All posts by cindy

Level Blockmesh Process

A good starting point when creating a map, not an end all or be all list. I like lists, so it can help to quantify some of these ideas.

1. Start of an idea.
My Dishonored blockmesh idea : I started with thinking about what Sokalov said about Jessamine having a strange past. This was a rabbit hole that eventual resulted in the story.

2. If this is modding an existing game world, then choose which point in the story, else you are creating a level to server a narrative purpose and clearly define this.

3. Paper map the general idea.
In my Dishonored Blockmesh example I mapped the level as it’s seen in Returning Home and Return to the Tower in Dishonored. Also took ref screenshots all around the map.

4. Research.
A ton of research is needed, whether it’s from the real world or the history of your fantasy world.
In my Dishonored Blockmesh example I researched the architecture as seen in 1837, and compare it to London’s architecture of 1700-1752 (based on technology of the time, even though this was 100 years after London’s most famous plague)

5. More research!
In my Dishonored Blockmesh example I researched what 1600 architecture was like, and how it would have progressed into what we see in Dishonored.

6. Researched the circumstances of the current time and place to add these details to your level.
In my Dishonored Blockmesh example I researched the circumstances on how Jessamine’s father would have take the throne and changes that would be reflected in the level. Thinking about timeline, like how the boat lift and the gazebo would have been built after Jessamine’s father took power.

7. Set up blank level and version control

8. Started the blockmesh with the paper plans to get the walkway layouts, and continued to run through the level during changes

In my Dishonored Blockmesh example :
a) Started large with the Tower, Gazebo, and boat lift as landmark locations.
b) Used standard measurements for how tall doors/walkways/enemies/player would be and created prefabs to keep as ref in level.
c) Connected locations with walkways, while using screenshots to ref the approximate space between and heights of half walls and such.
d) Started adding small details to shapes/building, including rough affordances
e) Added colors to the meshes to differentiate and give depth
f) Rough sketch of narrative beats

9. Divided the map into separate sections. These will help break up the level into manageable pieces and help you communicate with the team about specifics.
In my Dishonored Blockmesh example : Major sections: Gazebo, Tower Lawn, and Boat Lift. Secondary are Carriage House, and Gardens. Planned that a limited approach for the level would work best

10. Determined how the map starts and what all would is needed for the initial spawn. Tutorial? Epic view? Tight space? Also the best place to set up the scale comparisons and rules for sizing.

11. Pick the most interesting and exciting area of the map to start blocking out.
In my Dishonored Blockmesh example I had to choose which sections would be most dramatically changed from Dishonored 1. Started modifying the map area by area.

12. Took screenshots of blockmesh and ideas for environmental storytelling. This was just the best way for me to remember. Squint test. Submitted to friends for feedback.

13. Working way back and forth from location to location adding details and choices. Keeping in mind the overarching theme of your game. Continued adding affordances.

14. Went over current routes, adding in leading lines, colors, affordances, and other breadcrumbs.

15. Went over areas to make them more covered or open, scary or inviting and added sight lines and basic non-alert enemy paths.

16. Started populating interiors with basic objects.

17. Add rough audio queues and audio notes

18. List dynamic drops if applicable

19. Rough lighting added, including light beams, lite areas/doors, ambient light, and directional light.

20. Review all steps, and create overview PNG’s, and videos. Sent out to more people for feedback.

Mission: Dishonesty Gameplay

Mechanics

  • Jump
  • Crouch
  • Chain climb
  • Slide
  • Vault
  • Jump-Climb

Stealth Puzzles

Dock Guard – Must slip by as they survey the docks, keeping an eye on the workers. Must be solved, either going left, choosing to go up, or right and around.

Gate Guard – Paths through the main gate from the choke point. This can be avoided entirely.

Lawn Guard – Paths by the carriage house, and by the front stairs. This guard can be avoided as well, or slipped by when they are not looking.

Prison Guard – This guard patrols the bridge to the prison. They path from inside the security hut to around the front door. They can be avoided, or slip by on the left.

Orchard Guard – A shirking guard taking a sit in the gardens away from other guards. This guard stays put and just looks around. This guard can be avoided, slipped behind, or use the arches as cover.

Guard Door – Three guards patrol the front door, one inside the security hut, and two outside facing the carriage door and speaking to each other.

