Friday, November 14, 2008

Gears of war 2

After the work on UT3 was done, i moved over to Gears of war2. There I started learning how to make proper gears MP maps. My first map was Pavilion.



====================================

Gears of war 2(2007-2008)
Onsite mapping at Epic games

Pavilion

Pavilion was designed with a couple things in mind. While going through all the gears concept art, I always loved the grey destroyed house / pavilion with this very pink blossom tree in it. I liked the balance between the ugly and the pretty. While playing through Gears1 the part that impressed me most was the stranded area. I really love it when a world has more life in it than just you ... when it shows places where others lived. I tried to combine all this into the visual side of the map.

The gameplay flow got changed quite a bit. Initially you had the choice to come out of the doors in the side of the spawn points, or run down and come out of the building further down. There was no connection hallway where the shield was, so all players ended up in the courtyard with the pavilion. The battles were just too fast so the flow was changed through a couple iterations. In the end there are multiple gates / doors that will open or close depending on the gametype. This way the map changes to its optimum state for that specific gametype.

I build the layout and implemented all the feedback, and later set out to mesh it. I stole a lot of buildings and mesh configurations from the Sinkhole map, and also its lighting and post processing. Than I added the statues and waterfalls and expanded on the stranded theme more.

Security

Security was a totally different map at first. And I was asked to do a pass on the gameplay on it. I started off slightly tweaking it, but in the end Dave Ewing told me to redo it. He also handed me a paper sketch of a possible alternative layout. I set out and converted his sketch into bsp and the result is the layout that is there now.

The trap did go through several iterations. Initially there were guns that would pan across the area above the mulcher. They caused some problems though, since it wasn't a hard enough gate, you would try and run between the laser sweeps and get caught. It wasn't fun to die because of that, so they were removed.

Besides working on the layout I did a lot of polish and bug fixing in this map of gameplay and performance.

Ruins

Ruins was my third layout for Gears2. It replaced another map that had the pop up cover in it. The layout did not change really but a lot of the cover placement was fine tuned and tweaks. There was also a lot of iteration on how the pop up cover would work.

The layout is definitely not standard. I think it still works well though. There is more choice in where to go and the pop up cover still has a bit of impact on the gameplay. Since it now stays up after activation it isn't as big an impact as when it would go back down after you left the cover.

River

River was my last layout / map. It also didn't have an assigned theme or gameplay variants. It was up to me to think it up. The week before I started it I had seen Stu's meshing work in the Assault single player level, and really loved the high mountains and thick forests. So I pictured this river going through the valley where the Derricks drive through the forest.

One of the first things I did was copy over the lighting, skybox and mountains from Assault to set the theme, than made a layout sketch based on a river as barrier between the two sides of battle. The bridge would be the primary fighting ground, and underneath the bridge were the flanks.

I had more flanks build initially, but it made the fight too confusing, so in the end there is only one entrance into the river on each side. The bridge was made bigger to make that the mean fighting grounds and the sniper towers were opened up more to make it harder to snipe from.

I used a lot of the prefab houses from Landown to get an initial feel for the map, and went from there with the other meshing. I tried to add a bit more stranded stuff in the little grenade houses, but a lot of it had to be removed due to memory constrains. No more hot chocolate and cookies near the fire ;)

I had a lot of fun making this map, and am very happy to see that so many people are enjoying it.


The other maps

I was the last level designer to be taken off of multiplayer to help out single player, and that was only briefly. So I did a lot of work on the other MP maps. From optimizing to bug fixing, and a lot of playing and testing. I tried to work closely with the original layout level designer to make sure their ideas would be in there. And got to add an Easter egg or two... :) I had a ton of fun working on Gears of war 2 and am very proud of the end product. The team did such an amazing job with it!

Now it is time to stop writing and to get playing!

Labels: ,


Read full post!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Moving to Bioware

It is a time of change, unfortunately mostly due to visa issues I was unable to stay at Epic for any longer. But I have found a new home in Edmonton, AB, Canada. I am moving there to work at Bioware.

