Week 10, 12 and 13 Blog

Good evening readers!

Easter has come and gone and due to that, I have not been able to update my blog and I forgot to update before the holidays started. I did take one week off (and one weekend) during the easter break. I understood that I needed to take a break to help my motivation and well being.

This blog post will be about Week 10, 12 and 13 as my break was week 11. The project is getting near the end due to the deadline restriction. The work completed has been mainly polish or continuation of level creation.

During these weeks, I had it in my mind that the deadline for this project was the 10th of May. I schedule the project accordingly. This in my mind was the way to go. However, during week 13, I discovered from peers that the deadline was the 3th, not the 10th. I started to panic and get worried. I then took a step back and evaluated the project and what needed doing. The original plan was to create a playable first level introducing mechanics, a playable second level with puzzles and a playable third level for story elements (cinematic ending). After the discovery of the deadline dates, I changed the plan.

My plan now is to create a playable first level (which is completed) and just to design and create the other two levels. Once the levels are done, I will analysis them to show what I was going to do and discuss why I couldnt. I will still be happy with a first playable level and being able to show off the other levels. After the project, I will continue on with this project to make those levels completely playable. That being said, let’s get into what has been done.

Firstly, the camera and character pathing has been updated. The camera now follows a similar path to the character during gameplay as smoothly as possible. However, I have encountered a problem with this. The camera will snap during sharper bends instead of following the path. At this moment in time, I have not be able to solve the problem (with what I thought was causing it) nor have I fully understood what is currently going on. This problem will be one I focus on before the hand in.

Secondly, the village level has come a long way since the last blog post. Instead of only being a paper design, it is now a physical level with the correct paths. The building placement has also started. However, it does take longer than I thought to create a village without set dressing yet.

In addition to inside the village, outside of it has also been started. This is to make the two levels join up. This will be achieved by having fewer and fewer trees around the closer the player gets to the village.

Thirdly, the third level, the temple, has been started. The path layout has been created and then next step is to create the environment. I will post once that has been created. The temple will be the end of the prototype game. The player will walk towards the temple and cinematics will play showcasing the environment. My aim is to get the level completed at least.

Fourthly, the first level now has UI prompts to tell the player to use the “action button” to complete the simple puzzle. This is indicated with the use of In Game widgets instead of on screen widgets. I wanted to make the project seem like the player can picture themselves walking within the levels. This can be achieved with no UI elements, to help immerse the player. However, for the progression required in the game, the use of UI had to be implimented.

Finally, I have created cinematics for when the player enters and leaves the village. The reason behind this was to show the player what level awaits them and helps them understand why they are going. For the sake of the village level, the cinematic shows how vast the village is and will also show the player that they must leave the village to venture to the temple seen in the distance. This process has helped me develop my camera work and my use of level sequencers. The next cinematic within the village is when the player leaves. This cinematic shows again the temple shown previously but in more detail. These cinematics are use to help guide the players through the level, show off focal points, show off the environment created and help the player understand where they are going. I will post gifs of the cinematics in due course.

As stated before, my aim is to create the first level fully playable with some set dressing elements. The other levels are to be created but not playable before the deadline. However, they possible could be playable by the time ExpoTees arrives where I can showcase my work to game companies.

All in all, I am somewhat happy with my progress. I wish I had more time before the deadline to get what I original set out to do but I understand the reasons behind that and have come up with a compromise. I will consult my supervisor to make sure that is enough work for my aim to get my first class degree.

Thank you all for reading. Tune in next time for some more progress shot during the week and then one last blog post before the hand in!

Week 7-9 Blog

Evening readers! Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few weeks, the work has been getting to me, both this project and my job. That being said, I have done quite a bit towards the project and I am happy with its progress. However, since it has been a while and I cant remember what I did over the on each week, I will just talk about everything I have done.

To start off, the level design for the forest level is in a near completed state. The environment has been updated and completed. The forest has been created, the mountain range can be seen in the distance and during gameplay, the play is unable to see the “Void” and will see hills or mountains. Below are final screenshots of how the level looks.

