Wednesday, 22 May 2013


I have been tasked with writing a technical specification for a here it goes.


  • An old school Unreal/Quake style shooter with medium to large arena type maps. capable of holding anywhere between 24-64 players. I do not want the game top be rooted in reality and so i want really imaginative guns and perks.
  • PC exclusive
  • Aimed toward 18+
  • I want the main focus of this game to be fun and highly moddable, i want to emphasise the fact that community made maps are welcomed and encouraged, ergo a simplified map editor will be free with the game.
  • Stylised and efficient design similar to Team Fortress 2 to make it accessible to PC owners of all hardware types.
  • New guns and perks are bought from shop keepers throughout the map similar to DOTA 2 or League of Legends, with money coming from killing or assisting in killing enemy units.

Lead Character

  • Characters model is based of a weight system, similar to that in Brink, slim models are faster and more agile but are burdened with less health etc.
  • highly customisable character. Everything from hair to colour of shoelaces can be altered, giving a much deeper connection to the players character.
  • Tri limit can be anywhere from 5000 to 10000 depending on kit chose although texture sizes will be small to help keep the engine running smoothly. Diffuse, normal, gloss and specular maps all used.
  • Character can be customised on the fly between deaths to bring a fun dynamic to the game.

customizable appearances from brink


  • Shopkeepers from the maps' shops.
  • 3 different variations, all claiming to be brothers of one another but looking rather suspiciously similar.
  • Very quotable, funny and weird. Not someone you want to be around for too long.
  •  reasonably low poly 5000-8000 tris
  • Dota 2's shopkeeper. full of character.


  • One weapon has a controllable rocket that is ridden as a hat tip to the famous scene in Dr Strangelove.
  • A highly damaging AOE explosive outcome at the cost of suiciding.
  • Can be blown up mid flight if the rocket is shot at before it hits a target or terrain.
riding the bomb, Dr Strangelove

  • Medium to large in size to be able to hold the requested 24-64 player limits
  • Simple, clean and not overly distracting from the multiplayer experience, much like Team Fortress 2
  • lots of verticality and many different routes to the same point for varied and fun experiences. Making every game a "unique" experience, slight exploration for newer players.
  • Choke points and highly fought for parts of land like bridges or sniper points for intensive action.
  • Keeping within the same fun aesthetic
  • 2 or 3 shops hidden within levels for buying weapons. possible neutral zone to prevent camping those spots. 

  • Simple, tri effective props dotted all over the map for added cover and to help populate the map.
  • Not overly distracting or overly detailed, so players can focus on the multiplayer action.
  • Health and ammo pickups, because regenerating health is stupid.
  • Team Fortress 2 again is a very good example.
superb example of simple, yet populated multiplayer map

Level Design

Level design in its most boiled down form, is the process of making a playable environment from concept art and ideas. The role of a level designer is often just whiteboxing a level to so it can be test played before it moves on to be "set dressed". Level editors or game engines are the tools of the level designer.

The Whiteboxing process level designers use is a quick time efficient way of getting ideas out. The use of untextured simple geometric shapes is most common but some companies like valve for example would use a different texture for floors or walkable terrain and separate texture for walls or other immovable untraversable objects. Much like concept art, level whiteboxing is often used as a stepping stone to push idea generation and to test if ideas would actually work in a game.

                           A simple whitebox made in UDK that could be used for play testing.

During, before and sometimes even after the whiteboxing process the designers should be thinking about the various gameplay elements that would be added. Things like spawn points, cover, ammo or health pickups (although thanks to magical health regenerating systems this happens a lot less in modern games). with the whitebox and play testing the designers are able to test to see if these components work well together.

One of my favourite maps of all time would have to be 2fort on Team Fortress 2 by Valve. I believe this is one of the best maps in the world as it melds verticality, different access points and fairness all under a big cloak of aesthetic loveliness.

                                 Here we can see a top down cross section of the map 2fort.