I had a great time at Epic, and was lucky enough to work on games like Unreal Tournament 3 and Gears of War 2. We parted on good terms and if I ever have to move again, I hope to return there.

Gears2 was a ton of fun to work on. After working on UT games for so long it was great to make maps for such a different game. It is amazing to see how careful you place cover in a Gears map. We would have indepth discussions on the position and sizes of hallways and pillars, to give as many good cover spots as possible. I mostly worked on Multiplayer maps, fixing up older layouts or creating all new ones. I had the oppertunity to be involved in every aspect of making them, from laying them out to meshing them.

After Gears 2 gets released I will be able to tell you more about specific maps, and meet up with you guys on Xbox live for some games!

Read full post!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Portfolio Gears of War 2, UnrealTournament 3 and DarkSector

Last part of the portfolio! More gears 2 info will be posted when released to the public.



Gears of War 2(2007-2008)
onsite work for Epic Games


So far I have been working on 'Gears of War 2' multiplayer maps since last November. I actually got to make a couple layouts, and re-did a couple layouts that were done already.

It has been a diverse mix of tasks so far. From doing layouts to clean up phases; meshing and working in kismet. I cannot say much more right now until more news is released. The one thing I can say though is that I am having a lot of fun working on this stuff and that the game is going to rock! :)

============================================================

Unreal Tournament 3 PC / PS3 /Xbox360 (2007)
onsite work for Epic Games

I got hired by Epic in May 2007. When I arrived I joined the UT3 team. They were quite far along already, the last maps were getting meshed. Epic works has set passes for each map: 1/ Create the shell; 2/ Mesh it; 3/ Polish pass (make it playable again); 4/Optimizations; 5/Ship pass (ready for ship); 6/ Bug fixing.

When I arrived I started with polish passes and moved from map to map that way. 4 days each. I got to do small gameplay tweaks along the way, like adding in the tank holograms in tank crossing. After that it was a lot of work to optimize the maps for framerate and memory. We did quite a bit of juggling in memory land, giving meshes light maps to free up non texture GPU memory, then stripping out textures to make sure the texture pool wasn't overflowing. etc etc.

In the final stages I was assigned a couple maps for final polish and bug fixing. DM-Heatray; DM-Deck; CTF-Coret; CTF-Hydrosis; WAR-ColdHarbor. I also did the layout of DM-KBarge(Xbox360)in october of 2007. KBarge started as a test map to teach myself more of Kismet. Matinee's, events, etc etc. It ended up being quite a bit of fun for a small DM map, and later got meshed and polished by Sidney Rauchberger and Jim Brown.

============================================================

DarkSector (2003-2007)
onsite work for Digital Extremes

In 2005 I worked on many different tasks for Dark Sector. From paper drawings and lots of written documentation, to working on the engine wiki and arranging scrums. We worked mostly in Lightwave to create our test maps. These ranged from shooting and moving tests, to different puzzle ideas and show rooms for various publicity or publisher deadlines.

Starting 2006 we switched from using lightwave as our editor to DE's own editor called Darkitect. Unfortunately it had to be designed from the ground up. While this was being done we worked mostly on paper for about half a year.

In this time I was asked to design two missions in the residential sector of the game (there was Harbor/City access/ Residential / Industrial and Military sectors). The total play time was 3 hours, divided in two Missions. The first was close to the start of the game, the second just after halfway.

Click to view Gallery
I decided I wanted the player to return to at least some of the same areas which he visited earlier. I had a couple key points to work with as reference for the player. City access (big train station), the hospital and the church.

In the first mission you would come from city access, pass the hospital (removing its defenses against the infected enemies and yourself) and then visit the church. The second time you would come in from the side and start near the hospital, now overrun with infected enemies. This way the player sees the consequences of his own actions. You would enter it and do a mission there, to pull out and return to the church area and exit a different way from there.

