Constructing the Ancient Ruins
The progression of these images shows a virtual walkthrough of a level built using Unreal Development kit. In this environment, the following elements are my own work: the "claw" and "teeth" rocks, the head-shaped opening to the temple, the campfires and particle-based fire, particle-based glowing effects, many of the boulders outside the temple, the UDK terrain-based cave (converted from Vue), and a simple trigger-based puzzle rigged to a series of teleporters, which needed to be activated in order to fully explore the environment. All other objects and textures were supplied with this build of the UDK, but the design of the entire environment is wholly my own.
Through the Dragon's Teeth: To the Tree of Life
Software: 3DSMax, Photoshop, Vue, G16ED, Unreal Development Kit
Class/Project/Team: Advanced Level Design
When Created: Summer 2011
This environment, created in Summer 2011, was the first foray that I and many of my classmates took in to using the Unreal Development Kit, and we had the additional bonus of learning to build and import our own custom-made assets at this time!
This environment consists of three parts: a small clearing in the woods, a ruined temple, and an underground cavern. Gameplay begins in the clearing and progresses into the ruined temple. There, as the adventurer descends into the darkness, all of the fiery torches light up to illuminate the area, revealing an inner room that has been cut into three parts by chasms filled with water. The adventurer, who entered into the center area, cannot access the other areas (or their adjoining rooms) from his current location.
Leaving this chamber, the adventurer enters a large, expansive hall that consists of two things: a knee-high maze made of grass and tile, and the target of his quest: the Tree of Life. One needs to pass the first before the second can be reached, however, and one wrong step onto the grass will teleport the unwary adventurer to an underground cavern far, far from the reach of the ruins. The location that the adventurer is teleported to depends upon how far he made it through the tiled labyrinth.
Exploring this underground cavern will offer to the adventurer numerous routes that he can use to explore other areas of the temple, including the areas he was cut off from earlier, but returning to room with the Tree of Life is not so easy. Only upon reaching the center of the cave, and a set of dragon's claws that glow with the same eerie light that surrounds the Tree of Life, will the adventurer be able to be transported back out of the cave, out of the temple, and to a secret chamber in the pool located in the clearing outside. The adventurer must then begin his journey anew, but he still retains whatever knowledge (and loot!) came from exploring those other areas.
Successful navigaton of the gass-and-tile maze takes the adventurer to the Tree of Life, a very large tree surrounded by lush grasses, fairy lights, and cannisters of healing items. Of course, then the challenge becomes leaving the area successfully again...
This environment became an additional challenge for me, because I became determined at some point in the design process to include a cave that I intended to build inside E-On Software's Vue. Unless I wanted to export and import a static mesh (which I did try, but the high-resolution mesh slowed down the level immensely), there was no direct way to translate the terrain from one software to another. Though a great deal of research, I learned that you could export the terrain from Vue as a height map, convert it to 16-bit greyscale of a very -specific- size using G16ED, and then import that into the UDK terrain editor as a height map. In this way, you could use professional world-building tools to create an environment, and then import it into the UDK in a form that could additionally be edited and painted using the UDK's own terrain editor. This was a -very- good thing, in the end, because the terrain did require some smoothing and editing in order to remove the rough appearance that resulted from using a low-resolution height map.