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Old 15-04-12, 14:56   #1
Level NextGen
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Default How to make a "working" levelset

For now few months I'm creating a tutorial on how to make a "working" levelset. I though to release it only when it will be finished, but talking with some members, they said they would like to read it!

It meant to be a PDF. When totally finished I will release it as a PDF and I will try to organize it as a "click and go" tutorials, as it is very dense.

Thank you to not post messages here, if you have questions, any suggestions, post your message there: My thread

Tutorial - How to handle a “working” levelset

Well I'm not the best person to give tips on how to handle a working levelset, but since I build levels for years, I've found some goods tips, though.

This tutorial is based on 8 steps :
- A draft-time
- Going further in conception
- Beta-Building: geometry and lighting
- Create Traps and Puzzles
- Add proper objects and architectures
- Enhance level with effects
- Beta-Testing and adjustments
- Time to release!

Four examples:
- Egypt
- Jungle
- Caves
- City

Before starting to draft something, you have to read both step one and two. They go together but I've just cut them to keep it clear.

First step: A “draft-time”
Firstly you might think about a general idea of your level.
On the one hand you will need a story and on the another hand a “graphic concept”. I can't really say which one to choose first. Because sometimes you want to start a levelset just because of a story around an artefact to found (as the Tomb Raider'ish example), then you think about locations, and the graphic side. But you could also be inspired by “graphic stuff” and want to build a level in that way with a story going then.

Unfortunately the best thing to do is to think about the story first. I can understand you really want to build something straight away without a detailed story behind. Although you better have to draw on a notebook or just on pieces of sheet some conceptual stuff. Actually, it prevents from failure... I mean when you start a levelset without any strong idea of what to do, at some point you would abandoned because you won't know what to do then.
So there are as many ways as possible to conceptualize some stuff, it just depends on your imagination and of course your talent (but everybody has talents!!). Acting as if you were just a tenderfoot you could start to search on internet some shots and so on. Your conceptual stuff can be based on books, movies, art, internet shots as I said and all things that inspired you.

Click for more informations

You might be appealed to firstly draw a map of one level but believe me just you really should start to think about some "key-concepts". That is to say, your first work can't be organized. You can't in a first attempt reach a suitable story. When you start a levelset you have lots of ideas that you should write or draw them as it comes without any organization.

“It is what I called the draft time!”

I can give you some tips if you don't know what to do; think about some artefacts, puzzles, traps, objects, but mainly think about the “What-to-do?” in your level. Don't worry about the “How-player-would-known” it will be mainly developed later.

Second Step: Going further in conception
The location of your level will be a preminent point in the conception of your level.
Actually, doing a Spaceship level won't be the same as doing a Jungle level, of course!

Your conceptual stuff should follow a kinda “thread of Arianne”; I meant you won't put tigers in a Antarctical level or Incan monument in an Egyptian pyramids... except if it's your goal.

"It's like creating a storyboard, but in your own way"

Well let's things make clear, when you start to conceptualize your levelset you will need some references, thoses references have to make senses in your level.
I think about the conception of TR Underworld, a photographer was sent to Mexico to take photos of the jungle then to render the Mexican level you know in TRU. Or there is Assassins Creed's which is a real “monument” in conceptualization. If you have played AC2 you may remember all those historical notes when Ezio reaches some places. Concepters had spent a long time on the story and the conception of level, making historical research and so on.
Of course, these guys are paid to this job, but now if you get what I mean you would understand that conception is really important to do such a great levelset.

To put in a nutshell, the locations of your level will influence on the design of this one. The design will come with some references and maybe with researches. Plus, making some researches is a great source of inspiration.

“So you need an alpha work before starting to build!”
"You nailed it!"

Last edited by Level NextGen; 02-07-14 at 22:05.
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Old 15-04-12, 14:57   #2
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Third Step: Beta-Building:

Geometry and Textures
Even if I've conceptualize a whole part of my level, creating objects in 3D is something consumming a lot of time, so I'd rather start building geometry without texturing. You can draw on a paper a draft map of your level. No need to be precise, you just need to know what will be build and at which place. This work is linked with the key-conception, because you are about to start your gameplay.

