It has been several months since I’ve created a new zone and I was rather eager to get back to it. I have been working on a lot of other aspects of my game that included questing, items, player skills, and so much more. As such it took me a couple of hours to get back into the swing of things.
Thankfully Zone 16 was slated to be rather easy on my part as it includes the player returning a part of a former zone. From there they discover a new part section and the mystery of what happened remains. I won’t spoil too much of the story as it is also still something that is working in progress. Needless to say, the player returned to find something they could not acquire the first time around.
The first step for this zone was thinking about what approach was going to be the best moving forward. I could either copy a large section of the zone that was going to be in this one or duplicate the zone and removed what I wanted to exclude.
In Unreal Engine 4, you can change your perspective to a top-down view which regardless of what step I took was going to be used. It then makes it quite easy to select a large area of the zone for deleting or copying over a lot of meshes and other things.
On my first attempt, I ended copying the section I wanted for reuse first. I however realized this would not include quite a few things that I would just have to repeat doing again. That would include changing many of the world settings for the zone that I have already spent time finding things light lighting settings, and distance worked well.
To save time I ended up duplicating Zone 1 as a new zone which is my prison map. From there I mass-selected and deleted the section that would not be available to the player anyway. Since the section being removed included the player starting area I made sure to not delete anything important that usually gets created near zone start such as fog, some lighting, volumes, and other zone related things.
Going this route however did include some unwanted zone programming that I had to deal with as well. Thankfully the bulk of that was contained in the Level blueprint. Since there was nothing special at least for now I just wiped out everything that was connected with Event BeginPlay. There was also some other tidying up of things that would be used in this zone elsewhere.
After that, I used quite a classic move of using giant rocks to block off an area of the map that no longer existed. I hate using locked doors the player can never open so I try and avoid doing that when I can. Finally, there was some deleting of a couple of floor, wall tiles, and light sources there were unneeded.
With the player not needing to acquire any keys this time around I also made some modifications to my door system in this zone. This included some cleanup, replacement, and changing door positions by routing them. As a result, a door the player could not get past the first time around was now open with an interesting change allowing them to go beyond that into the new section of the zone that I still needed to create.
For that, I planned for the players to go down a stairway into an unground cave. The cave network was not that big and it is where I became rather acquainted again with making a zone.
In keeping up with a theme of working on this zone I already had a perfectly setup stairway where the old exit of the zone use to be. This is now where the player starts when they return. As such, I copy and paste that section of the map and connected it to the new area.
After that, it was time to make the remaining of the zone. With it being caves I laid down a long landscape strip with a dirt layer that I trimmed down later to size. Along with using an assortment of rock meshes to form the rooms and tunnels connecting a couple of different areas before the player finds the zone exit. I left it otherwise rather bare down there.
The next step was to go through several already existing rooms and make some modifications to their appearance. Some changes were quite small and I doubt most would notice them. In others such as the screenshot above, I expand out what was already there to show that quite some time has passed since the player was last here.
Once that was done I had some lighting work that needed to be done. I did things like rearrange some of the exciting lighting sources and add in new ones. Along with adding or modifying several zone volumes such as light importance to post-processing.
As always there was a fair amount of playtesting by running through the zone and making some slight changes. There were a couple of places that had a slight gap that the player could see though that I did not catch while I working on things. I also made it a little smoother for the player to move around by increase how wide I had some doors open along with some other minor changes.
After I felt everything was good for now I had the zones lighting and geometry build out on medium setting for now. Once I add in some NPCs for the player to fight and some other changes I have planned at a later date I’ll be making a higher light resolution build that will take quite a few hours for my computer to render.
From a difficulty standpoint, this was quite an easy one to do. A lot of the work I had already done and quite some time ago. It was just a matter of working out the best method for moving forward, cleaning up some unwanted bits, and getting back into the swing of things again.
This marks the 16th of the 25 zones I have planned. While there is still a fair amount of things I need to work on at least the part of building out the zone is done. At a later date I’ll be swinging back around once I have the last batch of 10 zones created and work on things like loot and combat.