My name is Emanuel Rausch. I recently graduated from the Hochschule Mainz in Germany. (Bachelor of Arts)
My graduation project was focused primarily on environment arts in games but I also wanted to implement interesting and original gameplay that gives you freedom. The scope of the project was one big open world type level that enables the player to choose the way himself in a non-linear fashion.
The story is rather vague, our player character is basically looking for his lost childhood friend. He lived a long time alone and now wants to leave the place.
The first part that was important to me to get right was the gameplay. I wanted something that gives the players freedom and enables them to be creative, let them experiment. Since I wanted something that works with great dimensions I came up with slackline walking. Giant obstacles/heights are to be overcome by the players.
You basically shoot a rope with an arrow to an anchor point and then you can bind it on your side to then be able to balance over the rope. You can tighten the rope as well to make it easier to walk on it.
The rope is limited by its length of around 10 meters. You can use this feature anywhere.
The gameplay was done in Blueprints. While I was prototyping, a colleague of mine, Ferdinand Lotz, improved it further and refined it.
The plugin I used for the gameplay feature and some dynamics in the level is made by VICODynamics( https://forums.unrealengine.com/comm…hysics-library )
He gave me some great support and fixed issues for me rather quickly. So thanks to Vicodynamics!
I thought about 2 areas, one that Is inside a cave and an outside area, that is closed by a giant door.
I began working on the environment itself I looked for real life areas(moods) that compliment my gameplay concept and 2 big inspirations were the Tianzi mountains in china for the outer area and for the inner cave area I found a really interesting cave system in Vietnam called “Soong Dong”. What really liked about the cave was how there are openings inside the cave here and there where light shines through. I used the general feel and idea in my concept for the cave in my game level. There are 3 gigantic trees on top of the cave that are part of the cultures religious beliefs.
Here you can see inspirational moods I used for the level design.
Concept arts have then been made in order to find the general feel and flow of the level design.
Afterwards I began building the greybox of the level and testing my gameplay.
I created an asset library afterwards in which modularity was the one of the most important aspects since I didn’t have a lot of time. Almost all of my assets were created in zBrush.
I mostly used Decimation Master to automatically retopologize most of my assets, except for where it was important to keep a clean topology(Character for example). Decimation Master keeps my edges sharp, the shape itself readable. For uv mapping I also used an automation tool called Unwrella since it uses the UV space really well.
Art & Culture
The inspiration of my culture in my game level is loosely based on the design patterns found in the Tibetan folk and one of the countries subcultures Akha. You can also see that from the main characters design.
The folklore had to fit the environment and since I thought about the environment first I had something to work with. The trees on top of the cave became a religious symbol for the folk and I based their art design on the natural shapes of trees. We can see a lot of sculptures around the level that morph into the natural shapes of roots, bark etc.
Leading the eye
Even though players are free to choose where they go I build the level so that colors and light lead the way. At the beginning you only have the bow but not the arrows and the rope. So you have to find those as your main task in the level. Right when you leave the house of the protagonist you can actually already see the goal.
Every asset (including foliage) was modeled/sculpted inside Maya and zBrush and every texture was procedurally generated in Substance Designer/Painter. For the statues I used Make Human to speed up my process. All of my assets were textured with Substance Painter and Designer(mostly used for base textures and tiling textures). It sped up my workflow a lot and I was able to easily keep a constant artstyle throughout the project.
In this picture you can see how I used Substance Designer to create a procedural symbol and then I used zBrush and Maya to create a low poly version of it.
Here you can find a walkthrough of the level
Here are some more screenshots from the game:
You can find a lot more screenshots from the game on my artstation entry:
I will release some of my assets for free on gumroad at some point.
Thanks for reading!
I had help from the following people: [TABLE=“border: 1, cellpadding: 1, width: 500”]
Gameplay Refinement / Some particle effects
Character Animation, Modeling Assistance
Ana Maria Kümmel