Last year, my friend and coworker Michael Barclay boldly declared that “level blockouts are art”. He started the hashtag #Blocktober to celebrate the art form and encourage other developers to share screenshots of their blockmesh levels. The response was enthusiastic, as hundreds of developers gave us a sample of their early-production work. It provided some well-deserved exposure to a vital facet of game development that players normally never get to see.
Since Michael is starting up #Blocktober again this year, I thought I would dig through my own work files to find something to share. While I’m not actually a level designer, in my systems design work I often develop playable prototypes to pitch a certain gameplay idea or feature.
The video above is an early prototype of the train combat sequence that was later developed for chapter 9 of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. While we were still in early preproduction, I wanted to pitch an action setpiece that combined ideas and mechanics from two of my favourite levels: the train from Uncharted 2 and the convoy chase from Uncharted 4. This would also enable us to leverage some of the physics and animation tech that had already been developed in our engine.
A few credits: the rocky terrain that the train meanders through is borrowed from Mark Davies’s blockmesh of the islands from chapter 12 of Uncharted 4. I reused many of the vehicle-to-vehicle combat systems previously developed by Kurt Margenau. I also wasn’t involved with the real train level that actually shipped with The Lost Legacy; that was developed from scratch by Nicholas Lance, Asher Einhorn, Michael Barclay, Vinit Agarwal and many more.
Uncharted 4 obviously features Nathan Drake getting pulled back into the adventuring lifestyle (that’s, uh, the game), but the opening is a smattering of domestic moments with his wife Elena that sell that game’s emotional beats. It’s even better in first person.
In this week’s “Drone Sunday” post from From Where I Drone, a caravan of camels is herded across the Australian Outback, casting shadows on the barren terrain. Between 1870 and 1920, roughly 20,000 camels were brought to Australia from India, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Peninsula. Today, the country’s feral camel population is between 1 and 1.2 million, and is considered a nuisance to Outback communities. For more awesome drone imagery, follow From Where I Drone!