You might also understand that geometry and textures goes together: geometry help to choose texture and vice-versa. If you are stuck in geometry try to found textures, and rather reference photos! So creating your TGA will help you to create the geometry.
It's rather important to search for some referencial images, it helps to get inspiration and build your level! But take care, don't forget TRLE is a blocky editor with its own limits! Don't try to create too big rooms, the smaller outside rooms are, the best it is! You should always think about natural limits and do not try to connect all rooms each other because it could add lag in your level. In fact my map I showed is a real challenge and have to be redone into something more restrictiv and less open-wild!

Referential Shots

If you want here is my Beta package, to be considered as start-up stuff (LINK SOON)

About creating your own set of textures there are several fabulous tutorials made by the community:
Creating Textures With Photoshop (a very good one)
Create textures with Photofiltre (an old one)
Thecentaur's All-around Texture Creation Tutorial (the images miss, unfortunately)
NGLE - How to create HD textures

Some tips:
Texture Rendering - Seamless textures IN-GAME [Border Issue]
Textures - where to get them?

Create Traps and Puzzles TO BE CONTINUED
Mostly, rooms are adapted to traps and puzzles. This something important during the conception of your level. Traps meant to be in little space, forcing Lara to pass through the trap. And puzzles/enigma meant to be in large place, so Lara would appreciate the place (like the example of Shiva in TR Underworld Thailand).
Usually, you can create a main room where Lara have to place 2 puzzles to open a door (a basic example but a working one) and 2 others secondary room where Lara have to found the puzzle. When you want to link those rooms you create corridors, it is a great place to set traps and deadly jumps. By example, you can think about TR Anniversary in Qualopec's Tomb in Peru (before the giant rolling ball).


Of course, it is a basic example but it will help you to start with a standable gameplay. You can try lots of new things and create such exceptionnal traps combined with puzzles and even traps which are puzzles... Imagine in one of your previous corridor a hole in the floor plenty of teeth spikes (Lara need to jump uppon it to get the puzzle). When puzzles have been set in their hole, it doesn't trigger oppening of some doors but it untriggers the teeth spikes and open a passage to somewhere... Lara can fall in the hole without being killed.
Your imagination and the limitation of the engine are the only limits (plus with NGLE, you can script lots of new things!!)

Add proper objects and architectures TO BE CONTINUED
Adding proper objects to fit with your level is either a matter of searching on the internet or a matter of creating them.

You can create your own wad thanks to those fabulous websites!
TR Search,
TR Forge,

And here are some other awesome tutorials made by the community - no need for me to explain you how to create your objects:
Meta - several video tutorials of making objects.
Teme9's texturing & modelling method for enemies and complicated objects

Some tips:
How to make custom plants
Meta - How to "draw" an object in 3D
"You nailed it!"

Last edited by Level NextGen; 08-11-15 at 17:35.
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Old 17-09-12, 19:16   #3
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Fourth Step: Lighting and Visual Effects:

Ligthing and Atmosphere
I've made a separate tutorial for how to create lighting for atmospheric levels with visual examples HERE

A useful tip with Bigfoot : Creating Contrast
But here is something I want to explain a little more. When you create, it's not just about to add some colors to your game, so you can express feeling and vivid your level. You also have to think how a room will recieve sun. I help a friend of mine : Bigfoot - the great builder of Harmony Around a Red Star (Prologue) - The Hidden Lair. (Ahah he gonna kill me if he knows I promote him this way)...

Anyway beta-building a level, he created this room :

As you can see, he applied some green bulb and even a yellow sun... but it seems flat. Bigfoot and I wondered why it doesn't work here.

We finally understand it was a problem of contrast and luminosity : the fact how the sun would shine here!
Since it's an escarped place, the sun would shine on the top of this hills and the lower aera would be darker. There was only the need to gradually decrease the "ambiant" lighting.

Here is the result ; it sounds better and still with the same colors applied :

Though the middle part is darker than any other, so we create a contrast between the sky and the floor in the deep. However, the player could still see and enjoy the place. If you place some bright bulb you will also attract the player's sight.

