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Level design lingo "block out a level"

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  • replied
    Blocking out a level, in the most general sense, is creating an extremely quick diagram of the level, to scale, using any method you prefer. The most you want to get out of a blockout is the scale, flow, and functionality of the main elements and points in your level.

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  • replied
    Well, the interface was buttugly too, but that wasn't really the game. The game itself was way too confusing because of the uber-detailing - and that's just one of the problems it had.

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  • replied
    you don't think "the interface is abyssmal" had anything to do with it?

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  • replied
    Originally posted by danimal' View Post
    If its fun with blocks and cylinders, it'll rock with fancy lit meshes. Slightly more advanced blocking out can be breaking out the major textures to see if it feels like you have a coherent art "theme" or palette going on. Like the other poster said, it's a generic art term that really just means "to get a rough idea" so you don't spend days working on something that sucks
    danimal
    Good input. Actually, the thing is, for a lot of first person shooters, it's a really good idea for an environment artist to analyze the blocked out level carefully and for the level designer to keep things close to whatever worked during the blocking stage.

    Personally, I think that's why UT3 tanked. The levels have a good layout and pacing, but they were so full of art that it was incredibly hard to play and memorize each stage. It wasn't fun anymore, your brain had to work all the time and had to be in highFreq mode to subtract all the bull**** from what's actually there, so you'd memorize the leveldesign.

    Detail is always good if the detail actually makes sense - but it's sooo easy to overdo on the detail part and be fooled into thinking that it's still good, because you have a ton of cool looking detail.

    And that not only happens to levels, that's generally a rule that you have to live by when you're creating art. It happened to me a lot of times on professional stuff as well - trying to please the art director by spending a couple of extra hours to put in extra fine detailing... and then we went with the lower detailed, more readable version anyway, cause it'll work better for the game.

    Also, taking gestures and silhouettes into account always makes sense, even for maps. If I'm thinking of a timeless map like Deck16 from the original UT, I immediately think of the diagonals in the middle, the horizontal line underneath and another horizontal, small line that you need to cross for the megahealth. The rest of the map is just built around that centerpiece of lines, which works incredibly well. But anyway, I'm not a leveldesigner, that's just how I'd approach creating a level

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  • replied
    Sometimes the tools show you heatmaps... this is also useful because it graphically states where each gun is fired, where people spend the majority of their time, what items are picked up more or less than others... and sometimes even where most people travel through.

    ((Depending on whether the heatmap detects kills/weaponfire, absolute time in any given position, item collections, or just drawing curves for every path taken))

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  • replied
    Throw it in front of people. See if they get into spots where they act frustrated or act lost. See if there are spots where they completely avoid that you want them to go to, or spots where they always seem to meet that you want to spread out a bit. Often times, you'll find things that work great that had been completely unplanned when people get in front of your levels.

    However, try and talk to people as little as possible. Watch their actions and watch their expressions. You're more likely to get better information doing this than directly talking to them.

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  • replied
    What in general does one look for when testing a blocked level for fun, pacing, and flow (besides the aforementioned variables)?

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  • replied
    To sort of explain "why" you want to block out there's several reasons but I think the most important are: scale and flow. People, especially when they start, have no sense of scale. Blocking out your level lets you realize that you're scaling too large or to small (almost everyone scales too large). The first time I tried a warfare level (UT3), I went waaaay too large. But by placing the basic features in the level (major buildings and paths), you can walk/drive around and see if the scale feels right.

    Just as importantly, you can get the idea for the "flow" of the level, if getting from area to area works, are there choke points (which can be very good for gameplay) or is everyone running around randomly in separate areas of the map (generally bad for gameplay). It's sometimes hard to accept, but if you're level plays well, it should play well with blocks and cylinders. Think of a Mario level, before all the cutsy stuff, it's just a 2d plane with some blocks and it should play well before that block gets turned into a pipe. Same with a 3d level.

    If its fun with blocks and cylinders, it'll rock with fancy lit meshes. Slightly more advanced blocking out can be breaking out the major textures to see if it feels like you have a coherent art "theme" or palette going on. Like the other poster said, it's a generic art term that really just means "to get a rough idea" so you don't spend days working on something that sucks

    danimal

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  • replied
    Yes thank you Brian

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  • replied
    block out

    When working on an ultima MMO I would create everything in basic bsp form. Sometimes I would create something in max in important 'points of interest' and send them to a 3D modeler to spruce up. Although its not the case all the time, working with 3D modelers sped up the process and since I could draw sometimes I would draw out something and my awesome modeler (who lurks around these forums still ) would create the asset. If you are good enough to create the asset then it would be possible to do both, but most companies have enough artists that they don't want the level designer concentrating on more than their workload. I would create small things like broken tiles and such but the bigger stuff would be a 3D modelers job. Its great cause when your plopping in art assets over placeholders it totally changes the level and you cant beat great teamwork in that aspect

    hope that helped from a Professional viewpoint Brian

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  • replied
    Thanks for the input.

    One more question, are there level designers that both block out levels and create static meshes for them in the industry? Or is that usually the sole responsibility of the artist to create those static meshes.

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  • replied
    Yep. Consider it painting with broad strokes before applying the fine detail. You have to make sure the composition works first. In terms of Unreal Engine levels, this does usually mean BSP, as it is an intuitive way to create said composition. You can then export the brushes as meshes and build on it in another app. Otherwise you could waste precious hours farting around on something that might not even end up working well.

    It could be used in context of 3ds max, but then I wouldn't really describe that process as blocking out a level but more down to individual objects.

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  • replied
    It's pretty much what the term already says. A lot of studios separate between level designers and environment artists. The level designer creates the layout / pacing of the level and determines how the player would actually play it (which has a lot to do with the actual game design) whereas the environment artist creates assets that actually make up the level.

    So what happens is that the level designer 'blocks out' a level in the simplest way possible, with geometric primitives and works on his level until it actually works - then, if the level actually got approved, the environment artist takes the blocked out level and creates all the assets for it, one after the other, after the other.

    'Blocking out' something as a term isn't just being used for level design, but for any artform, really. A painter blocks out his painting with rough color patches before he actually commits to details, a sculptor blocks out a gesture sculpt before he goes into thee more intricate process of detailing out the forms, even a writer will 'block out' a first, simple treatment of his story before he actually writes his story.

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  • started a topic Level design lingo "block out a level"

    Level design lingo "block out a level"

    Im a bit confused to the definition of this, it seems it could apply to designers who first make a simple BSP template of their level before doing anything more advanced.

    On other hand, Ive also heard this term describing an individual actually creating the static meshes in 3ds max.

    Would some one please clarify, thank you.
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