A group of Second Year De Montfort University students studying Game Art Design.
This blog is to document our participation in the 'Off The Map' competition from Game City, Crytek and The British Library.

Submission completed.

So, yesterday we submitted our level.
We are happy with the way it turned out and feel it was completed to the best of our ability in the time available. The whole process has been a great learning curve for us especially in regards to engine work, now my team and I feel much more confident in using game engines and using them to realise our visions. This has been a great opportunity for us to work as a team and we found this to be a beneficial way of working. As we all have similar visions, we pushed each other to the best of our ability to achieve the quality we all strive for. I feel that we have achieved our goals of creating the gothic atmosphere and referencing gothic literatures successfully.
For the final submission the main changes were correcting lighting, making sure all collision is working correctly, fixing bugs, adding more sounds and finally adding our very own 'Masque of the Red Death.'

We have updated the crydev project page here.

So, here are our final renders and fly-through.

Time to play the waiting game.
Thanks for following and wish us luck :)

- Kat

Sounds like we are getting close to the end - Sounds in the level

With the deadline around the corner we have been busy at work, polishing and bug fixing the level.
One of the main improvements we have made is that we have properly addressed the sound in the level. Up until recently the only sounds we had finished were the sounds of rain and thunder outside, now we have ambient sounds in more areas of the level. This include soft outdoor ambience, distant thunder, rain on windows and so on. We have also now used a lot of the provided sound clips from the British Library. The provided rain sounds and 'woodland in winter' clips worked perfectly for the atmosphere we wanted to create.
We have given a decent amount of time just to tweak the sounds and get them to work in a way that is convincing and helps bring the player into the small world we have created. Sounds have made a massive difference to the feel and atmosphere of the level. As one of our main focus' was to really nail the creepy, unnerving atmosphere, the sounds really have helped to achieve this goals.

Almost there!

- Kat

Updated Lighting: No Puns Today

Sorry guys, the lack of puns is sad, I know, but I've been working on some updated lighting in the level. We've had to take a bit of a break due to University deadlines, but now, we've relaxed a little, it's back to work.

I've got some screenshots for you all, and hopefully a new flythrough will be done once we've got some more assets and such done. Look forwards to it.

Also, we were featured on the British Library's blog, so go us :) If you want to check it out, click here. You can probably see that the screenshots are now a little outdated after the recent lighting pass (my fault), but we're really thankful to have been featured and we're excited for the final product.


Is It Over? - The Final University Hand-In And Flythrough

Final hand-in has happened....

It's been a long road so far and looking back at how far we've come... well, I'm amazed. I thought I'd keep you guys all updated with our new and improved flythrough of the level. 

Of course, handing this all in to university is only half the battle. In fact, not even half. We've got until August to improve this bad boy and I plan on making use of that time. Of course, there are so many things within the level that still need tweaking and changing. There are new areas we'd like to add, more population to do, more assets to create.

Okay so, first, lets look at what we improved on:

- Thunder and lighting. They add so much atmosphere to the level and they really helped to showcase the house. Before it was very much a silhouette but now you can really see the detail and work that went into it.

- We nailed the atmosphere. The lighting worked fantastically and we definitely captured the "gothic" mood throughout the level.

-There is a sense of continuity and consistency. The style is very consistent and really bring the level together. 

- The composition of the graveyard is beautiful and isn't what you would typically think of when you hear about a Gothic graveyard. 

- The Hallways have been beautifully populated and feel inhabited, my like the rest of the house. It feels as though someone is in there. 

Now, why we are pleased with the level, we aren't blind to the problems that are present:

- We have far more variations of gravestones that we haven't put in yet. We need to include them to up some variation.

- Although I fixed the lightning flow graph, it completely doesn't work in the editor now I've reopened it. I need to figure out how to stop this from happening. 

- Our unfortunate and unintentional Mandalay reference is our gate without collision. We need to play through the level a little more and figure out if there are any more issues like this and then sort the collision out. 

- One big problem we all agreed on is that the literary references are not as obvious as we would like. We had made a concious effort to try and keep it subtle, but at the moment it is too subtle. Within the Frankenstein room we are going to need to include some references to Stuttgart and some more science-themed assets.

- The red lighting in the Poe room, while it looks good, needs some kind of source. A fire place may fix this.

