These are some Tribes-inspired levels designed with the help of procedural terrain generation programs World Machine, Geoglyph and World Creator. I modeled the structures in Maya or Sketchup. The terrain textures I purchased from CGTextures and Gametextures and the skies are from UDK.
I had trouble finding trees with the right low poly stylized look I was going for, so I purchased the only one I liked, smoothed it out a bit and then broke it into pieces and reassembled them in Blender to create a variety of trees with the same style.
I set up all of the environment and sky materials on this page in Unreal. They’re not as good as what an artist would come up with but they look nice enough as a starting point. For the level above I purchased a clump of three palm trees, separated them to allow a wider variety of placement options and cleaned up their overlapping leaves.
Above is an out of bounds grid I threw together in the material editor. The shader fades it out at a distance and also in proximity of the terrain or other geometry.
Below are some experimental structures I modeled. The castle, largest base, base at the bottom center and the dome ruins I commissioned and improved upon myself.
Splosion Man is an action/puzzle platformer for Xbox 360 arcade and retail bundle. It received IGN’s best platformer of E3 and Editor’s Choice Award along with awards from Gametrailers and Worthplaying. Destructoid, Gamespy, Gamepro, Worthplaying and IGN gave it a 9/10. Below are some of my levels.
Seven Temples is an asymmetrical competitive multiplayer mod for Starcraft 2 where players control one of seven factions, each with unique units and heroes. As players build more temples they recruit stronger units at their capital. Temples also summon special bonus units depending on where they are constructed. I commissioned the illustrations below and did the graphic design for them.
Arakh is one of the three human factions. They specialize in maneuvering quickly over difficult terrain and also in destructive weaponry such as fire and siege engines. Their stone strongholds are highly defensible due to their location and if they gain a foothold high in enemy territory are very difficult to dislodge. They worship gods of lightning, fire, stone and clouds.
The Draugg inhabit subterranean halls in the isolated wilderness of the north. Locals fear and avoid the areas associated with them, thinking they are haunted by ghosts or evil spirits. Few if any living humans have seen them and in fact most of what few Draugg there are spend most of their time in what appears to be a vegetative state, slowly rotting away as the years go by. However, a cult has grown up around them and is gaining power in the north. Rumors of falling stars have also been spreading in the area after the rebellion. The cult worships gods of the stars, shadow, water and bone.
Gatha is an uninhabitable land of jungles and mountains located on the eastern continent. It is one of the few places that has remained largely untouched by the various human factions and is filled with dangerous creatures and nature spirits. The inhabitants are known to worship gods that sleep in giant caves under the earth. Gatha’s principle elements are earth, stone, bronze and horn.
Thraxis is lead by a rogue group known as the Xathrin. Called the “Demon Kings” by the shortsighted Thallians, the Xathrin use a pantheon of false gods to manipulate their human population. They use a number of humans as well as a host of unknown horrors they have somehow summoned to do their bidding. They enslave and feed upon their own subjects and appear to enjoy nothing more than reaching the deepest levels of decadence and perversion. The elements of Thraxis are obsidian, fire, bone and sulfur.
Above is an early version of the Thraxis creature. I always have fun collaborating with artists to create illustrations and 3d models for my worlds. The hardest part is always tracking down people with the right style and skills for the job.
Coming from the vibrant Brood War “Use Map Settings” custom map community I had high hopes for Starcraft 2. I spent a few months learning the editor and getting Seven Temples to a point ready for multiplayer testing. The SC2 map editor was fantastic, but unfortunately the poorly designed Battle.net 2.0 made it impossible to get enough players for testing and continued development. You would sit in a use map settings lobby for hours and have no one join because everyone was filtered to the popular maps. The removal of chat channels also crippled the community and your ability to recruit testers.
The Knell is an outdoor map set in a snowy series of courtyards and gets its name from the bell that is rung by the defending locust when they discover your presence. Several waves of attacks from the rooftops and ground follow. The video contains cuts in lengthy battles because of the video time constraint.
