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Tutorials to Becoming the Best Level Designer and Game Environment Artist

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Your Quick Start Guide to Blocktober Blockouts

Blocktober, Blocktober, the month of October...

Blocktober is an event that begins October 1st and ends October 31. For the entire month you can see level designers, game environment artists and game designers share their blockouts for how they start creating level designs and game environments.

In October 2017, Michael Barclay a game designer from Naughty Dog started the hashtag on Twitter to honor blockots. Because, "level blockouts are art".

Here is everything you need to know to get started for Blocktober in October...

How to Use Color to Create Environments Like "Mirror's Edge"

If I show any screenshot from this game, you will know where it is from.

The game has a distinct visual style. It features off-white environments with accentuated use of primary colors.

Of course, it's "Mirror's Edge".

"Mirror's Edge" was released in 2008 and it holds up visually a decade later. I believe it will continue to do so for years to come.

Yeah, it is fun to free run through levels - jumping between buildings, running across walls and pulling myself up on ledges.

But it is the art style that got me into the game.

Many of the game's locations still inspire and are re-created by game artists as a way to learn and improve their skills in current game engines.

How to better understand color use so you can mimic the art style of "Mirror's Edge" in your own work?

Let's go deep into the anatomy of color used in Mirror's Edge.

WoLD Website Redesign 2018 and Upgrade to SSL/HTTPS

It is that time again to redesign WoLD.

Last time I did this was back in 2014. I did a few minor interface changes throughout the next 4 years but nothing major.

Now at the end of 2018 I decided to re-do the entire site again.

On the surface it may see the same. Similar layout and color scheme - this was deliberate. I wanted to retain the same look and feel. But, under the hood (html/css), everything has been changed. The entire framework was updated.

The site is now responsive and works great on mobile.

I spend last 3+ weeks coding and updating the site. I had to put everything I was working on hold. In the end I am very happy with the results.

Another big change you may notice is the website now uses SSL.

Why I Stopped Playing Games and Why It is Important to Start Again

I stopped playing games for a long time...

This happened naturally after I started working on level design and game environment art. It became about wanting to create than wanting to play.

But, i began to realize something...

I gave up the one thing that inspired me to get into level design and game environment art. I was no longer opening up myself to new gaming experiences.

I had to start playing games again.

If you stopped, you must start playing again. Here is why...

CS:GO SDK Clip vs Player Clip Brush Texture - Which One Should You Use

Clip and Player Clip brushes are very important in Source mapping but I was confused which one to use?

Clip or Player Clip?

I decompiled a few maps and found that one map used "clip" (CS_Militia). While another used all "player clip" (CS_Office).

It seemed arbitrary.

But after researching and testing here is what I found.

UE4: 8-Step Checklist for Level Scene Setup to Begin Working

When I'm starting a new scene whether it's a playable level or stand-alone game environment, last thing I am concerned about is lighting.

Lighting comes at a later stage in level design and game environment art process when the scene is already created.

In the beginning I am focused on creating geometry - using BSP brushes, inserting Static Meshes, working with landscape, implementing gameplay and creating/testing Blueprints. For this I need a basic daytime scene with even lighting.

"Default Level" under "File > New Level" is a good start. Many use it as-is without changes. The scene comes with some light actors, sky sphere, fog, player start and a ground plane. But there are some issues - distracting auto-exposure, shadows are too dark and it is hard to judge scale of the environment.

Here is my 8-Step Checklist for default level that I use to begin creating environments and playable levels in.

UE4: 8-Step Checklist for Level Scene Setup to Begin Working

I just spent half a working day looking at 3d maps. If you saw me during this time, you would yell at me "AG! Stop playing around and get back to work!"

But, I was actually working. I was searching for interesting locations, collecting architecture reference and getting ideas for top-down layouts.

Once I started using "Google Maps 3D View" option I couldn't stop. I would get lost in a neighborhood after neighborhood discovering interesting locations and collecting real-world reference. When I thought I was done, I would see another street corner, another building, another layout and I had to explore it further.

So here are the 11 secrets I found using "Google Maps 3D View" to get more ideas, top-down layouts, research and reference for your next level design and game environment art project.

UE4: 8-Step Checklist for Level Scene Setup to Begin Working

How to light night time outdoor scene with a "moon" sky in Unreal Engine 4?

What if you want to have more atmosphere filled environment with moon lighting instead of a starry sky?

In this second tutorial we focus on how to have a moon in the sky lighting our scene and all the steps that it takes to get there. No custom content is required and you can do this with default installation of UE4.

UE4: 8-Step Checklist for Level Scene Setup to Begin Working

How to light night time outdoor scene with a "starry" sky in Unreal Engine 4?

There are 2 major obstacles with lighting night time scenes (or daytime scenes).

First is artistic. You have to understand color theory and how lighting works to communicate proper feel, mood, and atmosphere of the environment.

Second is technical. You have to know which actors to use, which properties to change and in what order. You also have to have the content to light the scene with, such as sky Static Mesh and sky material.

In this first tutorial of two you will learn how to light a night time scene for starry sky. No custom content is required and you can do this with default installation of UE4.

UE4: 8-Step Checklist for Level Scene Setup to Begin Working

UE4 "Starter Content" has 2 water materials - ocean and lake.

These two materials are great to use in your environments and to study how water is created - ocean and lake.

But there is a problem with these materials.

If you apply ocean or lake water material onto any large Static Mesh plane, the texture will be stretched out, distorted and unusable.

Here is what to do and how to fix it.

UE4: 8-Step Checklist for Level Scene Setup to Begin Working

There will come a time where you no longer want to use default Static Meshes or Static Meshes created by someone else to construct game environments. Instead you want to begin creating and using your own custom Static Meshes.

You will quickly discover the amount of work and knowledge you'll need to acquire before creating your own 3d assets.

Custom Static Mesh creation is an involved process that uses multiple software and specific guidelines to follow for each step of the pipeline.

The process itself is actually very straight forward and simple once you've gone through it a couple of times. The problem is getting there. You must know the process sequence, rules, guidelines, options to check and problems to anticipate along the way.

Learning what to do for each step of the pipeline is what takes so much time. You will need to make sure your 3d modeling software is set up correctly for matching the scale and grid spacing in UE4. You will need to model a low-poly and a high-poly mesh, UV for textures and for lightmaps, set hard/soft edges, bake normal maps, create textures, material, collisions, export/import using specific settings while problem-solving at every step of the way.

In this MASSIVE quick-start tutorial guide (7,800+ words), we'll cover the entire overview from idea to final static mesh and all the steps that have to happen along the way.


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