This of course posed the problem of making one area work in two different fighting scenarios, block routes and open gates in the right spots to make this possible. I found this a thrilling puzzle to play around with. (See flow charts / city layout pictures).

Click to read Mission 06 design doc
Click to read Mission 08 design doc

When the editor was done in summer 2006 I worked on these missions from shell form into decorated form. When I left in spring 2007, most areas had an initial decorative pass / lighting in them, and worked with the AI / gameplay elements that were present.

Unfortunately most of the gameplay objects I had to work with either got changed or removed while I was there and after I had left. Therefore the end result in the game doesn't relate to my early concepts. These worked mostly with gas machines that blocked the way for infected characters (the player is also infected), but later we had to create the puzzles and gates using the elemental puzzles like fire and electricity.

============================================================

Labels: ,


Read full post!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Portfolio Oblivion Quest and TheDuel

Part 4 of my portfolio. The duel is a lua based text game, and a description of a quest done for Oblivion. Both done in 2006.



The Duel (2006)
amateur Lua game

After toying around in Oblivion, making a small quest and dungeon to learn their systems, I found myself intrigued with their scripting language. I was always interested in learning more coding / scripting, and this gave me a nice start. My friend Justin Smith introduced me to Lua at that point. I set out to make a small game in it, text based.

It is a mix of RPG combat damage, with Magic the Gathering style cards that you get randomly out of the card database ala crazy 8's. In short: you get a card; compare your cards in hand; decide if you want to play one or not; you deal combat damage and your opponent gets to hit you back. After combat you get a chance to play another card before your turn ends and this is where your opponents turn starts. He gets to play a card, do combat, and play another card. This way you get one chance to play a card knowing which card your opponent played, and one time where he will know what card you played.


Justin showed me the basics from setting variables to making functions and tables. He helped me debug my problems and pointed me in the right directions as to which functions / commands I should use. I came up with the gameplay idea, how to add in the cards with the combat damage, and the 'ai' of the opponent. The opponent will look at what card you played, it's health and your health and figure out which card it should prioritize to play.

Lua is a text based scripting language, feel free to download the game and look at the code.

Click to read the design doc
Click here to read an example log
Click to download TheDuel.zip


Oblivion Quest(2006)
amateur mod

Click to download CheckerQuest.zip

===================================================================================

Checkers Quest
by: Bastiaan (Checker)Frank
http://checkerschapel.beyondunreal.com

===================================================================================

This is a mod with one new quest line. Find the old man dressing in brown pants and green shirt in the arcane university. When you talk to him he will give you the quest to find his book.

====================================================================================



====================================================================================
SPOILERS:
====================================================================================

Locations: Added one cave; connected cave to Oblivion worldmap.
Characters: Magnus the cave robber; Barney the old man; Dorethy the daughter.
Items: Barneys lost book, Letter to Dorethy, Reward book.

Description:
Stage1: Barney asks you to find his book or you come upon a book in a cave.
Stage2: You read the book and get +1 Destruction magic skillup.
Stage3: You return the book to Barney, he is grateful and tells you his daughter can reward you.
Stage4: You bring a letter from Barney to Dorethy.
Stage5: You get a reward book that up's your Destruction skill by 5 as long as you carry the book with you.

====================================================================================

Script examples:

====================================================================================

;this is the reward book

Scriptname CheckerRegenBookScript01

short GotBook

Begin OnAdd Player

if GotBook == 0
player.ModActorValue destruction 5
player.addspell CheckerRewardAbility
set GotBook to 1
endif

End


Begin OnDrop Player

if GotBook == 1
player.ModActorValue destruction -5
player.removespell CheckerRewardAbility
set GotBook to 0
endif

End

===================================================================================

Scriptname CheckersOldManScript02

Begin OnAdd

;The following if statement triggers quest advancement if already on quest.
if GetStage CheckersOldManQuest01 >= 5
setstage CheckersOldManQuest01 15
endif

;The following if statement triggers quest starting if not on quest line.
if Getstage CheckersOldManQuest01 < 5
setstage CheckersOldManQuest01 17
AddTopic BMBthebook
endif
End


===================================================================================
copyright Bastiaan Frank 2006-2008
===================================================================================

Labels: ,


Read full post!

