Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snowbowl

The creator of the Knights of God clan had me create a winter version of Dustbowl for their community members. I was given an older Christmas map to get some textures and models to work with, so it was a good starting point. One of the largest problems, is that.. well Dustbowl is a massive map. Another problem is that it's a badlands (desert) map. Thirdly.. valve cut's a lot of corners, or uses overlays to hide what seams in terrain there are, rather than properly using displacements to sew everything up. This causes a lot of lightmap seams, visible overlaps, and odd lighting ... also some painted blends don't look good. The old map suffers from this problem as well, but it is much more visible when using white ground.


Some issues arose on the rock face due to changes in illumiation, mainly resulting from different light values in the texture itself, and refracted light from the ground. It's also clear that the SDK version of the map is not the same as the version which Valve uses. Much of the geometry is slightly different, and many of the models did not have shadows disabled when they should have been, causing entire areas to go dark (like the initial capture point in the first zone).

I tried to stick to a glacial theme, with the larger walls being lighter and rocky, and the lower areas having more reflective properties. All of the ravines and caves use cubemapped/reflective materials. I replaced all of the rocks with refract versions, so that it gives a more ice-like look. This was kind of interesting in game-play, since people usually hide behind them, especially at the final cap point in the third area.


Some transitions were harder to make than others. One of them being blending the smaller rock faces, or caves, to the larger exterior ones. I solved some of this with blends of ice to snow.

There were also a lot of problems with terrain seams. I was able to hide some of them by stitching displacements together, or by painting alpha. In a few spots, I was able to make a func_brush, turn off solidity, and make a border - which I did here on the left door. Because all of the ice uses cubemaps, all of the faces of contiguous areas had to be tied to single env_cubemaps, which was a little tedious. One of the parameters I was given was to not change any of the geometry (mainly so bot paths would work off of the official nav file, but also to preserve the feel of the original map), so that further limited my ability to solve these problems. I suppose I could have tried to make some overlays to cover some of the seams, but I'm not sure how white would go over an already white surface to do so, like valve did with the yellow to brown overlays (I'm thinking it would do nothing). Oh well.

There are also a few Christmas tree props that I made with some flashing lights, and some snowmen that existed from the map I was given, which were placed around the map.. as well as a bunch of large snow covered pines.

Had I more time to work on it, and more freedom, I would have liked to edit the wood textures, to add frost/snow to them, as well as all of the many wood-textured models. This would probably take a long time though. It's too bad that valve does not have many winter textures included in the SDK. There is really only one map that uses them (Viaduct), and it's really just a snow/ground texture. There are no model skins for snow, and virtually no weather particle systems for it (there is one, but it's too small to do much). I could probably make more/larger ones, but didn't have the time for this project. Probably could just make a 512x512 with no-z, drop a few in the skybox, and be done with it...

Because I made the map for another community, and it's exclusive to that community, I can't post it for download.

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