Guard on Watch – The guard patrols the top of the old constructed watch platform. They occasional look out at the prison and pathing over a trapdoor.

Cutscenes

  1. Map Opening – Jessamine and Delilah on the bridge talking about the future
  2. Water Lesson – At the end of the controls tutorial on the edge of the dock Delilah pushes Jessamine into the water and runs off taunting.
  3. Map Ending – Jessamine walks through the front of the Tower. Delilah taunts.
  4. Map optional Ending – Jessamine takes the guard/servant entrance into the tower. Delilah mocks.

Collectables

  • Health tonics
  • Notes
  • Books

Constraints

  • No use of special powers
  • Tutorial level, reduced difficulty
  • Minimal risk, progress is set back to previous checkpoint when detected

Mission: Dishonesty Layout & Details

The Gardens

The Tower Gardens is the first map in this level. It contains the area around the Tower’s southern side to the what in the future is the boat lift.

  • 20 min play time
  • Structured controls tutorial
  • Play-your-way sneak tutorial
  • Playful map feelings
  • Minimal health pickups
  • No weapons nor attacking

Map Flow

Controls Tutorial Path
Sneak Tutorial Paths

Walkthrough

Tutorial + Purple & Green paths
Yellow Path
Blue Path

Mission: Dishonesty Story

Questions

Jessamine’s role in the series is relegated to mother, lover, and most disappointingly a Disposable Woman. I wanted her to have more, so I decided to start with a few questions.

  • Who was Jessamine when the altercation with Delilah started?
  • How did Jessamine deal with the loss of her mother who was pregnant with a potential sibling?
  • What does Anton Sokolov’s comment to Corvo about Jessamine, “a strange one. Stranger, I think, than you know.” mean?
  • When Jessamine was ruler, why was there “political intrigue and minor conflicts that created cracks in the Empire, undermining unity across the Isles”?
  • How did Dunwall and Gristol change from the war era to the golden era of Jessamine’s father? And then on to Jessamine’s rule?
  • How did The Outsider gain access to Jessamine’s heart to give it to Piero? Why did The Outsider need Piero at all?
The answers to these questions would transform Jessamine into a human being with her own faults, but valiantly trying to save her empire.

Part of what can make Jessamine go beyond her death is to re-contextualize her place in Dunwall Tower, and use the level to show what her childhood might have been like.


Dunwall Tower: Gardens

Map Story

Young Jessamine is playing in the garden with her ‘friend’ Delilah, a servants daughter slightly older than Jessamine. Delilah acts as your mentor for the tutorial, mocking but also playful. Around the same age, the rivalry is apparent as Jessamine and Delilah dare each other through the objectives.

At the start Delilah and Jessamine are enjoying a moment away from chores and lessons. Relaxing on the Partially constructed bridge, they talk about the future. Delilah starts a competition which coincides with the movement tutorial. They compete against who can do what the fastest and first, traveling from the bridge down to the docks.

Dock hands try and ignore them or tell them to shoo, while guards ask where Jessamine’s nurse is. After the movement tutorial is finished, Delilah pushes Jessamine into the ocean where she must swim to the nearby chain to climb out. Jessamine is a bit annoyed at this, and makes a biting comment. Delilah dispassionately proposes another challenge to get back to the Tower unseen. This acts as the sneak tutorial for the player, and another instance of Delilah trying to prove shes better than Jessamine.

Jessamine enters the tower to find Delilah already there. Delilah wins and isn’t very kind about it. At that moment, Jessamine spots her father coming out of the servants door, behind him is Delilah’s mother. A forced kiss is seen by the girls, and then Delilah’s mother makes an excuse and hurries away, not noticing the girls.

Delilah’s Childhood
by Sergey Kolesov

Delilah is not surprised, but Jessamine feels betrayed. Matters and feelings are made worse when Delilah states that she will be empress next and that is right because she is better as well as older.

Jessamine is angry and confused about the situation and pushes Delilah, who backs into an expensive vase behind her. The vase falls to the floor and explodes into a thousand tiny worthless pieces. This attracts attention from a servant passing. We witness the events from Dishonored 2 which were seen in stills, where Jessamine gives into her hurt feelings and gets back at Delilah and lies.