Portfolio Pariah and UnrealTournament 2004

Third part of this portfolio. Years 2003-2005!



==================================================================

Pariah(2003-2005)
onsite mapping for Digital Extremes.

While bug fixing maps for UT2004, I started talking to some co-workers from Digitalextremes Toronto. They were busy working on Pariah, and could use some help. So in fall of 2003 I started work on Pariah part time. Rather quickly I got handed the desert maps, which ended up being chapter 14 and 15.

The tricky thing was to design levels for car versus car combat, without that actually being ready yet. I focused on chapter 15 first, and made it on foot combat. By adding some extra areas and the hiding some WEC's (cookies to find) I tried to make Chapter15 a bit more open, and not just a simple walk down the hill to end the map. The second part of the chapter is in the rafters looking out on the courtyard that makes up the first part of the map. Re-using the same art / location but giving different gameplay.

After that was done I went back to Chapter14. A lot more cover was added, and barricades were added to stop the player from racing through the map without fighting. I added a couple side routes that had to be explored to open the end door to the next level. I loved toying around with the triggers, setting up gates and timers, making sure the map couldn't be broken by players. Since then I have been focusing more on trigger systems and programming.

Click to view Gallery

Besides the desert maps I ended up working on various maps to help out with AI setups and spicing up the layouts a bit more. For example, I added the little underground bits to Chapter10, to give more areas to explore, and make the map a little less linear.

==================================================================

Unreal Tournament 2004 (2003-2004)
onsite work for Digital Extremes

DM-Tribulation(2005-2006)(amateur mapping)

Starting 2005 into 2006 I was mostly doing paper design work for DarkSector. Surrounded by all this new tech, I started to wonder what I could do in the older tech generation. This is why Tribulation was designed to show off good visuals and secondly to have interesting and fun gameplay. This map has traps and secrets! I like adding in other little things now and then. It is not a hardcore thing to have in the map, but it spices up the gameplay.

I think hardcore maps are not the ultimate form of gameplay, just one form of it. If you can effectively use traps and know where the secrets are, you apply different skills that are also part of the game.

Besides getting feedback I did everything on this map, visuals, gameplay and testing.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

BR/CTF -BridgeOfFate started with just the flag room. I designed it more for visuals and fun, rather then gameplay, but when I walked around it I started to get a feel for it as a base. I then added the room with the big pillars as a middle area and copied the base over. I kept the entrances to the base small because I turned it into a bombing run map.

In UT2003 you can throw the bomb ahead of yourself and then teleport to the same spot with the translocator without much delay. This made defending a base very hard. With small entrances the defenders have an easier time fighting against this.

Later I added the cave area as the new middle area, to make the map harder and a bit slower paced. The CTF version was modified even more with adding separate rooms on each of the pillar rooms, to make flag running easier. It created more hide and seek gameplay that way.

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / lighting and bug fixing.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DOM-Aswan was inspired by a two week trip to Egypt, I couldn't help myself, I had to use all the visual goodness and apply it in a level. It was fun to go through my photo's all the time for inspiration. The end result is a mix of many temples and tombs combined, but primarily inspired by the temple of Edfu. This temple lays between the city's Aswan and Luxor.

For the gametype double domination you need to hold two points for 10 seconds without the enemy touching them. Usually the points were more then 10 seconds away from the spawn points, which made it hard to come back if you died and the count down started. I created the map with trick jumps in mind so you can make it to the point in about 8 seconds if you do 3 jumps just right and have no distractions on the way. Most of the powerful weapons were further out of the way, so if you truly wanted to build up a defense you had to take the longer routes.

