Building levels by the numbers, Part II

So far, every level in Firefighter VR consists of a backdrop mostly made of premade assets, and a handbuilt building where most of the gameplay takes place. This is the planned format for the entire game, though I might throw in a surprise here and there. In the last part of this series, I talked about how the backdrop is built. In this part, I'm going to talk about how I put together the gameplay section itself.

At the end of the last devlog, I had an exterior environment built and ready for the actual gameplay part of the level. I've mentioned ProBuilder before, and though it's useful for that backdrop it's building the gameplay portion itself where it really comes into play. ProBuilder Basic is really basic- it allows you to place primitives, do a little texturing, and do a little modification, but it's enough to build the levels for Firefighter VR. In fact, these levels are made up mostly of cubes!

Which may be slightly horrifying. Remember what I said about how this is what works for me and may not be the best way of doing things? My background is in Doom level building, and my 3D modelling skills are not that great. Being able to quickly put things together in the editor and move them around is a godsend for me.

I start with my sketch and a base pad. Last time, I started from the middle of the bottom floor, but this time the layout is flat and a lot simpler so I just started at the front. Usually I actually place the doors first, because there's no easy way to cut an opening into an existing wall. I start texturing early, but not this early.

As you can see, I already started diverging from the sketch. I made the alley too short and the kitchen too far back, but I saw it as an opportunity to add a side hallway which will give the player an alternate path through the level. It's all very emergent- okay, a bit hectic- but sometimes it works out. I'm very happy with the final layout of the level.

The big challenge in this level is the fascia of the building, which is something I really wanted to do because the flat face and fake windows of the apartment building were really kind of cheesy. I built all of it in ProBuilder, entirely out of cubes. The posts are tall skinny ones, the top and bottom thin flat ones, and the window and siding panes big flat rectangles. I textured it right away to get an idea of how it'll look.

The rest of it was relatively simple, and I've got the process pretty much down. The walls are big rectangular cubes- well, ProBuilder calls them cubes but they're really more rectangular prisms. I just start building the layout out. This is the third level I've built this way, and I've already got a decent idea of how large things will be in game based on the grid. I try to base my levels on real life, which is something I started with Doom, and get the proportions and layout realistic. Of course, I have to keep gameplay in mind, too, so there's a balance here.

The walls and doors go in first. I'll start texturing them to get an idea of how things will look and where I need extra ones before I move on. Only after the walls are in do I put in the floors, which are just thin cubes that go over the base, and the ceiling, which is admittedly not very elaborate either.

After all the geometry is in, I start building gameplay and detailing the level. Usually I put in the big props in first so I can visualize things better and because some of them are part of the gameplay interaction or level flow. Then I'll script the actual gameplay, then detail, polish, and test the level. There's one big difference between this level and the last, though, and I'll get into that in the next post.

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