- There are a few texture issues that we will need to fix throughout the level. Some may need to be redone to make them higher quality and fix any problems with them. 

- More population is needed. Although we have achieved a lived in feel, there is more we can do. Especially within the courtyard.

- More density when it comes to the trees along the edge of the level. It needs to be more enclosed. The fog helps to hide the fact that this is in a small area, but we need more to solidify it. 

There are so many things that we want to continue to improve and add. For example, the Frankenstein room is going to hopefully have a huge overhaul; we will be expanding it upwards by a floor and adding a laboratory area to it. The courtyard statue will be completely changed to reflect the three sisters from Dracula and we will be adding extra room. 

The garden area outside of the house is very empty also. There needs to be something more there to stop any kind of disinterest from the player. If they choose to explore, then there needs to be something to draw them and excite them. Some more foliage or an extensive gothic garden may be the perfect plan. 

There is a lot more work still to come. Check out our project on Crydev as well.


Are We Eyre Yet? - A Review

HIYO! Back on form!

It’s time to have a review of our level and go through with a fine toothed comb. It’s a list of critiques from ourselves, peers and also tutors that need working on before hand in.

- The texture used for the gate entrance is muddy and bland. It needs to be spiced up with decals or changed completely. The lamps on the entrance merge into walls; they need handles to protrude from the wall. Also the candles flicker at same time which distracts.

- When looking through the gate the house can’t be seen. It always needs to be if it is to be the overbearing presence we want it to be.

- I fear it isn’t obvious enough the player needs to go left at gate and so could frustrate.

- There need to be more lamp variations and also the graves need to be able to be read. Something needs to replace the rocks in front of the graves.

- More needs to be made out of the cliff view. At the moment it’s not obvious it’s a cliff scene.

- We are in need of more vegetation variation to dot around.

- We need to implement the thunder in order to see the house, hard work was put into it and at the moment it’s just a silhouette.

- We don’t want to waste the players time, There’s nothing stopping them going into driveway area.

- At the moment the walls of the building are dull, they require decals.

- The ivy in courtyard is tiling and at the moment the area is sparse. Perhaps include benches etc or temporary statues.

- In the entrance hall the glasses on the table are very blue and quite distracting.

- The painting is clearly stretched and needs refining. The transition of the painting is too subtle; it really needs to be stand out feature of this room. There is also a large space in front of painting needs filling, candle holders, furniture perhaps.

- Perhaps most of all there is no obvious colour theme to this room nor literary reference. This is what our level is about and at the moment it is a waste of a room.

- The corridors make for quite a boring journey; the walls need to be filled with masks, paintings or decals.

- The posters in the Frankenstein room are emitting their own light; they are also far too neat, being perfect rectangles. The silhouettes need tweaking a bit. More green needs to be added to the room, we need to add leather on desks, green creatures in cabinets and more green lighting, the room is far too dark at the moment.

- We have lost focus on populating the rooms with literary references. WE know it’s a Frankenstein room, but how does anyone else know? We need to include loads of subtle references nodding to the fiction: names, locations etc.

Let’s keep this going guys!


The Doctor's Lair: Frankenstein's Room

Beside of 'The Masque of Red Death', we also decided to relate to other pieces of gothic literature and authors. We all agreed that one of the most iconic gothic books is Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', so we felt that we should include some references to that book.  Therefore, we decided to turn one of the seven rooms from Poe's story into Dr Frankenstein study room.

We didn't want our references to be too trivial so, we decided not to go for the cliché vision of the room including things, such as Tesla's coil and stitched body parts. Instead, we wanted to give the player small hints that would enhance atmosphere and would indicate that this is Dr's room. Therefore, we populated scene with items such as anatomical drawings, surgical tools, many books, shelves, and flasks.

The only objects that could be seen as a bit over the top are jars filled with strange creatures. After all, Frankenstein is regarded as one of the first science-fiction books, so we felt that we needed to add some paranormal accents.

One of the crucial, yet more subtle, references to the book which is likely to pass unnoticed by an average player was the lightning hitting an Oak, which can be seen through the window. It was an important scene in the book as this was when Dr came up with the idea to bring a corpse back to life. We believe that it adds value to this part of the level.    
Also, we created a range of furniture pieces that were especially designed for this room and were not repeated in any other area of the level.

Despite the fact that the hints we included are quite subtle, we hope that it won't be too hard to figure out the references to the book.