Delilah’s Motive by Sergey Kolesov

This starts the chain of events that force Delilah and her mother from the tower. This story is gossiped about for a while but by the time Corvo becomes Jessamine’s bodyguard, it’s old news.

Delilah’s Motive by Sergey Kolesov

Map Background

It is 1814 in Dishonored timeline. Dunwall has come out of the terror of an empress assassinated and the Morely Insurrection, and into a golden age under Jessamine’s father.

Much has changed and is currently changing in the city and on the tower grounds. The map has many new construction projects as well as some improvements to old infrastructure. The player will be able to see what the Tower Gardens use to look like before the events of Dishonored 1.

Incidental Narratives

Liaison by the Pond

A love letter is left on the ground, speaking of two courtiers meeting behind spouse’s backs at the pond. A weathered piece of parchment from before the construction started.

The Pond

Construction Manager Embezzlement

Sketches and plans lay about near the ramp, these list information about materials with notes about needing “extra cushion” funds that are for supplies never ordered.

Workers Pocketing Supplies

Workers speaking about how they can meet later to pool their stolen materials to sell a blackmarket dealer in the city.

Guards Gossip

Guards discussion about how often a certain important figure summons a servant to his rooms when his wife is away at a health retreat.

The workers and guards mention that the queen often has to take retreats because of some illness.

Guards closest to the prison talk about the new fortifications, and political prisoners inside Coldridge Prison. Jessamine’s father took no chances with rivals.

Guards talk about how they want the new Emperor (Jessamine’s father) to be safer than the previous assassinated Empress. There is a lot of new construction to make the Tower safer.

Plans for the Lock/boat lift

Notes about the new building’s interior. Includes sketches of a contraption that relies on worker labor to fill a boat lift with water from the moat. This plan never comes into fruition because Whale Oil is discovered as a source of energy and Anton Sokolov invents a better system for the Lock.

Mission: Dishonesty Look and Feel

Architecture

Jessamine’s father ascended to the throne after the previous empress was assassinated and after a violent uprising in the lands had ended. He knew nothing of leading an empire through strife, and Dunwall Tower changed much from a time of peace, to the uprising, and back relative peace. This would have reflected itself in the architecture and buildings.

1837 Dunwall in Dishonored has a patchwork of real life architecture styles. Dunwall tower is reminiscent of the Neo-gothic style, while the houses around the tower are mostly Edwardian London. Coldridge Prison is very brutalistic and modern in comparison.

New construction would be using the same materials as previous buildings, as well as trying to blend architectural styles.

Materials

Building materials would be the same as the original tower, quarried pale rock and stone, with light gravel paths. The pale stone would be visually broken up with bits of green from decorative foliage, ivy, and trees. The public areas would contain minimal woodwork because metal would have been seen as a much more luxurious material in this age. Blue and gold flags of the Kaldwin family would be flying across the grounds.

New large industrial pipes for water and waste are being installed. Cast iron fences with spiked ridges are being installed along the outer walls and some of the inner walls. The massive amount of metal needed for this project would only have been possible the start of the industrial revolution.

Pacing

As the induction level, this map also serves as the tutorial in sneaking. There are no supernatural powers to utilize, but there are crawl spaces, walls, and half constructed projects that provide cover and secrets.

Playtime would be around 20 minutes before the player should reach inside of the Tower. Once they are inside they should have a firm grasp of the basics.

Lighting

The map would take place in early evening, workmen would be finishing up tasks and waiting to leave the grounds. Guards would be a bit more vigilant with the shadows beginning to lengthen.

Environment

During the violent uprising, there would have been hastily erected fortifications and increased military presence that would change the tower and it’s grounds. Jessamine’s father would have wanted to show his right to the throne since he was not a descendant to the previous line. His first acts on a drained economy would be to create jobs, this approach has been typical from other rulers over the course of history.

Constructing an improved Dunwall Tower to assert dominance and bolster the economy would be a good plan. Major new changes would be:

  • Gazebo (New construction)
  • Extended the Gardens (Upgrade)
  • New Lock/ Boat Lift Building (New construction)
  • Decorative Fountain (Upgrade)

Gazebo

The Gazebo would be mid construction. Part of the base would be exposed showing more pipes and small crawl spaces. The ceiling would be missing and only some of the pillars would be erected with scaffolding around them. Plans and building materials would be scattered around showing the final product as seen in Dishonored 1.

