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Challenge – Make a visually-oriented whitebox map using BSP as much as possible.
Results – One half-dome mesh + One texture + A lot of BSP brushes = Visually Oriented Whitebox
A lot of folks use BSP to block out a map, but I wanted to focus on a visually oriented layout that uses BSP from the get go.
I wanted to impart a firmly grounded and apparent sense of place and have surfaces and an environment that would react to light from an emotional perspective. I was curious as to how far I could push it and how much BSP could be converted to mesh in order that, say, environment artists could receive a more flushed-out set of modular chunks. In the end I was able to quickly develop an entire suite of architectural components using only converted BSP. I never left Unreal Ed, so-to-speak, except to smooth out a single BSP mesh. All other meshes are pure BSP converts, fragmented surfaces and all.
Being a whitebox, it doesn’t really concern me if there are facets and a few shading kinks. What I care about is getting to a much firmer sense of place and feeling as well as gameplay and progression all in the same go. At the same time, sticking to the usual rules of developing modular components.
In the end I ended up using the skydome mesh for the dome meshes you see around the map (in conjunction with a double-sided material.)
Everything else was made using a bsp-to-mesh workflow where I made BSP modules, oriented the pivot and placed it at the world origin, convert to mesh, assign mats, add to package, add to map and repeat…I ended up with package-after-package of modular meshes set on the grid.
By doing this I was able to quickly play around with shape relationships and potential player vs.enemy or PvP encounters. I concentrated on keyholes a lot as well as cutting-the-pie and multi-directional threats. I counterbalanced with progressive cover and multiple movement channels. This is a large, multi-encounter map area where the player would enter via one of the side roads.
I was quickly able to jump right into some lighting and atmospheric studies.
So I arrived at a European city-style map based not too loosely on the city of St. Petersburg as well as Peterhoff, filled with proxy-shaped statues, statuettes, staircases, fountains, a canal, bridges, a masive Cathedral, a Palace facade, Coutryards, Gardens, Streetlamps, benches, fountains, et all. (A lot of the wall pillars were also used as golden stand-ins for statues).
It’s a composition of vertical elements, deep space, negative shapes, and lots of lined-up keyholes.
I adjusted Lightmass values for diffuse and specular. I really wanted the scene to act like a large lighting transmitter. I used a simple 512 UV grid and a VectorParameter for color. I also added separate parameters for Specular and SpecularPower.
I enjoy radiant light and an atmospheric setup that carries the light through space and guides your eye. It’s not the shapes and silhouettes, it’s the light that does this.
Lighting allows us to harness the principles of our visual language when it reacts to the elements within a composition.
- Scene Depth
- Reflective Surfaces
- Value over color
A multitude of angled surfaces and nooks and crannies made the map ripe for quick light studies using the DominantDirectionalLight and the ExponentialHeightFog Actor.
I enjoy lighting that supplies a wide value range and I really love very large-scale radiosity and GI. I also like to see how far a single light can be pushed.
How far can it propagate?
What’s the shadow value range going to be?
What about the interiors?
How boring will the large flat-walled interior courtyards be?
Can I achieve an emotional response over practical effects?
Can I describe lighting and luminance in a rhetorical manner?