So my 8-week saturday class experiment is over, and I’m glad I took the course, even if it didn’t get into importing your own models, or even making my own unreal-compatible models. Our instructor said that while (all three of us) passed the class with good marks, if we want to, we can tweak our levels and send them back to him so he can see them completed and and play test them a bit.
Once I do this, I’ll post screen caps. Also, once I get the Capture-the-Flag theme working so it’s playable as such.
My level idea was based off some Castle Ravenloft maps in the 3.5 module. I had to do some pretty drastic re-planning to develop something I could turn in completed for class, and something that made sense as a Capture the flag. In the end, this level doesn’t really look like Ravenloft, but our instructor said it really did have that ‘flooded rundown dungeon feel’ which made me really happy. One part of the bottom level is only a little below water, not deep enough to prevent damage if you fall into it, and with debris in the water so you can tell it wasn’t originally constructed to be that way.
I was able to use only the library that was provided with the Editor, but I had to take some shortcuts and do some improvising. There were no torch handles available in the library, so I picked a dark metal column and scaled it down to a size that would be appropriate for a wall sconce. Had I thought about it a little more, I would have used them as chair legs. In any case, they work pretty well.
My level was the only one with:
-A Sky dome and windows so you could look out and see the dome
-Scaled and UV adjusted textures so wall textures blended correctly
-Trees, columns, statues and other static meshes (hard objects) available in the library for decoration
-Themed lighting – blue for the blue flag area and red for red flag
-Discernible theme – flooded dungeon, CTF
-Modified brush tool to make dome shaped rooms and other items
-Complicated layout, 2 paths to each flag, staircases.
I was really happy that he could tell I put a decent amount of work into it, and I’m glad I worked on it outside of class. All that aside, this was definitely a ‘learning’ level for me, and I’m going to ditch the whole thing when I turn around and re-build the full Castle Ravenloft. The biggest disadvantage to doing the entire castle is that for Unreal tournament, it’s not really something that’s playable as a level. It’s just too damn big. It’s something that with mobs, takes players several sessions to get through, and at a bare minimum may take people 20-30 minutes just to explore. On the other hand, it’d be really awesome if I do make the whole thing and populate it with traps, 3D models appropriate to the castle, make my own textures and basically show that I can make this thing. Plus, I really dig creating things from plans.
What I wish we’d done differently, and could have been done in the 8-week class period:
1. I wish the class had been taught to work in additive mode, rather than stressing subtractive. Subtractive was the default when the editor first came out, apparently, and you are carving rooms out of a giant block, essentially. This is completely in reverse to normal game modeling, and as a result, my rooms are not 2 sided – you can see through other rooms when looking out the windows, which I wasn’t aware would be a problem when I started. I actually had to go back and delete quite a few windows that were directly facing other rooms.
What I really like about Unreal Editor:
1. It’s not necessary to UV map anything, just drag and drop textures and scale/rotate/etc. UV mapping will come later on, when I have to make unique items for the Castle, like the Icon of ravenloft – the raven statue, and the devil trees. Actually, the raven won’t be too bad, I believe it’s just pure silver anyway, so I just have to make it shiny.
2. I love that you can start playing from any location, with minimal processing time. I love that you can play your level with no textures at all – it won’t cause errors and you can walk through rooms to test the size before adding items, lights and textures.
3. I really like that holes aren’t permanent. You can place a block anywhere and set it to ‘subtract’ from the wall, and the box will still ‘be there’. It can be moved around, scaled and otherwise tweaked, including deletion which will restore the wall back to the way it was. Instead of deleting polygons that can be difficult to fill up again, the box simply says ‘there’s nothing here”, and as result, does not interfere with textures either.
4. Water is EASY. Setting up kill areas, trigger areas, or just empty volumes that can do nearly anything you want them to do is very easy. Don’t like water? swap it out for lava. Haha, the floor is lava! no, really.
5. Animating objects is extremely easy. Set up time span, set up key frames, and one the object is touched, the animation will run once or indefinably, however you set it up.
6. Realtime examples of what the room will look like rendered – it’s not perfect, but it does a pretty damn good job of showing you what your level will look like once processed – saves a great deal of time guessing on fire, light colors, etc. “building” is pretty fast too.
What I really don’t like about the Unreal Editor:
1. Materials vs. textures. Unreal calls skins “materials” and “textures” are what makes raised and bump maps, and controls shine, transparency and what not. This is somewhat backwards from Lightwave, and I had some trouble in the beginning, attempting to apply ‘textures’ to my walls and wondering where they were. I guess ‘textures’ makes more sense, since they show ‘texture’ – but it still took me a minute or two to reverse the thinking in my personal experience.
2. Wanting to do commands in Lightwave and it not working – this is my own damn fault, but I’m getting used to it.
3. Having to scroll through the level with a mouse to see any part of your level. I almost ran my mouse off the front of the desk getting halfway through my level, which really isn’t all that big right now.
4. Complicated rooms are difficult to construct. I had to trash my starting room about 3 times before I figured out how to make a dome shaped room with wings on it. It’s still very crude, but I finally figured out how to modify the brush to make the room I wanted.
5. Only 8 basic brushes – columns, spheres, cones, cubes, planes, 3 types of staircases-spiral, curved and straight. Meh. At the same time, creating staircases without the brushes would be.. prohibitive, to say the least.
6. Hollowing out complicated rooms in Additive mode. I attempted briefly to make my level in additive mode before switching back to subtractive. In additive, rooms really need to have an inner surface and an outer one. In subtractive, they only ‘need’ an inner one because in most cases, you’ll never see the outside. Unless you’re silly like me and make windows.