With the huge amount of level design work I’ve done comes a lot of terrain creation. There is no one golden way to create good terrain, in my nearly eight years of game design experience I’ve found that the goal defines the method in which it is created. Every project found on this site uses a different combination of tools depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. World Machine is my favorite tool due to it’s easy to use interface, superb results and the great level of control the user has over the results. Photoshop and in-engine tools are also essential to making a quality height/color map. I also have experience using GeoControl, 2 which can produce amazing results with a huge amount of presets, it has far less documentation than World Machine and the interface is not nearly as intuitive but; it’s certainly worth mentioning though since some of my work was produced with it and it is relevant to creating the best possible final product. Terrain creation is one of my favorite parts in the level design process and is a tough skill to master when you consider all the different types of environments that are here on earth alone, and in game design there’s a never ending list of fantasy and alien environments for endless possibilities.
Here is an example of my most current work in progress for ‘Darkened Veil’. I’ve been creating many different types of camp site environments in different areas around this area. I’ll shortly have a separate area just for the project that shows all the examples but for now you’ll find them right here. I’ve got the level setup for static lighting with shadows baked into the colormap but that will most likely change in the near future.
Inferno- Inferno was one of my first large projects which I created between 2008 and 2009. To create this heightmap I used the in engine sculpting tools along with cleverly placed objects to give the terrain it’s fine details. As my skill level and familiar tools have expanded greatly since then, if I were to remake this level today I would most likely use World Machine and far less objects for detailing which would look more realistic and would also save on performance. If you check the first video in link below there’s a specially made flythrough that showcases the level.
Kagoshima- This level was produced in the summer of 2010 in only a couple of months. This was my first taste of using World Machine in combination with GeoControl which were used to create the mountains. The rice fields and some of the finer details were hand sculpted in after I was done with those other programs. If you check the first video in link below there’s a specially made flythrough that showcases the level with a sped up day/night cycle so that you can see some of the lighting work I’ve done.
Marshes- The heightmap for this level was originally pulled from the MechWarrior 4 editor and converted for use in Photoshop and CryEngine. After the conversion I added in the entire area of the air field and did a lot of hand adjusting around the level in general to keep good balance on both sides. If you check the first video in link below there’s a specially made flythrough that showcases the level with a sped up day/night cycle so that you can see some of the lighting work I’ve done.
Thunder Rift- This maze-like level was completely hand sculpted. The cave roof is actually a bunch of very large rock objects that were hand placed. This was one of the few levels that have a static time of day. Both the TC and original versions of this level were fan favorites. There’s a level flythrough on the link below if you scroll down to the first video.
RoK:C- Due to the nature of this level being an RTS that is meant to be seen from a birds eye view and time restraints this level was all hand sculpted. If I were to redo this project again there’s a few things I’d do different on the heightmap that would make it look better and play better using World Machine and Photoshop. Follow the link below to see a commentary video and get more general information about the project itself.
Ivory Towers- This level was created by another level Designer. I used many tools in Photoshop to completely rearrange the large terrain features found in this project. For more information on the project itself just follow the link below.