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Tutorials to Becoming the Best Level Designer and Game Environment Artist (since 2008)

Day 1: Unreal 3 11-Day Mapping Challenge

Category: Challenges, UE3/UDK
December 21, 2008



I had no idea what location or environment I wanted to do so my first step was to go to the bookstore and start pouring over some books I found. I went to Books-a-Million and ended up spending my majority of the time looking at Smithsonian Earth.

I have mentioned this book before so its no surprise that I found an idea from there. I highly recommend any of the Smithsonian books. Especially earth.

My map has to be realistically doable in 11 days so I had a few restrictions placed on myself.

My Restrictions:

- The map has to be small
- 1 vs. 1 or 2 vs. 2
- Terrain based and 2-3 custom modeled objects imported
- I have to utilize some skills I already know along with learning new things in the editor.

Restrictions and limitations are a good thing. If there was no limitations then there would be no creativity and nothing would get done. So placing limitations on your project is a good thing. But, you should never place limitations on yourself. Make sure you know the difference.

After spending about an hour going through the book I finally had my idea. This single scanned image was my inspiration for an idea.

Inspirational Image for Unreal 3 Map

I started with absolutely no idea what I was going to make and was inspired by a single image. Also having a clear focus on what it is that you want to accomplish with your map is important.

Time frame is the biggest obstacle right now.

My idea: Lighthouse. A small cliff island with a lighthouse.

I go through Map Creation Guidelines so my idea would be more solid and clear. This is especially important now when time is of the essence.



Single Player or Multiplayer?

Game Type?
Death match

What game is this map for?
Unreal Tournament 3


Story behind the map. Why are the players there? Why is the place/environment there? Write the history of my environment. What happened to the place before the player entered the environment?
Atlantic coast. Old days of permanent lighthouse keepers are thing of the past. Each lighthouse is now completely automated making each area an isolated cliff arena.

What is this map about?
Old lighthouse that was built in late 1800s now stands by itself on an isolated cliff island.


What is the objective of the map?
To eliminate the other player while escaping your own death from the deadly cliffs and low visibility.

Do I have a top down game play sketch?
Yes (pic)

How would the level play out? Gameplay wise?
It is a small map with a few z-axis areas. One is inner lighthouse area. You are able to go inside and come out on top. The terrain has a few hills, not a lot but does contain enough cover. I am also thinking of a small house or cabin on the ground but it will not be inner area for this house. The area itself has no barriers so if one has been not careful they will suffer the consequences of falling to their death at the rocks below.

How would the player to play through your map? Visualize this. What experiences do I want the player to walk away with from the map?
I want the player to walk away from playing this map and get a sense of that they have been on the cliff itself, feeling the wind and the moisture of the air. I want to communicate the sense of isolation and despair in the map.

How big is the map?
Very small.
1 vs 1. Maybe 2 vs 2. Because of the time limit I am keeping this map small and manageable.

Who is my audience? Who is the player? What is my Demographic?
Anyone who plays Unreal 3 and any inspired level designers.

How will I make the map memorable?
Atmosphere. I want the player to feel the cold windy day. I want the player to experience the despair and isolation of a lighouse cliff island.

Do you have basic top down view and few location concept sketches?
Yes (pic)


Is the map original? What is everyone else doing? Don't make another “everyone” map. Be original and different. How will I achieve this?
I did a search and have not found the type of lighthouse cliff map that I am attempting to do. So I believe I have an original and a different idea, especially for Unreal 3 world.

What is the time of day of the map? Season? Color?
See Reference.
The color palette is gray blues, greens with a complimentary oranges coming from the light sources on the lighthouse and the house/cabin. It is winter time, cold and windy with a high sense of isolation and despair.

Feel and Atmosphere. Describe what I want to portray in terms of the feel of the map and atmosphere.
Foggy and low visibility. Cold. Brink of dawn. Atmosphere will play an important role. Sound will help to set the mood. Sound of seagulls, harbor bell and waves below. Color palette. Despair and isolation. Danger with jagged cliffs.

How will I direct the player? What methods will I use? Color? Noise and Sound? Guide the player without telling them where to go. Smart design.
The lighthouse will be the focal point of the map. Possibility of a house on the bottom will balance the composition out. I am thinking of this map as a painting, balancing the visual elements and gameplay elements against each other. Sound will be another way I will direct the player around the environment. Since this will be a small map, the player will have no trouble navigation around the map.

What am I going to concentrate on? What do I want to learn when I am finished? What aspect of design, gameplay, fun, crazy, atmosphere?
Mood and atmosphere. Sound. Terrain and custom models. I want to be able to share what I learn with others on this 11-day challenge.

What is the visual trademark of your level? How will the players remember your map?
Lighthouse, atmosphere of coldness and despair.


These images were collected on the web at images.google.com and Flickr.com

These are reference images and are not mine.

Reference Light House Images for Unreal 3 Map Preproduction

Click Image for Large View

Floor Plan and Design Concept Sketches:

Nothing fancy drawn. Trying to establish an idea and more clear focus on the house and the lighthouse. Topdown view shows a figure eight flow to the map.

Floor Plan and Design Sketches:

Floor Plan and Design Sketches:

Textures: I don't think I will need any. I will make the best use Unreal 3 textures. I might need lighthouse textures but as of right now I will attempt to use all Unreal 3 textures.

Models: Lighthouse and possible house and fence. Everything else is stock from Unreal 3.

Tomorrow is time to jump into the editor and start hammering out the terrain and layout.

Go to Day 2


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My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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