The next image is a cinematic shot showcasing the cherry blossom tree and the mountain range in the background. This shot will be the one shot to showcase the project. These cherry blossoms trees will act as a “checkpoint” system within the game. There are a select few within the level and they will indirectly let the player know that they are progressing though the level and at each tree, events will happen.

From the screenshots from the last post, the overall colours and lighting have changed quite a bit. This is due to me taking time to work with the lighting and post process as the game was looking quite greyed out. I am using dynamic lighting so it renders in real time and I do not need to building my lighting every time I change something in the level. In addition, I used the post process to change the saturation, AO and the indirect lighting source to create a more vibrant and stylizied look.

I have worked outside of the engine as well. I worked on analysising the forest level for when its beats happen. These beats include mechanic introduction, cinematic shots and showing level focal points. Below is that analysis.

In addition to this analysis, I have started on my paper design for the next level. I will show off this below and go into more detail about them when I get round to creating them in engine. The paper design is in 3 sections as it is easy for me to know what exactly I am wanting to do.

Thank you for reading! I will get back to doing this weekly!

Week 6 Blog

Afternoon readers!

Week 6 has ended for The Journey Home development and a lot has happened. The first level, set within and around a forest, has developed to a stage where I am now on to set dressing and environment creation.

The forest within the first level can now be filled with plenty of trees. I have created an efficient way to do this. The process with using construction scripts to randomly choose a tree from an list and a random rotation every time I move the Blueprint in the editor window. This has let me create a more natural looking forest without having to manually add each tree in one by one. With this in mind, along the main path the trees are going to be in the foreground. However, I must add those trees in manually has I will need to be more precise with what I want.

The start of the level is set within a small village. I have added a selection of prefabs, my buildings, and began to set dress this area. I have used this as practise for set dressing and this will help me better understand what exactly I am wanting in the second level, the village/temple. Below are a selection of beauty shots has well has birds eye views shots.

For the technical side, I created a push prototype. The player is able to push an object forward and backwards. However, I have decided to scrap that and create a selection of puzzles that will require pushing or pulling but in a more controlled way i.e. pulling a rope down, moving a barrel from one position to another. My prototype did not work as intended and I would spend more time fixing and improving it than I would create these puzzles.

Week 5 Blog

Good afternoon readers!

This is week 5 of The Journey Home development and this week has been all about production in the engine from level design to the character.

First off, the level has changed from the last time I posted screenshots of it. Below is a screenshot of how the level looked at the start of the week.

This shows the level path as well as the spline the character will move along to progress through the level. My main focus was to develop upon this and start to add some of the environment elements like grass or a river.

I added the river into the level which make the paths get disconnected. I corrected this by the use of bridges. I created the river using a landscape and its tools within the engine. This means I can use it to create any environmental elements like hills.

Expanding upon this, I playtested the level and noticed it had no verticality. I decided to create a section of the level that resembles some hills and made the player walk up and down them. This adds more interest into the level and creates a scripted event.

I also create a selection of prefabs to help with the level design of the village


With developing the level design, I decided to create a new camera system. The one that was currently implemented worked but wasn’t smooth and had limited movement. I created a new camera system that runs a long a spline beside the player. This new system gives the camera more room to rotate and move more smoothly.

That concludes week 5. Over the next, I will plan on developing the forest, trying out set dressing and playtesting.

Week 1-4 Blog

Good evening readers! I have decided to start a blog based on a project I am currently working on during my final year at Teesside University. I have worked on it for 4 weeks now and this first post will have recaps of everything I have done in those 4 weeks. After this post, I will continue to post weekly.

The project is called “The Journey Home”. It is a 2.5D side scroller set in the Edo Period in Japan. It will have an emphasis on level design, camera design and character design and mechanics. The project is a 16 week project. The end goal is to have a small game that is polished and showcases all of my skills I have developed over the years studying at University and working in small indie companies.

Week 1 +2:

Week one was all about creating the idea, refining it and creating a proposal to present to my supervisor. The idea is this; It will be a single player game where the player will travel through different sections of the level, completing puzzles along the way. They will travel through forests, villages and temples. The level design will consist of a few platforming sections, puzzles that require the character to push and/or pull and a camera system that will showcase the background environment. These cameras will also showcase the path ahead or behind and could indirectly focus on the player. The setting is the Edo period in Japan. The main character is a lost samurai travelling back to his village. This village will be set on a peninsula with old village buildings leading up to the temple. The end goal is to reach the end of the peninsula where the temple is present.

