Saturday, January 5, 2013

Get Soaked

     One of the perks of my job as a teacher of game design is the flexibility I have with my classes.  Of course, there's always a curriculum to use as a guideline, but because I'm not bound by the restrictions of the US standardized k-12 program I can tailor each class to each group of kids.  Some are faster than others, so this ability makes things much more enjoyable for everyone involved.

     We offer many courses, but the one in particular that I'm always excited to teach is FPS Level Design.  In this class, the students use the Unreal Development Kit to craft their own levels using the prefabs that come with the engine.  Most of them create deathmatch/free-for-all style maps, while a few of the more advanced students end up digging into capture the flag and other objective type maps.  Unfortunately, the courses only last an hour, for one day a week, for a duration of 6 weeks (a grand total of 6 hours of development time).  While this is enough time for a cursory introduction to the software, I've always wanted to start diving into Kismet code and showing them how to enhance the playability of their maps, but have never had the time to do so.

     Last month I struck gold.  I was finishing up the last session of an FPS Level Design course when the parents asked if there was any way they could continue into a second session.  After almost no resistance from my boss (I could see the money signs cha-chinging in his eyes), we set up a tentative schedule and I got right to work developing an FPS Level Design Part II curriculum.

     One of the problems we've always had with the FPS curriculum is the violence factor.  Our target age range is anywhere from 10 year olds and up, so violence and gore is always a concern with the parents - let alone the school systems we work with.  We're still having a tough time marketing it to schools, but with a little bit of time spent gutting the more violent aspects of the UDK engine out (eg blood, gore, gibbing, weapons, etc) we've started to see more signups for the FPS curriculum.  I actually like the more kid-friendly version of the UDK - with the weapons and violence stripped away I've noticed students focus harder on their level and its design rather than getting distracted with stuff that goes boom.  To kick start the premiere of the Part II curriculum, I went to work trying to think of ways to retrofit the UDK to be more "G-Rated" and decided on creating a new water gun model for use as the primary weapon.  Here's the progress below:

     Full disclosure, we already have a replacement water gun in use so the idea wasn't originally mine.  However, (and without offense to my co-worker that created the original) it is pretty awful - it clips through the player's view and it's extremely primitive compared to the rest of the assets included with the UDK.  The other problem with the original is that it still uses the default linkgun particle effects, so while the model isn't a plasma gun anymore, it's still a bolt of electricity firing from the end of it.  My hope is to finish my model and create a more thorough replication of a water gun.  Next step - Texturing!

Render from 3ds Max

     I might dull some of the noise on the diffuse map down a bit and add an AO pass, as well as remove the normal map entirely (it's pretty under utilized on this mesh, just for the wording and even that looks pretty bad here).  Now that the texturing is done, I can go ahead and pull everything into UDK and start getting the water stream particle effect together!

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