Double dom is unfortunately not a very popular gametype, so I didn't have much feedback on this map.

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / lighting and bug fixing.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DM-DesertIsle is a medium Deathmatch level set in an oasis. One thing that bothered me for quite some time was that most maps are blocked off by cliffs. The player is not only limited to the arena gameplay-wise, but also visually. In Unreal Championship I made a BombingRun map that looks very open (BR-Adrift) and I applied the same principle to this DM map. I had to find a way to keep the player inside the arena though. To fix this I ended up making the forcefield that pops up when you walk out too far away from the fighting...

This map could be considered an experiment or gimmick map. It is not designed for optimal gameplay or flow but it had its own kind of character gameplay wise.

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / lighting and bug fixing.

Click to view Gallery

==================================================================

Labels: ,


Read full post!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Portfolio DarkSector(mmo) UC and UT2003

This is a run through for all the maps for these games. The only thing that might need some clarification is the DarkSector MMO part. Before 2000, Dark Sector was going to be a massively multiplayer online game, using the Unreal Engine 1.0. These maps were done in Unreal tournament as contract work for that game. After UC DE started a new project, losely based on and using the name Dark Sector.


==================================================================

Unreal Championship/ Unreal Tournament 2003 (2001-2002)
on site work for Digital Extremes

I arrived in Canada at the start of January 2001. I was going to convert my maps over to the DarkSector build but the day after I arrived we got news that we were asked to make the Xbox version of Unreal Tournament. This later on turned into a bigger thing and became Unreal championship on the Xbox and Unreal Tournament 2003 on the PC.

We got our hands on the new tech of Unreal Engine 2.0 and had to learn how to work with staticmeshes etc etc. It was hard to get the game to run on the Xbox, so after half a year we decided to make all levels completely in 3d modeling programs and import them as staticmeshes.

In October 2001 new engine improvements came through and we had to do a content re-start, using smaller staticmeshes and then new and improved BSP. This restart meant that a lot of maps were cut or were heavily changed throughout development. Some stayed around a bit too long and new ones might have been better suited. Run speeds and sizes kept changing which greatly influenced how maps felt. In the end though, I am quite proud of the project.

I think Unreal Championship was a lot of fun to play on the Xbox, and UT2k3 really pushed the dodging and movement like no other game before.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DM-Oceanic/Vidona is a small DM map, with big windows looking out over the ocean floor. I tried to get a sense of a different location and bring some life to the place by having fish and sharks swim around. The layout was a bit too cramped in the end and I hadn't thought the double jump / wall dodge would become so prevalent. So especially on PC this map feels very claustrophobic.

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / lighting and bug fixing.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

CTF-Geothermal was based off of CTF-Kretzig. A simple layout with a two layered middle room and two ways into the flag room. In the end a very frantic map and it is quite hard to score on it.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DOM-ScorchedEarth is a double domination map. You start in the centre spawning up on a ledge off of these spiky statues. You jump down and can move to the left or right tower with each a control point. Again a rather small and frantic map. Watch where you jump to not fall off into the lava! Mhuahaha!

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / and bug fixing. James Schmalz and Pancho Eekels both did a pass on lighting / other visuals.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

BR-Endagra/Bifrost. Bombingrun! A very fun gametype that was perfected in UT2004 when passing was fixed / done right. I designed the bases to be hard to enter. With short cuts for attacker without the bomb, to soften the defenders from behind. Scoring requires team work and a good aim. In the PC version the glass was removed out of the big dome, making the map rather easy to score on instead of hard. The outside was designed by Dave Ewing. It was a fun collaboration.