The reasons behind my choice of game was that I have not worked on a game like this before. I have worked on 2D side scroller games and 3rd person 3D games. I will be able to transfer the skills I have learnt previously to create this game. I will also develop new skills, like learning camera systems and improving mechanic creation, and extend my knowledge of more games. Another reason is that this particular project has a small scope and it gives me the opportunity and time to refine and polish. While I won’t be creating everything myself, I will be creating this project focusing on level design and camera design. The art assets and animations will be from asset packs I will purchase.

The game Inside is the main inspiration for this project.

Inside is a 3D side scroller set during a dark, unsettling world. The character travels through a number of different environments, solving simple puzzles while the narrative unfolds.

The character has simple movement mechanics like jump, running and pushing/pulling objects. The game is engaging due to its level design and environment portraying its narrative. I will take inspiration at how the character moves and acts and how the level flows.

While looking at games, I will also look into real world locations, time periods and research into history. I will look at locations like Lake Hartwell, Izu Peninsula and Boso Peninsula for their environments and the peninsula layout. The history I will look into will be the Edo Period in Japan as well as the Bushido, a samurai group present during the Edo Period. Researching the history will give me an idea of how people acted and how the environments looked. While researching this time period, I will take into consideration culture sensitivity. Any additional elements I create, like a user interface, will have to match the theme while also not offending anything about it

Week 3:

After presenting the idea to my supervisor and got the go ahead, my next course of action was to start on my pre production.

Level design is an area I wish to purse as a career and a major part of being a level designer is creating effective pre production before even starting work on engine. The Journey Home has 3 level sections in the one level. I took each section and created a list of possible scripted events that can occur. This list helps me visualise what I am wanting the level to look like.

After creating this list, I went ahead and started researching into real life areas and created moodboards. These moodboards have a collection of real life photos, layouts of golf course or parks and video game examples. The first moodboard, shown below, showcases the starting area, the forest paths and what could be seen in the background while playing the game.

I created moodboards for the other 2 sections of the level and lists of scripted events. After completing, I went to start creating level layouts.

I created these layouts to help me when I come to the whiteboxing of the level. I created a hexagonal grid and a colour key to visualise what I wanted to go for.

Each grid can be represented as 10 Unreal Units within the engine (10m) which will help me gauge how long each section will be when playing the game. I will create more layouts for each section when I come to develop the idea.

Week 4:

After creating the layout for the Forest, I decided to jump into the engine and work on the character and the camera system.

From the asset pack I purchased, their were a selection of characters to use. I went for the Samurai Grunt as the main character. I first retargeted the character mesh to the UE4 default character to use its animations. From doing this however, the animations did not fit to the character and I decided to use a website called Mixamo. I exported the character as an FBX, uploaded it to the website.

After importing a selection of animations the character will use, I went back to the engine and started to create the movement mechanics. I was going for a more simple approach to the character movement mechanics but concentrated on the feel. So getting the animations right, the movement speed and the weight of the character.

Going with a base movement, I decided to go into a new level and create a blockout path for the forest using my layout I created.

The character will be moving along a spline so will only be able to move left or right. I create this spline based movement in a Blueprint. The character spawns in at the end of the spline and can move along it. It checks ever tick that it is on the spline, making sure it can never go off it.

This side scroller will not be a completing linear pathing. The path will have curves and turns. However, the camera I have created will make sure that after every turn and curve, the camera will follow and make the character appear side on at all times.

The camera system I have created is within the character Blueprint. It has 5 cameras within in and the focused camera changes after certain sections within the level. This system will be my base system to develop upon. I will look into other more efficient ways to create a better camera system.

This is everything I have developed so far for this project. I am working at R8 Games as a part time Designer so I have had to schedule my work accordingly. My project plan works for me and well help me create the polished piece of work I wish to create by the end of the project.

Next week I will have developed my blockout level for the forest, go into idea of how the levels work and showing art asset placement.