I hope you get my point!
Thank you to Bigfoot to let me post this example.

Visual Effects:
Now it's time to talk about Visual Effects. Objects, texturing and lighting are done, but you might want to know how to enhance your level with some effects.

Static effect: fog and ligthrays
The first basic step is to add lightrays and fog to your level! What is a level with lightray and fog effects?

Including fog in your script with this script line will help you to create an atmospheric level but could fix the engine limit issue. You have to understand that your horizon background have to fit with the fog color you choose.
By example:
Fog=			0,0,0
FogRange=		0, 29
LevelFarView=	30
The fact is to play with the Fog Range Limit. The first one is where the fog starts and the second where it ends. Here you will get a dense white fog for steamy day (like morning)

But as you can see I added ligthrays through the leaves to enhance this steamy effect. As the air is satured by particles when sun passes through the leaves it is reflected by particles and create a lightray

Lightrays can be oblique and scaled up at the end, it more makes sense by the way

And sometime a static fog can be added uppon water or near fire or wherever you want to add to the atmosphere. It add opacity to level and give a mystic sensation.

In empty rooms it avoid the emptyness

Of course, all these static effect add atmosphere to your level but... there are static, so not animated. It somehow slow your level, that is to say that your level looks freezed. However it's great for peaceful/deadly/calm gameplay but sometimes some movment brings to life your levelset

That's why we will study the...

Moving effect: fluids and particles
The best way to animate your world is too use the waterfall object in your wad. It handles scrolling textures on objects.
How to create Seamless scrolling waterfall object texture by teme9

The fact is that you can have more than 3 waterfall textures and even more objects with scrolling textures.
But you have to take care, only textures applied on a Waterfall1/2/3 and Planet_Effect objects will be considered by the editor as a scrolling textures. So I advise you to keep these objects as a place holder for your scrolling textures then use the static objects as the waterfall'ed object (applying the scrolling texture)
Do you understand?

Once you get your seamless scrolling texture ready you can create your mesh and applied your texture on it (as a static object). The tip is since a static object has static lighting you can shadowed your waterfall'ed objects to get fine transitions at the end of the waterfall'ed object! I mean that way:

As you can see in the red cercle the transition was forgotten, and the render looks weird But in blue cercle the transition is fine and render effect is perfect
Of course shadowing the end of meshs only works with semi-transparency textures

Then you could get some amazing effects
like steam....

or fluids and winds...

or magical power...

Something usefull is the waterfall speed you can control, slow down or fast up:

But you can also animate some effect thanks to wadmerger and multiples meshs:
like in this video with the glowy particles

Tutorial - Wadmerger
This tut will helps you to integrate and animated meshes in one objects

Special effect:
This part will be continued later because it uses some advanced tricks I don't want to reveal before the released of Aqua Sahrym and Beyond Illusion (that is to say soon... really soon!)

Part 1: Meta2TR - Tip on how to animate tree leaves easily click to access to tutorial

Part 2: How to animate Lightrays (SOON)

Part 3: Creating a Water Light Reflection by Klona!

Part 4: Special effect on screen (SOON)

Where to get some effects:
Object Pack with lightrays by teme9
StuffPackage with lightrays by teme9
Wysteria Tree with fog by teme9
Raider Skyrim Package with lightrays by me: LNG
Pumpkin Package with magic fluids and winds by me: LNG
Mansion objects with lightray from window by mike quahe
Water Ripples by mike quahe
Bubble Effect by lathander
Spinning Orbs by mike quahe
BtB 2011 Steampunk Package with steam/fog and lightrays effect provided by Horus
Btb 2008 Peru with lightrays provided by TimJ
"You nailed it!"

Last edited by Level NextGen; 04-07-14 at 00:45.
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Old 02-01-13, 13:09   #4
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Fifth Step: Beta-Testing and adjustments:


Don't reply to this thread if you have any questions or suggestions go on my personal thread
Edit: Ahh! I'm interested of what you think about this kind of tutorial, if someone want to add something to it I'm really interested too
"You nailed it!"

Last edited by Level NextGen; 02-01-13 at 13:11.
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