Polygons, pixels, distance fog, occlusion—these things are the same in every engine. The platform we are shooting for is a bit behind the cutting edge but still able to pump polygons and recent enough to handle lots of render passes and to support terrain. While that is our assumed technological baseline, this topic (the outdoors) in particular is not only more lengthy but also more vague and varied than the others covered in the book. This is because there are so many more options available technologically than in any other area. There is the terrain to handle, which is a different animal from a hallway or a closed room. An entire chapter is dedicated to the basic editing of terrain in games.
While this is a large open area, the jungle actually limits players for the most part so they will be allowed a tighter third person than a driving game or a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. The terrain can be open, but we can also close it down using hills and fog. Distance fog, in this case, is expected in a hot jungle with a high degree of moisture. We can have dense vegetation, which looks more realistic. There can be large rocks and trees. Flight simulators and first-person shooters that take place outdoors represent the opposite end of the perspective scale, so, naturally, they have some elements in common and some that are very different. While both may allow for the manipulation of the terrain, one may require up-close work with multiple layers of texture and a fine-tuning of the terrain mesh for player movement, as well as the fine-tuning of many more systems for foliage, decoration, impact sounds, collision detection, etc. The other may use a height map and a single large texture that was generated.
This island base, while still operational, is showing the wear and tear of being in a jungle environment. There are cracks in the concrete, and rust on the metal, and mold and vegetation grow wild. In brief, it appears much like Jurassic Park in the later movies. Theme is important in an outdoor setting, as well as an indoor setting. Think about the difference of the outdoor setting in games like World of Warcraft as opposed to Far Cry. Plants and trees are bound by the same creative forces that mechanical assets are in a game. If your world is a happy, cartoony place, then your trees should be as well. A bad place can have dark, spidery trees with branches like skeletal fingers.
Theme World size
This is a rather large world, but you can’t see it all at once due to the hills and valleys of the island, the twists and turns through the jungle, and the fog. This will allow us to investigate a wide variety of outdoor-building tools and techniques.
The game fiction needs to answer the following questions:
- Who owns or runs this island: a mad scientist, a corporation, or a government?
- Was this island taken over by another group? Could the aging military base support more recent additions that alert the player to a new inhabitant and where they might be from?
- What happens on this island? Are there large animal pens and cages? Weird storage containers? Hatches all over the place? (Yes, a LOST reference!) Bloody bodies gutted and tossed about randomly?
- Is the island flat or mountainous?
- Where is this island? Is it in a tropical or arctic zone? This answers many questions about the sky and the foliage.
- What was done to it in order for it to be inhabited? Was it stripped down, or was it consciously left intact to disguise the presence of the inhabitants?
- When was this island base built, and is it abandoned? Are the structures from the recent past, the distant past, or are they brand new?
Again, these questions are usually already asked and answered, and you will work from sketches, concept art, and other materials, but there is always the chance you will be in the situation where you have to ask these questions.
I love these adventures that take place on a remote island. In this section, we will look at terrain creation; create some trees, plants, and rocks; build a sky dome; and then model and texture a jungle base. The jungle base incorporates several environmental features that can be used to our advantage. A dense jungle demands optimization and visual trickery due to the scope of the assets being rendered, but this density can also be used to our advantage. The density of the jungle and the height of the terrain allow for some occlusion tricks.