Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bringing It All Together (a.k.a Mapbuilding)

My dungeon is starting to come together, I have about 6 encounters almost fully fleshed out, and figured it was time to start thinking about actual architecture. As I said before, I'm kind of aiming for a Karazhan / SFK style old-castle-on-a-hill thing, since I really like that theme even if it's a bit overdone. Speaking of overdone, anyone know of any good games what feature ELVES AND ORCS FIGHTING DRAGONS? no? yeah...

So anyway. I know how to use Photoshop, and am pretty proficient with Illustrator as well, and figured Illustrator would be a good blueprint app since I can rescale rectangles after they've been plopped down (vector vs. raster), and draw polygons from scratch using the pen tool. I started with the basic ideas I've outlined so far, based on the fights I've come up with. The entrance ring where you collect the keys to unlock other wings, the Library, Hall of Arms, and the Baron's Throne room. I've decided that the Baron fight is worthy of being a "final boss" after all, since he has enough interesting mechanics coming into play that it'll take a while to learn and iron out. Plus his room is very dynamic, so it's a worthy "final showdown" area. I've also included the Garden and Alchemy Lab from two encounters I already have written up, but haven't posted yet. The garden is a Green Flight Dragon encounter, and the Alchemy lab is, well... you'll just see the Alchemy Lab when I decide to unveil it ;)

Another basic element I wanted to include was a bunch of towers, rather than wings like Naxx has. I wanted it to be impressive to behold from a distance, perched up on a hillside overlooking a cliff, with lots of 'impossible' balconies jutting out from the side of said towers. Ones that wouldn't be possible due to gravity and general engineering issues, but this is a fucking game, so let's just enjoy it, k?

Basic Floorplan:

You can see I've got a color theme going to demonstrate the various floors, purple being lowest and red being the top floor. The twisting towers are spiral just to demonstrate the staircases leading up them. This is still a very rough layout... for one, it basically doesn't leave much room for trash. Unless every trash pull is done on a staircase leading up the towers, there needs to be more open spaces like the ballroom in Kara, and that whole area after Curator and before Aran. I do have those two big purple rooms to the left and right of the very first "ring boss", and those were the intended trash zones, but in the 3d representation I left out the one on the right, because I really liked the towers being so close to the initial ring... where you zone in and feel like these towers are looking down on you as you fight the doorman for your first key.

So in comes the 3d portion. I got a trial of 3d studio max, and then realized I have no idea how to use it. I went to the Art Academy in San Francisco for a while, back when Maya was brand new on the scene, and I took classes in Softimage. Softimage has since been bought by Autodesk (makers of 3ds max), and so yeah. Hm. After fumbling around in tutorials for a bit and getting way too involved on tiny unnecessary details, I finally scrapped the project I was working on (a fully detailed Baron's Room), and decided to keep it simple, and just hammer out a basic blueprint similar to what I had done in Illustrator. To my surprise (and delight), I began picking things up as I went along. The dropdown menus are still full of advanced crap I have no idea about, but after spending all day today at my desk at school (one class = 45 min out of an 8 hour day spent at school, zzzz) just plugging away, and I actually feel pretty comfortable with it at this point. Again, I'm not really applying for a 3d modeling job, but if throwing basic mock ups together helps get my ideas across, then all the better. These cylinders aren't hollowed out and full of staircases or anything, but it's getting the layout and silhouetting intact, which is what I'm aiming for mostly.

Silhouette (still needs something on the left side, I really want it to give the impression it's going to collapse at any second, so thinning up the towers, making them taller, and exagerrating the lean is something I'll be aiming for):



I tried poking around and trying to figure out how to attach a camera to a path and do a full render of a flyaround, then realized I was spending 45 minutes on something that really didn't matter.

These posts are actually beginning to look more like an actual BLOG, and less like ramblings of a madman, so you'll have to forgive me if I just chuck shit up here to "timestamp" it. I want to be able to look back and have a timeline for all of this coming together, and have a good cross section of before and after shots for the "final product".


I'll get the Alchemist and Green Dragon encounters typed up in something more choerant than "ramblings in notepad mode" for later, and from the time I saved this blog entry to the time I got home to post it, I came up with another encounter (very rough) that could fit in the little green box room off the Alchemist's Tower (note to self: pulsing crystals + paly shield).

Till next time...

*edit* Been poking around a bit more; got the towers made taller, and shifted the alchemy lab's position a bit...
Good times ;)


Timothy said...

Hey Ixo
I really enjoy reading your blog.
It makes my office-grind way more intersting.
I like the whole castle idea and all your encounters sound fun so far.
I noticed your first steps in 3d moddeling.. and rememberd Sketch up.
Thats freeware delivered with google earth, and really easy to handle.. i would even say its fun to "build" something.
Give it a go.

Sorry about the spelling and all, but i am from switzerland and learnd all my english from silly tv-shows;)

Ixobelle said...

Welcome aboard ;)

I'm getting the hang of 3dstudio Max already, so I may just stick with it, plus it would be a useful app to know how to use in the long run if I actually end up doing this for a living. I love google earth though, use it during my presentations here in Japan to zoom out from where I am to where I came from, always gets the crowd OOH-ing and AHH-ing.

Hatch said...

It's definitely coming together, and sounds more varied than Kara (here's a purple room. here's another purple room. here's a purple room with books. here's a purple room with ramps...). It's developing a sort of Tim Burton Nightmare Before Christmas vibe that I dig.

The sillouette kind of looked like little final fantasy black mages offering me platters of food. The tops of the towers look too much like pointy hats. :)

Tesh said...

For what it's worth, I work with Max all day. I used to work with Maya all day. When I work with a designer who can use Max, even at a rudimentary level like that, it's often easier to see what they are getting at than if they were just doing a bit of hand waving and talking.

The ability to sketch out rough ideas is good as well. Designers really have to pull aspects from both the art side and the engineering side, and being able to communicate well with both is a key to the position.

Keep at it! As an artist, I'd really go to town on that model and spruce it up, but really, if I got that from a designer rather than a few paragraphs describing the place, I'd be a happy camper.

Then again, we do have concept artists who do pretty drawings of these things. Still, this would be a good resource for the concept artists, too.

Goshon said...

Looks like its coming together very well Ixo, have you considered how you may package the final product to perhaps send to one of the various MMO makers out there?

Ixobelle said...

I've got my heart set on Blizzard at the moment for a few reasons:

1) I play WoW, and have for a very long time. If I tried to just get job anywhere, and ended up with one somewhere other than Blizz, I'd be that annoying guy comparing everything to WoW.

2) Since making up my mind that I want to actually do this, there's no reason why I should set my sights any lower than "what I really want", and what I really want is a job at Blizzard.

3) I think if I go there with the full intention of working on WoW, it'll be a +1 in their book. They're probably swamped with people who want to work on their new "top secret next MMO", plus they've probably moved a lot of the top tier talent already there to focus on it as well. If I can get my feet wet with something as established as WoW, I think I'd be more comfortable. Plus, even if i did get put on the new project, and it was World of Starcraft, I'd be like "the uhh... zergs... they're like... aliens or something?" I know a fair chunk of WoW lore, and could actually use that to influence my stuff.

Obviously, if they don't offer me a job, I won't come slinking back to Japan to teach elementary school until I die, but as long as you have a goal, you may as well aim for the top, right?