I said it wasn’t the end of my Star Citizen posts, didn’t I?
Blockouts aren’t talked about outside of development circles. And really, it’s the bread and butter of a level designer’s work. Many companies I’ve worked with in the past wouldn’t dream of allowing employees to share work at an early stage of development, even after the game is completed. In fact some companies explicitly forbade it.
It’s a shame, because the level design process is genuinely interesting to enthusiasts, and it often means the work of a designer gets “hidden” behind all of that beautiful art. Enter the #Blocktober hashtag.
#Blocktober (and the associated Twitter account) has offered a little transparency to an otherwise opaque process. To give an explanation and without going into too much detail; level designers start the level design process by creating blockouts.
Blockouts are sometimes called block designs, white boxes, grey boxes or blockmeshes, and are typically a series of primitive shapes that represent the proposed architecture of a level or flow of a a scenario. The primary purpose of a blockout is to illustrate design intent, so the simpler the geometry, the better. This allows for quick iteration following playtests.
Here are some excellent examples from Uncharted 4…
As part of the #Blocktober hashtag, I decided to share some of my Star Citizen work; in particular, my work on Star Marine. Thanks to my contributions to the February issue of of Jump Point, I have a large amount of footage captured of the blockout for Echo 11.
Rather than let the footage go to waste, I hopped on the #blocktober hashtag with a series of comparison videos. For completion sake I have archived the comparisons below.
While most of these shots show how closely the art department work to designer blockouts; it’s a little disingenuous to suggest that this happens all of the time. Here’s a bonus shot where art deviated from the initial blockout.
It’s always important for an artist to follow design intentions. A good designer remains open to feedback and suggestions on how to improve an area, be it for readability, environmental storytelling or allowing an opportunity to add a sweet skybox.
I actually talked a little more about this process in an episode of Around the Verse here.