Greetings! As you may have heard we recently pushed out an update featuring a new world, a new monument to build, non other than The Great Wall of China. This is our first world update since the release of Monumental Failure. From a development standpoint, this makes it the first world that wasn't developed simultaneously with other game features. The creation of the great wall was a start to finish process, and creating it has been my sole focus for the last month.
I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about this process. and give you a peek into how a world in Monumental Failure is composed.
Before we hop into Unity and get game making, we start by collecting images for our art reference and do some designing of the world on paper. I have notebook pages and sticky notes with ideas for different levels, I try and select several that I think would feel good and write out a general plan for what the world's ten levels should feature. Meanwhile we use Pinterest to gather our references for the world's aesthetic features.
With an idea of what we want the world to look like, and what we might want the levels to be, it's time to head into Unity.
I had decided that I wanted the Great Wall to ascend up a mountain as the levels progressed. I started by creating an approximation of the final mountain using Unity's terrain tool. One of the brushes allows you to change the terrain to a fixed height. I created a "mountain" that was a staircase of plateaus each one 5 - 10 units higher than the previous. I then used ProBuilder to model a prototype for the guard towers, both the target base and the pushed piece. I placed 10 of these prototypes on the mountain steps I had created and then used ProBuilder to "build" walls connecting the guard towers.
I use a plug-in to export these prototypes so that Jess can import them into her 3D modeling program and start creating a detailed model of the monument.
Meanwhile I get to prototyping the gameplay features for each level. I generally am able to use Unity's simple prototype objects to get this done, occasionally I will need to model something with ProBuilder. When I implement mechanics, I am actually able to reuse and iterate on levels from worlds before. For example, in the Great Wall you get to drive a vehicle very similar to the one from the Bayon Temple, but this time you also get to control the movement of the crane component. I copied the vehicle over, made it wider to allow more controls, and changed the crane to a controllable fork. Simple reuse.
Once all the levels are prototyped, Jess and I do a playthrough together and try to figure out how we are going to go from prototype boxes to good looking levels. For the bigger stuff we tend towards modular props. Scaffolds made of bamboo and logs are easy to mix and scale allowing me to conform them to my prototypes. Other props require more individual models, like the spike ball mobiles in the Great Wall.
The playthrough process also reveals elements which require more polishing. As Jess makes the props, I will be working on adding sounds, particle systems, and any number of other elements to provide additional feedback to the player.
With the levels figured out I can next attempt to set up the environment. Knowing where the "level stuff" is, the process starts with sculpting and painting the terrain.
The terrain here was looking a little empty, so i created a second terrain to act as some distant mountains.
Convert it to low-poly Polyworld terrain and enable fog. That's looking better.
Finally, add on some trees and we have an environment.
The Great Wall introduced a unique problem in that the scale of the environment meant we needed bigger trees in distant spaces. This lead to a lot more work as I couldn't rely on Unity's auto tree placement.
Our final step is getting out colours good. When we started working on the Great Wall we had designed with a pretty generic, green trees, green grass on brown mountains colour.
By keeping our materials specific to the world, we can easily change colours around. Trees, sky, and terrain are all easily editable in Unity. Jess also does the lighting for the world. Most of the time we only use a single directional light (the sun) and the global illumination, usually using the gradient option to get a bit more dynamic lighting.
Finally we use Amplify Color to color correct the whole scene. With the great wall we specifically wanted to draw attention to the reds in the terrain and trees, and contrast that against the grayer colours of the mist and scaffolds.
I think the result is quite striking!
That's the gist of how a level comes together. I've certainly neglected a few steps: making the little vignette where you customize your team, animating the gods, making sure the hats look good, images for menus... there's a dozen little things that need to get done. Even more, while the process for designing each level is pretty much the same, all 10 levels are unique creations. Not only does each one have a set of mechanics and props, each one needs to consider camera work and scoring mechanisms. It adds work time, but it is pretty necessary for achieving the level of quality we have.
That said, I feel like we really have established a process for world creation and hopefully that means more world updates in the future. For now, go enjoy constructing The Great Wall!