Blast from the past – mp_warehouse_ext

So, I was going through a harddrive I rarely access in everyday use and I found some screenshots of a map I did back in early 2008 (or at least that’s when the shots are dated) for Call of Duty 4. I remember absolutely loving making this map, the overall layout worked very well for COD4’s one-life gamemode Search and Destroy as it offered a lot of variety in how the attackers could approach the objectives.

The distance from the attackers spawn and objectives was also quite short, potentially making for quick rounds. There was 3 main approaches the attackers could take:

  1. Go indoors through a narrow corridor, with a branching path through a tight vent system.
  2. Go through the large front gate to one of the warehouses and hope it wasn’t well covered by the other team.
  3. Go on the outside, perfect for sniper-dueling, either out in the open or through a small office building.

Admittedly, I must say after all these years that the theme of the level is quite uninspiring. I’d like to remember that it was all down to me focusing on the flow of gameplay and varying the distance of engagement (very important in an fps) rather then the aesthetics. Another reason of course being that the vast majority of assets in COD4 has this theme.

I also found this very early in-editor screenshot of the outer area of the map. After this screenshot was taken I added a third building on the left of the two main warehouses which connected the two with narrow corridors, traversable vents and a large room full with storage shelf where one of the objectives was located.

mp_warehouse_ext_1

Here’s some of the screenshots, the oldschoolness proven by glorious 4:3:

shot0016 shot0015 shot0014 shot0017

This last screenshot really gives away that the map wasn’t quite finished when these screenshots were taken, note the missing detailing on the right wall (completely flat and boring, no roof), the way-too-clean ground and the strangely finite backdrop.

The predecessor to this map, mp_warehouse which I also made, was the first complete custom map released for COD4, mere days after the mod tools came out, something I still take some pride in after all these years. It was also featured in a German games magazine and included on their CD (Remember those days?) which was quite awesome for a acne-ridden 17 year old me.

Both the orginal and the _ext version was still played on a few servers just a year or so ago, quite awesome for a custom map made in 2008. Actually, I just checked and there’s still at least two servers running it right now, wow.

Will perhaps make another one of these posts in the future, found some other rather interesting stuff I have worked on in the past.

Guiding the player

After some testing, we discovered that players would lose their way in one of the areas in the factory level, and become unsure of where to go next. It simply left most people confused. Before going into what I/we did to fix it, lets break down the problem(s).

Mechropolis_GuidingThePlayer1

  1. This is what you see when you first enter the room. It’s not very interesting. Most people just simply walk forward without paying attention to what’s below or to the right, which is not what we had in mind.
  2. This is what you see if you look to the right when standing on the walkway visible in first shot. When designing the space I wanted to convey a sense of grandeur to the player, It feels like that somewhat succeeded but it’s at the cost guiding the player. Even though that’s the direction the player should go, it’s not clear exactly where you should be heading, which it reasonably should be.
  3. This is an overview of the entire area. The large open spaces gave the player room to play around with the robots, but at the same time it contributed to the confusion. Players felt like there had to be a more meaningful purpose to the area.
  4. This is where the player is suppose to go, the opening next to the rotating paddle wheel. The player needs to advance to the second half of the room to even be able to properly see this, and even then it’s somewhat obscure and difficult to see.

Mechropolis_GuidingThePlayer2

The screenshot above shows the view you now get when entering the area. What we did was cut the entire first part and re-positioned the entry point so that the player is directly infront of where they should be going. Even though there’s still some improvements to be made, it’s almost infinitely better than what it used to be.

Also, by cutting the first area we were able to put another puzzle in, which is something this level desperately needed. It was also possible to preserve the vista seen in 2nd of the smaller screenshots above, but with some changes to make sure the player doesn’t feel they should be able to get there directly.

Mechropolis_Screenshot_LavaAndWheel

 

New game in development!

After recovering from the haze that was CoBots development, we’re back with a new game, Mechropolis! It’s a first person action puzzle game set in what’s the remnants of a lost civilization. The only remaining sign of life are small rusty robots going about their business, long after whoever built has gone.

You need to overcome challenges by throwing them (the robots, that is) together to create new ones that will help you traverse the environment and overcome challenges. I made our first development log to show off how it works:

I’ve mainly focused on the level design so far and it’s coming along really nicely. The process we’re doing consists of me doing the basic level geometry in Unity using the ProBuilder plugin, this allows for quick creation of somewhat complex geometry, much like in the old days of the Radiant and Hammer editors, which is what I’m used too. It allows you to create a whole range customizable simple shapes, which can then be manipulated into basically anything.

Mechropolis_Cavern_1

After the greyboxing and layouting was finished, I started refining and preparing the level for detailing. An example of this are the rock walls seen in the screenshot above, they’re all pretty much flat throughout the entire cavern but have a whole bunch of vertices that can just be manipulated to give it that rock:y look (as on the right side in the screenshot).

Something I learnt a long time ago when doing similar work Radiant years ago was that you should have all terrain pieces of uniform resolution, this makes it a whole lot easier to stitch the different terrains together. Not stitching together them precisely is just a recipe for failure, you’ll have light leaks and the collision might be off causing characters to get stuck, not to mention how bad it’ll look.

The screenshots below shows 2 different pieces of terrain coming together, with all vertices along the edge lined up to avoid the problems listed above.

UnityTerrain

It can be tempting to do higher resolution terrains but in my experience it’s a whole load more pain than gain. When doing large scale manipulations it’s a hassle to deal with the amount of vertices that higher resolution produce and beyond a certain point the extra detail is negligible to the look.

I settled on 1 vertex per 3 meters as it’s a good middle ground, could have probably gotten away with lower resolution on the large walls but as there are intricate details on some parts (the ramp visible to the upper left for example) that need to be stitched together it’s just better to go with the same resolution overall.

Of course, there are times when you really need to transition between terrain resolution, but I try to keep these places far enough from the play-area so player(s) won’t notice any eventual flaws. As in the screenshot below:

UnityTerrain2

I’ve also coded a system for handling puzzles in their entirety (triggers, managers, and parts) but that’s the topic for a whole other post.