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IGDA Montreal Halo 3 Environment Presentation

Category: Game Environment Design
September 25, 2009

Thanks to Doruku for the link to the video. You can find and follow Doruku on Twitter. Thanks to (Ben) for the links to Powerpoint Slides and Bungie Publications

IGDA-Montreal Presentation with Vic DeLeon a Senior Environment Artist and Mike Zak a Lead Environment Artist at Bungie.

Notes on the presentation highlighting important points.

Video has been removed by original owners, but notes from the video are below.

Additional Files and Links:

Powerpoint Slides from the Presentation

Bungie Publications to more lectures

Pipeline/Process Caveats:
There is no single best practice
Pipeline will and must evolve
Many variables

At Bungie they have separate roles for designers. Level Designers and Mission Designers. Level Designers work on layout. Mission Designers work with scripting.

Many standalone level editors such as Hammer, Radiant and Unreal use subtractive or additive brush building to block in the levels. Bungie's levels are entirely created in 3dsMax and then exported into Sandbox for Mission Designers to do their magic.

Begin thinking how you can look at the space around you for gameplay.

2 Principle roles:
Finishing Artist

Environment PreProduction:

Begin with a napkin sketch. It is the idea for a space.

Follow with the concept art to support the sketch.

IGDA Montreal Halo 3 Environment Presentation

Screenshot copyright Bungie.

Create color studies, design and composition studies. Lighting studies. Explore architectural language.

Begin to layout the space. Layout at Bungie it is called white boarding. It is designing the top-down view of the environment. Item placement, ai placement, firefights and ways of getting to your objective.

Create a pdf file for easy reference.

The environment must accomplish two things:

Space Design Case Study:

Aspect 1: The Hook

Strong layout concept that makes a space unique. Visual and structural. This can be achieved through lighting, AI and architecture. The environment has to be something to be remembered by. Player has to be able to describe the environment very easily.

Force an orientation. Asymmetry works very well for this.

IGDA Montreal Halo 3 Environment Presentation

Screenshot copyright Bungie.

Environment must be easy to grasp and navigate. Make the player feel empowered in the space.

Suggesting a specific tactic for the player to use.

Aspect 2: Scale

Informed idea of how large the space needs to be
Engagement range
Larger then life

IGDA Montreal Halo 3 Environment Presentation

Screenshot copyright Bungie.

Aspect 3: Combat Elements

Fronts: are divided into 3 categories.

Safe fronts where the player enters the space and able to observe the environment, recharge  and plan.

Killing zone, a space where battle takes place.

Enemy zone, where the headquarters of the enemies are and the end goal for the player.

Layers: separation of space that isn't trivial to travel. A connection between where the player is and where he needs to be. How will the player get to his/her location? Such as seeing a balcony but getting there requires an indirect approach such as going around the back.

AI Blinds: Giving the player power of tricking and outsmarting the AI through level design and environment.

Aspect 4: Movement Elements

Player Shortcuts
One-way paths
Ninja Paths

Flood Alien Level Autopsy:

Creating or knowing the background story

Color studies.
Contrast studies of form, light and color.

IGDA Montreal Halo 3 Environment Presentation

Screenshot copyright Bungie.

Images, images and more images to use as reference

See structure in the images. Always thinking of How can I create this into playable space?

Mass Out or Blocking In:
Super simple geometry
Nothing is textured
Default Lighting
AI and Vehicle Friendly
Quick iteration

Cortana Mission Challenges Part 1:
Sheer size, how many BSP's?
Desire for tight corridors and big vistas
Vis blocking, partitioning
All surfaces = AI friendly
Desire for uneven and tilted game spaces

Cortana Mission Challenges Part 2:
AI Path finding problems
How to transition forms
Aesthetics vs. Design
Avoiding visual noise

Finishing Stage:
Final geometry, cleaning up UV's
Shader Authoring
Tech pass (vis blocking)
Clutter pass
Decoration pass
Final lighting

Clutter Pass:
Purpose is primarily aesthetics
Balance macro and micro details
Add layers of interactivity
Physics objects
Medium detail
Small detail

Decoration and Decals:
Simple geometry
Inexpensive shader
Collision free
Samples lighting and color
Paint them on
Use to hide seams

Updated & Revised - Preproduction Blueprint: How to Plan Your Game Environments and Level Designs

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