Blocktober 2018

Video Games

Last year, my friend and coworker Michael Barclay boldly declared that “level blockouts are art”. He started the hashtag #Blocktober to celebrate the art form and encourage other developers to share screenshots of their blockmesh levels. The response was enthusiastic, as hundreds of developers gave us a sample of their early-production work. It provided some well-deserved exposure to a vital facet of game development that players normally never get to see.

Since Michael is starting up #Blocktober again this year, I thought I would dig through my own work files to find something to share. While I’m not actually a level designer, in my systems design work I often develop playable prototypes to pitch a certain gameplay idea or feature.

The video above is an early prototype of the train combat sequence that was later developed for chapter 9 of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. While we were still in early preproduction, I wanted to pitch an action setpiece that combined ideas and mechanics from two of my favourite levels: the train from Uncharted 2 and the convoy chase from Uncharted 4. This would also enable us to leverage some of the physics and animation tech that had already been developed in our engine.

A few credits: the rocky terrain that the train meanders through is borrowed from Mark Davies’s blockmesh of the islands from chapter 12 of Uncharted 4. I reused many of the vehicle-to-vehicle combat systems previously developed by Kurt Margenau. I also wasn’t involved with the real train level that actually shipped with The Lost Legacy; that was developed from scratch by Nicholas Lance, Asher Einhorn, Michael Barclay, Vinit Agarwal and many more.

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