Making a Scene

Hiya folks! TGIF. For the next 15 or so minutes I thought I’d share with you the gist of our current level design process. Or should that be environment design? The scene I’ll put together isn’t very thought-out from a level design perspective, but mostly intended to look good and carry that “Mech-Sun feeling.”

We currently work “Dallas style”, meaning I do most everything related to putting together a level — from blocking out the basic route, to ensuring it looks good and pleasantly cluttered; to optimization, level streaming, and collision. It can be a fair bit of workload, but also fairly liberating.

Devlog 13

Fredrik “Olaxan” Lind

Robot Herder

Blackest blackness

This is a completely empty scene in Unreal. Absent of light, skybox, post processing, birds, clouds, and joy. We’ll throw a boring directional light in there and call it a day. I’ll turn off auto-exposure too (using an unbound post process volume), so we can have a properly dark feeling.

In the darkness we can make out some shapes. These are created using Cube Grid, an UE5 tool that makes whiteboxing a breeze. The tool allows for the creation of meshes using a resizable voxel-esque cube tool, like Minecraft or Magickavoxel.

Suddenly these shapes look all dope. We’ve enabled RTX. No, in reality these shapes have gone through Houdini Engine, a powerful procedural modelling tool which allows us to generate advanced geometry from inputs in Unreal. It gives us a fantastic starting point when designing a level, since we get to the 80%-mark much quicker — although it’s not sufficient on its own.

This is a good time to add some lights. Our “real” light blueprints come equipped with a reasonable light temperature and brightness. These light posts are 20W sodium vapour bulbs. They include moths, because moths add realism to everything.

Let’s anchor the layout in place with some rusty junk, and add an open balcony at the side of the house for the player to enter through.

Actually, let’s add a little platform for the robotic inhabitant to watch the Mechanical Sunset™️ from.

(using our dynamic catwalk tool which automatically ensures there’s a railing where apt)

Probably a good time to add some clutter. I think it’s important to add some detail quite early in the design process, to clearly indicate which area is meant for what purpose. You have to make some decisions and imagine yourself living there. Does any particular corner vibe with you as a cozy breakfast nook? Then of course that’s where you should put the table.

Again using Houdini Engine, we can run a physics simulation for a couple of cables hanging from the central pylon. The simulation is baked into a static mesh, which allows us to have incredibly convoluted cables produced very cheap. I’ve also added some supports to make the whole thing seem more dream-like and islandesque.

Finally we should add a friend. Had this been a scene for inclusion in Mechanical Sunset, this would be an NPC with a dialogue tree and living behaviour. It would have used the furniture, leaned against the railing, and commented on your progress. For now, it’s a just a skeletal mesh.

We’re kindly but firmly waved off by Tutis, who has to finish moving house.

A few notes before signing off for the weekend! This is not a good tutorial, since it relies heavily on tools we’ve already produced. See it as a fun look behind the scenes.

For a scene meant to be included in the game, more careful attention to detail would be necessary. Player navigation was not considered — but playing the level during the early block-out stages would have made it possible to discern scale and manouverability at that point.

The lighting could use more work, and the placement of carefully considered shadow-casting lights could produce a dramatic effect.

Sticker, Tutis, Tut

I’m thrilled to be working on a game where I can really make use of my love for strange yet cozy environments. (Thanks, Sven Nordqvist.) Hope this could serve as inspiration if nothing else!

Me and the Gumlin(s) wish you a pleasant weekend (where applicable)!

Remember, these devlogs were already written, so why not…

*Waves to Tutis*

~ The Gumlin

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