From the start you can see how each side is colour coded based on what team you happen to be on. Although you might think this is dull and stupid, its actually extremely important as the game can get rather hectic at times and needing to quickly establish which side to run to to get your health pickup can be the difference between virtual life or death. Luckily the nice guys at Valve made the colours opposites, blue and orange, so they stand out and its easy to recognise the different bases from each other giving the player visual cues to help them out.
You can see by the cross section, that the map is actually mirrored. this is an easy way a level designer can make sure there is absolutely no unfairness to a multiplayer map as both teams will have the same sniper spots etc.
Another element i love about this map is the verticality. It forces the player to be more aware of his/her surroundings as you could be jumped by a soldier rocket jumping up from below or even a sniper shooting you from up high, making the game more tense/fun without having to add any new gameplay mechanics, a simple and effective technique in making any multiplayer level more fun.

                                The awesome visual style helps make this level even cooler.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Composition and making things look pretty

As the task tells us composition is "The arrangement of elements within an image according to established art principles". So to have a good understanding of composition it's also important that we have a good understanding of the "established art principles" right? right. Well there are 6 main art principles; colour, line, shape, value, texture and volume. Each with hundreds of sub genres of principle and hundred of years worth of experience behind all of them, so I'm only going to talk about a couple.


In my mind this is the most important of all art principles. Value could probably cover volume too but they're slightly different. Value is often described visually by a scale with varying shades of gray arranged between black and white, but in reality its the way in which the artist can make a 2D image look as if it is three-dimensional. Whenever you seen an artist rendering a ball or box in just black and white they're usually practising their value skills

A rather crude rendering of a ball and a value scale to show the point.


Colour is a very important matter as i feel thats where a painting gets its emotional value. Artists like Rothko have explored how colour can change someones mood by painting massive canvas's with a few colours on, many people when confronting one of rothkos work are overcome with a sombre feeling. Personally, when i stood in front of a Rothko piece i didnt really feel all that much although i could see why people felt the way they did. I feel colour can really change a piece and it is important to understand why.

 The Rothko piece i was lucky enough to see.

Two of the main art principles that have so much depth to them that i barely even scratched the surface of what they intale, so go read about them yourself! Ultimately though, composition is the placement of these art principles in the scene. Its often used to devistating effect by digital artists that are seemingly able to control your eyes. Composition is also important as you can tell the reader scale through placement of the "camera" or viewers eye.


This piece by kekai kotaki for example. The camera is relatively low looking up at the characters and it really pushes the drama of the picture and also the scale of the giant worm monster chasing the cowboys.

I only know of a few rules of composition but i am sure there are many more. The few i know are;

Rule of thirds - making sure there is a point of interest in each third of the frame
Differential focus - Blurring parts of an image to force focus, much like the eyes do naturally
Rule of odds - Using an odd number of subjects to a scene to make it more visually interesting.

Planning and concepting

"All projects should show a progression from initial ideas to final outcomes." The dependence on good planning is essential if a good game is to be made in my opinion. Planning requires forward thinking and good organisational skills. Concepting is a tool used during the planning stage to help people visualise the idea you are wanting to work towards. it is an extremely useful tool that helps a teams' mind work in sync, and is also a useful tool to use when working on personal projects, helping you to finalise ideas that you might have had, giving you a platform to go on and create further more interesting ideas.

Planning comes in many different ways for different ideas or parts of a game. Planning a cutscene for example could be done through the use of storyboards, rough sketches that outline how the scene will plan out, a very cheap and time effiecient way of planning a cutscene through.
A storyboard by Cecil Kim for the God of War series

Another very helpful way of planning for idea generation amungst other things is using moodboards. Moodboards or "brain farts" as i like to call them are basically where you collect a bunch of pictures/bits of writing/colours or pretty much anything and bring them together. Its useful for when you need to help concrete an idea or even serves pretty well as a rudimentary piece of research.
This type of planning is often used by fashion students and profesisonals.

Personally, i find that i'm pretty bad at planning ahead and it's quite obvious from my work. I've found that alot of times i make concept art for the purpose of looking pretty rather than for helping me persue the idea into a more detailed and well thought through final outcome. However unlike me games companies would simply fail without great planning and concepting teams, one example of great concepting within games would be Guild Wars 2 by ArenaNet.

ArenaNet used the concept art made by their amazing team of artists to help promote the game and ultimately helping the game Guild Wars 2 become a major success. They blast open the doors of the MMO scene and took the world by storm during release. The art style of Kekai Ketaki really pushing the game forward.

The concept work is not just used for the planning stage of the game but was also used to help tell stories within the game through animated versions of the concept art.

some of the works used to help promote the game, they were even used in the game for loading screens.