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Hellkeeper, 08/07/2011 à 13h50

Post-Mortem DmRiot

As promised in my last note, here is the post-mortem of my last map and its chaotic development.

Two years were necessary to build this map, yet it is nothing impressive. The reason is that these two years were mostly spent thinking about it and failing at making anything, with only the last months spent actually mapping anything out of the pile of ideas and failed designs I had accumulated over time.

On 15th June 2009 at 19:57, I rebuilt and saved the final build of DmExar, with a new music and a collision bug fixed. The few weeks afterwards were spent looking at it with a fresh new look - and finding two more problems: a misplaced corona and an almost invisible texture problem caused by wrong brush order; these were never corrected as I did not feel like releasing a third version when these were barely noticeable issues, and another version might create compatibility problems. After that, I wanted to do another U227 map but had no idea.

I was quite busy at the time, yet managed to plan a medium-size layout which, at the time, seemed quite nice and original. Many parts of it were hastily drawn in the margin of whatever piece of paper I could find. For personal reasons, I was not able to start working on it immediately, and it is only in January 2010 that I decided to start actual mapping. I had decided to use a classic yet twisted theme based on brutalism and totalitarian architecture, which, now that I think about it, is not entirely unrelated to the landscapes of ruined London in the 1984 film 1984. I wanted large concrete structures with few decorations and simple flat surfaces, the opposite of Exar. I also started thinking about decoration, and at that time, I designed the concrete eagle with BSP.

Original Riot Original Riot Original Riot Original Riot Original Riot

It took me a few months of fiddling to find the correct dimensions before I started the map itself in April. It immediately became clear that though the layout looked good on paper, it was broken in the game itself. There were only two real "rooms", with many side-corridors, unnecessarily joining close parts of the map together, several completely worthless locations, the main fighting area itself a large flat zone on only two levels. The reason why it looked better on paper was, that I believed that whatever looked bad there would be better in-game, and also that the plan was more or less devoid of straight lines, allowing places which were in fact far apart to connect nicely on paper. I spent two weeks trying to think of something better until I finally dropped the idea completely, foolishly thinking that I would do something better later.

After months of idleness as far as mapping was concerned, I came back to it and tried to see if I could save parts of it, including the room with the eagle, whose shape and design I liked more than any other part of the map, and which was the only room I had already started to embellish. I deleted the northern section and the upper levels for which I had no hope. Meanwhile, beta-versions of the 227g patch were delivered to testers by Smirftsch, who gave me access to them. I finally abandoned the layout in its entirety in May, when I was given the task of writing a basic help file for UnrealEd. Seeing how DmRiot seemed doomed, I accepted to keep myself busy. By now, 2010 was about to end and I felt quite anxious, as it would be a full year without a map in sight. I had only had one full year gap, in 2007.

Starting from the eagle room, I tried to design new layouts, but only one was completed and I knew, as I completed it, that it was even worse than the first one. I looked at ancient aborted projects from 2007 without any better idea. My attempts to integrate these elements into outdoor terrains were not better. In the end, I abandoned Riot completely. After more thinking, I started a small DM project which was killed quickly by bugs and bad design. It was followed by project VIL, an industrial-themed realistic DM map with static-meshes, custom textures and detailed geometry, but it went nowhere beyond a single room, and though I keep it somewhere on my hard drive, it is clear that nothing will ever come out of it without a complete overhaul and actual planning. 2011 was now upon us, and 227g was released in April 2011, more or less a full year after I had started working on Riot, which was now in my Aborted Projects list.

Being quite depressed and badly wanting to map something, I came back to the eagle room. Unlike before, I took only the room itself and nothing of the surrounding areas. It had previously been the inside of a small building surrounded by large volumes and great spaces. I now thought that the entire idea was wrong and took only the room itself (the inside, none of the brushes that made the outside). I started building the north-west room, wondering what I could do with it. After that, the east room was built with difficulty and the project ground to a halt when I had to build the southern part of it. It took days and days of thinking, trying things and talking with Jival to complete the painful delivery of the southernmost room. After that, I was more than fed up with this and the last room was hastily slapped together with minimal planning, reusing the stairs from the main room of DmExar. I had decided earlier in the process to make it a rainy map with a muddy terrain on the lower level, and I was still using the brutalist totalitarian design I had adopted in 2009. After cutting out the window part of a texture from UT, I created most of the few decorations with the TarquinExtruderBrush. The terrains themselves were made with static-meshes. As 227h had been released in the mean time (being the second version released during my work on this map - which says a lot about my workflow), static-meshes enjoyed a solid support. I used the BSP based terrain tool to create them. In 227h and subsequent versions, surfaces with the FakeBackdrop flag are deleted when a BSP object is turned into a static-mesh, so I used this to delete all the surfaces of the terrain brush except the tessellated floor whose normals I flipped, thanks to the appropriate setting in the Mesh Browser. Once converted back to BSP, the result was a tessellated sheet, vertex-edited into a muddy terrain. A custom ground texture was applied, aligned to floor, and the result was converted back into a static-mesh. Each room has one sheet. The eastern stairs were also converted to static-meshes and the BSP underneath it set to FakeBackdrop as a BSP hole appeared there which would not go away despite all my efforts. I also decreased BSP cuts with the building sliders, as the entire structure is very inefficient and prone to BSP problems.

After that, only cosmetics were applied: a couple of projectors with loosely fascist-looking images to mimic posters, a shield and sword decoration built with BSP, were placed here and there, as well as a couple of other eagles and a panel with great flags, more soviet-looking than fascist. For the rain, I used one of the new actors of 227. As it can only create rain in a whole zone or in a cubic volume around it, I used many of them in each room because of the odd angles I used. Lighting and gameplay were made in 10 minutes each, with no planning or creativity. For sounds, I used the rainfall sound of NyLeve as a rain sound, a couple of wind and fountain sounds on the ground levels to mimic the impact of raindrops on concrete and mud. The custom mud texture was given "flitch-flotch" footstep sounds and its hitsound replaced with a grass footstep sound so that players jumping on the mud from the upper levels would not make a big "blomp" sound which sounds more like stone.

The baby was released to a candid world on the 21st of June 2011, more than two years after DmExar. The next day, version 1.1 was released with a few changes: the outdoor lighting was slightly changed to a pale orange - it makes the inside lighting, which is completely white, look much colder. A possible collision bug was corrected on the stairs of the eastern room and the walls on ground level were covered with a new texture. A lighting bug was fixed on the lift.

And thus DmRiot finally ended. It's not great, but it's not that bad either. There are ideas I always wanted to use there, but they are not fully developed. Many aspects of it were rushed, yet I like it as it is. I guess the best way to see what a mess it really is it to take a look at it in UnrealEd. Go ahead. There's also an unchecked group within it, which contains the original eagle and shield decorations.

Things were not so as finished as I thought however: in 2012, Smirftsch decided to include both DmRiot and DmExar in the next releases of patch 227 for Unreal, and a few of his comments led me to adjust and enhance a few effcts. The emitter actors were modified by the 227 team specifically to allow the use of particles from another emitter on impact so that I could create impact effect on particle collisions.

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