As you can see, by planning I already put forward the design plan or schedule for each area, because each one will be worked separately, and it helped me organize my workflow.

So Let's Start with the Town Entrance Area.

My objective was the feel or in Game experience for the Player to understand that he or she have reached a new area, they will feel the change for that I recommend that you establish first what is Known as a "Moodboard" , I won't explain the process of making Moodboards but I do recommend this video made by one of the veterans of the industry Tim Simpson (Senior Environment Artist) on his channel Polygon Academy

After gathering a Moodboard, It will not only give you an idea or an artistic direction, but it will also help you cut down the Modular pieces you need to build.

Before starting the creation of the modular pieces, you will probably notice two directions :

The first : Base pieces,(Walls, Cliffs, any massive environment framing piece) pieces that form the carcass of your environment, please keep in mind the word carcass, I will use it a lot.

The Second : When you have no idea what those pieces are ?

In the Second case, I opted for a blocking layout, no matter the engine you are using, you could have these elements, if not just produce one cube and use it as a blocking asset, in my case I used UE4, which offers the Geometry BSPs , very helpful tools.

"though I do not recommend you use them for your shipping products, block out the form with them and delete after you produce the assets"

The blocking , will help you understand your target assets and putting down the Modular pieces list you need to use to build the Area, I just need to keep in mind that I have the town streets left to build, while designing the entrance assets, and I had to make sure these assets can be used inside as well to compose other areas.

After the blocking you can see the difference, and I already have made a carcass, the carcass will not help you only see the first fruits of your work, but also build a base for the upcoming additional assets (Props/Decorum/ Vegetation).

Though in my personal experience, I do recommend starting with vegetation, but that wouldn't be correct nor right, it depend on your eyes so try different approaches and establish your supply-chain strategy.

After establishing the carcass, and the medium architecture you will finally reach the part of the decorum. the Decorum is important and can be underestimated because :

1- They are small assets no one cares about them ? which is completely wrong the gamers wont care, but mark my word, they will if you don't give importance to the decorum assets.

2- They give value, the decorum assets, despite their scale in the environment compared to the Architecture and Landscape assets or even some vegetation (Trees) ornament your environment and gives it flavor, and they can be harder to design, I always make sure to prepare special references for each, Sculpt , Re-topo , UV and Paint , the Poly count value of my props is always superior to the architecture , but always think "LOD" (In my case I use to 4 levels of decimation) when you make these, a stagnation of decorum and props can cause a lot of performance damage to your game.

Pre-Decorum Blocking

Post-Decorum Blocking + Post processing

Final thoughts :

The progress showcased for the subject area was completed by early April 2019 for the whole town, and I hope it will give you additional information , or add something to your arsenal, or just so you could see the process itself.

This The end of Devlog #1 , till the next.

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