Level Design / Populating the Environment

Jean Baptiste Laine from above

Building on Kris Howald’s work creating an accurate terrain / landscape appropriate for the time period we looked to the final Jean Baptiste Laine report as our basis for the layout of the city itself. Using the late phase floorplan, placeholder longhouse models were positioned in approximate locations relative to each other, the palisade, and the surrounding environment. Sizing was also an approximation, longhouse structures were adjusted in Unreal through changes in scale rather than in the model itself. The effect of this is a best fit “stretching and squashing” of the model and not a true structural representation of length. The single green longhouse is an example of the final longhouse model.

Cornfields Surrounding City

Working closely with subject experts we imagined the agricultural fields as wide ranging and expansive, appropriate to support the large population of Jean Baptiste Laine. Also included were paths of travel crisscrossing the fields, allowing the user clear areas that are explorable. This also had the added benefit of reducing the number of models in the level. The tree-line in the distance represents the extent of the fields as well as the extent of the player’s potential travel area.

Unreal engine’s foliage tool was used to place 13,500 models of the ‘three sisters’. Multiple levels of detail are generated in real-time to account for the large number of models – closer to the camera equals a higher resolution, farther means significantly reduced detail.

The palisade wall was created programmatically, by Youhan Guan, along a spline with single palisade posts placed on both sides to interrupt immersion breaking model repetition.

Interior Longhouse

Particle based local fog was added to the interior of the explorable longhouse to create a sense of dust, smoke and low light conditions. The longhouse model and interior was taken from version 4 of the project created by Kris Howald. The current version also incorporates the colour palette and texture style he established.

With temporary longhouse models in place, it’s clear how crowded the interior city space could have potentially been. Given the number of occupants, we interpreted the ground as hard packed with patches of foliage. Grass was placed in areas away from potential travel such as along the base of longhouses and areas away from longhouse entrances.

An open question is whether the environment should be more meadow-like as opposed to agricultural. This would mean the inclusion of a variety of additional foliage types, though this might add to the accuracy of the experience, the cost to frame rate could be high.

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