Towards the end of last week, me and our level designer were approached by one of our artists about level design sketches. In the midst of a bit of uncertainty, I had an idea. What if we “sketched” the level in Minecraft? I think figured out the idea was great when upon bringing up the idea to any of the other team members, their first instinct was to just grin.
By essentially treating Minecraft as a collaborative 3D modelling software, me and the two designers could sketch out the level design together in real time and there’d be no worries about experimenting with different designs. As well as this, the artists would have a 3D sketch to observe from any angle they so desire as opposed to just a fixed 2D sketch.
With this idea, we had just hit gold.
Blockout – Day One
At the beginning of this week, we got to work on blocking out the levels. We had a concrete base for the level idea initially: An arena map split in two by a river with flowing logs that could be used as platforms, with two bridges (one broken, one standing) on hills on the edges of both sides.
There was a bit of initial contention as to the aesthetic of the hills, whether they’d be smooth slopes (like real hills) or blocky stylised hills like those in Super Mario 3D Land (2011). In all honesty, we argued about that for god knows how long. Eventually, the blocky hills won out on the grounds that they’d add to the platforming. Towards the end of the first day of “sketching,” we’d finished the river, the logs and the two hills.
Blockout – Day Two
I had a meeting with a doctor when the two designers got to work, so they did a fair bit of “sketching” without me. When I got down, they’d finished most of one side of the map, the clearing area, based off of Little Red Riding Hood. They had built a small cottage with a flower garden that we then later expanded, a large path running through the flat areas of the stage and a few more hills to place power-ups and collectables on. As well as this, two fences were added on the edges of the map. The fences exist as exit and entry points for the level’s main stage hazard: Grandma Wolf.
Grandma Wolf occaisionally walks onto the stage, making a growling noise on entry. If no player is in her line of sight, she’ll simply walk to the other fence and jump over, making a howling noise to signify that she’s gone. If a player is in her line of sight, she’ll go after them and attack them, stunning them and making them lose a star, and then walk back to her standard route towards the exit fence.
Afterwards we got to work on the other side, the forest area. The forest area was to have a lot more elevated platforms than the clearing area. We had made a small amount of progress on the forest area on the first day, with a small tributary river acting as a minor hazard by the unbroken bridge.
The first thing I built on that side of the map was the log cabin on the edge. The cabin is a lot shorter than the cottage, with the idea that much of it would be hidden behind the background fog.
With the cabin done, we placed down some trees around the house. We avoided placing down trees too close to the river as they would potentially allow the player to just jump over the river without fail, removing any risk. We initially planned to use tree branches as the main form of platform in the forest area until it occured that branches that low down on what was to be a very tall tree would’ve looked unnatural and all-around a bit weird. After another pretty pointless yet long argument, we just whited out the platforms and decided to let the artists do whatever they so desired with it.
Towards the end of our session, I added a few decorative bits, such as the waterfall on the edge of the map and the more winding path than the one in the clearing. After that, we were finished. After two days of fiddling with controllers and a few senseless arguments over what things should be and what should go where, we’d successfully “sketched” out our entire arena in Minecraft.
We also had a secondary “sketch” of the arena that showed the spawn locations of the game’s power-ups and collectables, but unfortunately we didn’t screenshot those, perhaps I’ll get to show those another time.