I created all of the terrain textures myself as there was no snow setting in Gears 1. I am most proud of the originality of the scripted sequences and the technical accomplishments I made (detailed below). If I were to go back and work on it now I would give the player better cover in the middle where you are getting shot from above. I also would give more audio cues before enemies attack to be more fair to the player. Troika!
In The Gunstringer for Kinect you control a marionette in 2d and 3d platforming sections and cover shootouts. You move around the environment or in and out of cover by moving your left hand and you shoot by first highlighting enemies with your right hand and then jerking it back like you are holding a recoiling gun. The game was well received by players and critics. I think they appreciated us trying to do something different with motion controls. For the majority of the project we had 2 designers – myself as Junior Designer and Dan Teasdale as Senior Designer. I did about half of the levels in the game.
The Devil Behind the Canvas was an unfinished Unreal Engine mod started by Yuan Cui. The game’s main hook was that each area would have had 3 variations to correspond with sanity states – normal, twilight, and hell. I built the following levels in Unreal and used some of the static meshes that came with Unreal Tournament 3.
Below is a collection of crypt and cave settings. The columns and vaulted ceilings I created with BSP and converted to static meshes to act as placeholders. I made the caustics (water reflections) and the simple candle and firefly particle effects.
Below is a collaboration by Yuan Cui, myself and the rest of the DBC team. Yuan did the initial block-out and then I went in and made the geometry more interesting and added the faked shadows with light functions and the volumetric light shafts. Then Yuan went in and did a final art pass and really blew it out.
Below is a collection from the forest and cave entrance areas I designed.
Below are some more crypt and cave areas. My concept for this main cavern was that it would be half filled with sea water in phase 1 and 2 and would drain to reveal more stairs and rooms in phase 3.
Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley is a side-scrolling twin-stick shooter where you travel through a variety of comic book worlds each with unique art styles, enemies and boss fights. I did some of the challenge levels as well as getting all of the dialogue into the game and blocking out cinemas and comic panels. I gathered reference art and came up with scenario ideas early on and did a fair amount of decorating at the end of the project.
This was a frustrating project because we wanted more gameplay variety such as powerups and alternate weapons but the game was kept extremely simple like Splosion Man. Simplicity worked in Splosion man because of the variety of unique hazards, puzzles and multiplayer but it did not work for Comic Jumper. The repetitive shooting with only a single weapon and the simple melee combat got old fast. It’s unfortunate because the high concept was great.
Below is some amazing promotional art by Cliff Rathburn. Originally we were going to have a fifth comic setting in a horror style but it had to be cut.
War of the Rings is a mix of zone control and building castles to receive more powerful units in waves. Each of nine players controls a different nation from The Lord of the Rings including custom units, buildings and heroes. Most of my level designs are original so this project was very different from others I have done before. I used the map from the book as a reference, trying to remain as accurate as possible but making concessions where needed for gameplay reasons. I spent several months making it, referring to Tolkien’s map hundreds of times.
Below is the map I used for reference which I cut into a grid to match up with the game’s camera. The main challenge when referring to the reference came from the fact that the camera in Warcraft 3 is not top down and therefore forms a trapezoid instead of a rectangle.
In the shots below I am coming up with unit compositions and stats for each nation’s army. I always have fun designing custom units and abilities. These types of projects require countless iterations on unit balance.
Below are Bree, Rivendell, and the Hall of the Wood Elves in the Great Forest.
Below are part of the Lonely Mountains, The Ford of Osgiliath and Ithilien.
I created dozens of custom maps for Starcraft, ranging from competitive multiplayer to cooperative story-based maps. Blizzard’s tools are always excellent and they really help make the best content possible. Below are a couple of screenshots from one of my maps showing some triggers, locations and the unit editor.
Below is my most ambitious custom map for Starcraft, Dark Sun (no relation to the D&D campaign). It took over 6 months to create. As with other custom maps, I had a group of friends as well as many random players play-test it with me throughout the entire process. I used the largest map size available and maxed out on locations, doodads and strings. I Made constant use of scripted events and special effects. I created an original story and had fun making up the names for all of the characters and units. I filled several notebooks and folders with pages of ideas and bug reports. Looking back I made countless terrible design decisions but it was a great learning experience.