I was responsible for half of the layout / meshing / lighting and all the bug fixing.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DM-DE-Ironic(UT2k3) is a small Deathmatch level, mixing different meshes to create a new feel. Most of the meshes used in the level were stock meshes that came with UT2003 but some new ones were made (the windows and plants). I wanted players of this level to feel comfortable, that's why there is lots of sunlight and green plants. Gameplay wise I wanted this level to be suitable for hardcore players. There are lots of opportunities for trick jumping and the powerups are well balanced. No super weapons or powerups were added outside of the big armor. I am very glad this level was well received.

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / lighting and bug fixing.

Click to view Gallery

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

BR-Adrift(UC) and DOM-Deserted(UC) were both made as split screen maps, they are very bare in decorations to improve framerate in 4 player splitscreen. Later on we found we could support splitscreen in all maps. Both these maps had the same idea, one set in the desert and the other on an icy plateau. I wanted to break away the barriers always enclosing maps. No water or cliffs. This allowed for a more open and a less confined feeling while running outside.

I was responsible for most of the layout / meshing / lighting and bug fixing. I had a lot of help getting the skybox in Adrift just right from Matt Tremblay and Mike Leathem.

Click to view Gallery
Click to view Gallery

==================================================================

Dark Sector MMO (2000)
contract work for Digital Extremes

CTF-Kretzig was my first none DM map. It had an 8 shaped layout with an underwater part that brought you from base to base. It was made in Unreal Tournament and sold to be used as a Dark Sector arena. It later got converted to Unreal Championship. Unfortunately the underwater part had to be removed, since UC didn't have swimming. It lost a lot of its interest because of this lack of a third route. I also made two DM maps and three or four Rocket Arenas to be used in DarkSector (the mmo). None of these ended up getting used for any game.

Click to view Gallery
Click to view Gallery

Labels: ,


Read full post!

Portfolio Unreal UT

Portfolio for Unreal and Unreal Tournament (1998-2000)
For a long time now I have wanted to write up something about each of my maps / projects, partly cause I think it might interest some people to read some of the thoughts behind maps I did and partly because I will otherwise forget stuff :p. So with that in mind I started writing up bits of info on all the maps / projects I have worked on the last 10 years.

It ended up being such a long post, that I am splitting it up in a couple smaller ones. To start things off, here are short descriptions and screenshots of my Unreal tournament maps.



=======================================================

Unreal Tournament (1999-2000)
amateur mapping

After half a year of doing contract work for Dark Sector(MMO) using Unreal Tournament, I made a quick map called DM-Monastery, and ported it to Unreal1. I loved using the simple architecture style of Unreal in a texture set I hadn't used yet. I experimented with different ways of doing the terrain (cave, underwater part and outside part).

Click to view Gallery

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DM-Distinctive was a standard small Deathmatch map, released just when I finished up high school. It had good flow and played very nicely, receiving the ownage award from Cliff Blezinski's website. It was also the push that got me into doing contract work for Digital Extremes.

The map itself is a warehouse style map, with a big window in the roof that looked up onto other taller buildings. I tried to give the impression there was more of a city outside of the map using sounds and this roof window. The gameplay was a basic arena with a centre room and hallways that wrapped around it using various height changes.

Click to view Gallery

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

DM-Halls of Redemption was the next one. A big team deathmatch map, full of secrets and a huge elaborate trap. I tried to get a good sense of atmosphere and learn more about architecture. I played around with the 2D shape editor to make non-boxy rooms but still had to learn how to make support systems that looks more realistic. I still had a lot to learn on the visual end of things. Still, the map was well received in the community and received high scores on map review sites.

Click to view Gallery

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

When UT was released I had started a new DM map called DM-Tobias. I started to realize platforms needed some supports and lighting needed a source. This map ended up being a decent step in the right direction.

=======================================================

Unreal (1998-2000)
amateur mapping

It all started here, with Unreal. I started making maps using the PC zone tutorials, the biggest Dutch PC game magazine at the time. I made a couple maps and released them but nothing to write about except the map DM-Monastery. This is the same map for Unreal Tournament and Unreal and I made it around Christmas 2000.

Labels: ,


Read full post!