These are maps created for the Starsworn: Blood of Albion 1shot/short adventure. Specifically, these are production versions (and their various works in progress). When I have fully polished them I'll post them on my site as a resource pack.
All maps were created in Unreal 4. All maps suffered significantly from the limitations of orthorgraphic view, but especially the limits of the Unreal 4 ortho camera, which didn't support G-buffer features like SSR, subsurface scattering, translucency sorting and depth bias alpha. Thus, making things I wanted to create, like fog effects, were either not possible or just look really messed up.
Eventually, the subjects discussed here will be ported to a currently WIP article on my site that discusses my time with D&D. For now, I'll post these here.
The WIP shots are just renders I decided to show people as I worked on the maps. They all have a little story to go with them.
Average worktime was ~4 hours per map, sometimes up to 10.
Use "View Image" to see the full size images.
I had a vision for the terrain of Albion early in because I knew it would be set in the Outlands adjacent to the Boundary. I had textures I had created in 2013 using Filterforge presets for Retribution that would potentially be useful for this project. I reclaimed them and reverse engineered some of Epic's Elemental Demo materials with angle-based blending typically used for grass and snow. Originally the game, other than Osaka, was going to take place above ground exclusively except for a special cave they used to transition zones. However, this is the only surface map in the game in the end.
Since I can't use depth fades, the water was going to be a problem. I liked the way this water looked, but only when it blended with the Kite Demo scree. In the ortho it looked like shit.
In this render I am mostly experimenting with materials. I planned to mix Outlands upper adamantium with shattered steppes from the platform's impact point, but later I scrap all the old materials. These materials use world coordinates for mapping textures so the fucked UVW on some of the Epic assets isn't a big deal except in some locations. I'd probably prefer being able to paint the textures, but I haven't gotten into vertex painting yet.
Old materials = scrapped. I've adapted the adamantium to my new materials adapted from Epic's. I'm using Tera rocks with the new materials to build the shattered steps. This is a map players would start the game in, so it didn't need too many features. I have decided they'll pass into a cave at this point.
Cleanup and material experimentation. It took me a long time to find a balance I wanted. The layout is largely finished, but the materials are a bit busy.
I discovered I could fake water depth by cloning the plane and making an additive version of the material. It melts your eyes in perspective but in ortho it gives a very flimsy illusion of depth. I added some of the platform debris to the shore and called it complete.
In the resource version of the map I'll adapt the CERNOS glows to emissive lighting and tweak some textures a bit.
I had a strong idea of a terrain feature intense map for optional fights. Here, Players might face the Nightmares or possibly drag the Forgotten Beholder into this arena. At one point I had planned to have them face the Savage Forgotten here, but it was later rolled into the Beholder fight.
This map was built using point lights. About 300 or so point lights end up being used for maps like this. The most amount of time spent is placing them perfectly so the tendrils appear to be emitting light. However, this fucks with depth perception, and the players were confused by this map during play.
Lighting intensity is dropped. You'll notice the map is using a new material set in some parts which has a dusty appearance to it.
There's two passages in this map other than the northern entrance. One is the bottom center, and one bottom east. Both are accessed via ramps out of fallen debris. Making those ramps obviously ramps wasn't so easy.
I decide to add lights to illuminate the ramps. This is normally a huge no-no - you NEVER add lights to something that doesn't cast light. Else you end up with messed up shit like WoW and darksiders 2 with weird invisible lights in unrealistic areas that totally break the environment. However, early in I acknowledged the map needed something to address the reads. I just didn't understand what was necessary to fix it. The big issue is that as their creator I have no issue reading these maps. But their features are not so obvious to someone who hasn't seen it before. Plus, I'm not working in ortho.
After the first session, and feedback discussion with the players, HKS taught me how to set up emissive lighting. I deleted all the handplaced lights and rendered the map with emissive as well as cleaned up some of the objects, and used scree to help bring read to angles in the terrain. The result was hugely successful.
The Resource version will probably see some adjustments to make the cave exits more obvious.
Simple map with shattered steps overlaid on still, black water. Since we don't have reflections or depth all of the map's details have to be done through theatre of mind. I knew they'd fight their Nightmare clones here so I wanted some passages to play around. Touching the water spawns death. Don't touch the water.
Making the fog was really hard. Unreal didn't want to cast the shadows properly. Also, they're additive. Since they're just planes it was basically impossible to get the appearance I wanted.
Rendered with increased res on some shadows. Most of the maps are using low res shadows because I have only 12gb of ram on this ancient computer and it's not nearly enough to bake lighting on even simple maps.
This map will see Emissive Lighting updates on the Resource release.
I wanted a Japanese appearance to Osaka but since I'm not an artist I was dependent on third party resources. I used Tera and Unreal 3 assets that I reverse engineered plus a plethora of new materials.
This map also uses water, but like the beach I added duplicate Additive layers to create fake fog. It looks great in Unreal 4 but absolute trash in Ortho. Also, fog planes proved equally poor in portraying the misty sunken city. It was very tough to get lights from the towers to look any good. I wanted the map to be dark but for lights to guide your path. The water is not supposed to be brighter than the terrain. All in all, the maps look nothing like my intention.
I discovered that Unreal 4 was compressing these textures, I had to set them to Interface2d before exporting them, else the fog and lights turned into total vomit.
The Resource version may see light balancing changes.
As we move into Osaka we encounter less ruins more traces of the castle province. A visually more complete map than the first Osaka map but content-wise was lacking. More of a story piece.
Lighting balance. The braziers shouldn't be too bright in Osaka. Adding the drawbridge to the courtyard past the first wall.
Minor adjustments to the fog in particular.
The Resource version may see light balancing changes.
A complex map requiring lots of meshes to be sorted out.
A brainstorm phase. Only the right side sees new stuff since I copied over the previous map and worked off of it.
Doesn't take too long for the map to look finished.
Minor details and resolution adjustments.
The Resource version may see light balancing changes and some light sources moved a little bit, since HKS voiced concern on difficulty perceiving the elevation between the shrine and cannon platform.
Originally, Jhiya's fight room was envisioned to be about half this size. However, when I revised the fight concept I realized I could take full advantage of some big objects available in Tera. Blocking out the map was extremely fast.
Lighting changes to reflect the monument's position in Osaka vs the light source for the city, plus the destructible statues and some other details.
Using fog to give volume to lights.
I didn't realize it but there's two objects in the central platform I forgot to delete. I'll be removing those in the Resource version, and perhaps adjusting light balance, though this map is pretty solid I think.
The Beholder room in the surface realm. The central structure is an inhibitor which is an important plot device.
This map will see Emissive lighting for the Resource version.
Beholder Room: Psychosis
Initial concept. Very rushed since I built it at the end of the project.
Emissive lighting update. I'm not very happy with it. Again, the ortho camera limited what I can do with the Forgotten mist.
I'll very likely do a major quality/texture pass on this map before releasing it as a Resource.
Some perspective shots taken during development.
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- Xel'naga World Shaper
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