Extended the Gardens

The previous gardens had been destroyed to make way for some hastily built fortifications and troop barracks. These are being torn down and the garden is being put back in place.

New Lock/ Boat Lift Building

Before the technology existed for the boat lift, the Tower probably would have used a ramp to a dock. Upgrading the ramp into a new Lock building would have been a huge undertaking.

The original building plans would have had used manual labor to fill the lock and lift boats. Sokolov’s new hydraulic technology would have been retrofitted over the building once it was invented. It is possible that during Jessamine’s reign the building was only finished right before this invention, and possibly spurred Sokolov’s research into this area.

Evidence of this is the large amount of steel used in the inside of the building, along with the windows of pressed sheet glass, and the retrofitted pipes outside. The massive amounts of these materials would have only been possible during the industrial age, but not so close as to have had the large pipes incorporated into the building.

Decorative Fountain

Upgrading the front entrance would have been once of the first projects and the most far along by the start of the story. The update would consist of the installation of a decorative fountain to replace a statue of the previous Empress. It would use water from the existing moat.

The 2 staircases is reminiscent of an earlier architectural style, probably original from when the Tower was first being constructed. This area would later go on to be redone in a more modern style under Jessamine’s rule.

Later in Dishonored 1 & 2, the player comes back to this map, there is new construction in these versions. Every time the player returns to this map, in the main games, and in DLC there are major differences. Peaceful, Chaotic, and in flux. This version of the map would show ordered construction, clean and aristocratic.

Mission: Dishonesty Overview

Overview

This mock-up encapsulates a single introductory map in Arkane’s Dishonored universe. This map would be the first in the standalone story such as Death of the Outsider was to the franchise.

The first level begins before any supernatural powers have been bestowed, and the player proceeds through the tutorial and explores the core of sneak mechanics.

This map revolves around a young Jessamine Kaldwin and Delilah Copperspoon. The level would be composed of two parts, outside in Dunwall Gardens, and inside Dunwall tower where the Vase incident would occur.

Player Focus

The player focus is to follow the tutorial out to the dock, and then successfully sneak from the dock across gardens and into Dunwall Tower. They will need to keep to the shadows, and avoid Jessamine’s nurse and Dunwall guards. Delilah acts as a tutor, and helps instruct the player how to sneak.

Map Objectives

Main Objectives

  • Follow the tutorial instructions.
  • Keep to the shadows, and avoid nurse and guards.
  • Make it into Dunwall Tower from any entrance.

Secondary Objectives

  • Solve Stealth puzzles
  • Explore all areas of the gardens

Characters

Main Characters

  • Jessamine Kaldwin – The player character and heir to the throne
  • Delilah Copperspoon – Jessamine’s half sister, and daughter of a servant.

Secondary Characters

  • Jessmine’s Nurse – babysitter
  • Dock workers – neutral NPC’s

Enemies

  • Tower Guards – guards that will reprimand Jessamine and reset her progress if spotted.

Dishonored Blockmesh Introduction

Mission: Dishonesty

A case study in level design, a new map for the popular franchise Dishonored, from Arkane Studios. The below links provide map design documentation, the mission intentions, and the high-level concepts.

Design Pillars

Sneak or Fight – Player’s play their way and character abilities augment them.

Empress & Rule – Humanize Jessamine and expose conflicts with the right to rule.

Exploration – Discovery of the world, and collection of charms.


Running List of Helpful Game Dev Articles & Vids

Transcends Time

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2004

A: Audio

V: Video

R: Reading

Quests Designations

(The list below is an excerpt from “How Santa Monica Studio Nailed Exploration in God of War” article. It was modified to be a bit more generic with general quests in a story driven game.)

“A” Quests

  • Full levels of dedicated content
  • Cinematic support, heavy narrative
  • Quests acquired through an established character

“B” Quests

  • Encourage exploration to the edges and tunnels of map
  • No cinematic support, moderate narrative support
  • Quests acquired through generic NPC

“C” Quests

  • Provide additional discoverability and reward exploration
  • Light, non-critical narrative support
  • Utilize gameplay modules (abilities, mechanics, interactions)

“D” Quests

  • Checklists, milestones, stat counters
  • No narrative support
  • Challenges

Quest Interactions