With the Uprising 1.4 update, we are bringing you the brand new Gallente Research Facility. This complex is packed to the brim with advanced laboratories, where the latest technology is developed and tested. The potential advantage that this technology can bring to corporations has not been missed by mercenaries, and the fighting for control of these outposts is as fierce as it is deadly. The Gallente Research Facility is also the first outpost purpose built to match a Surface Infrastructure, where it will replace the Communications outpost currently in use with Surface Labs.
Conceiving the Concept
Since the Gallente Research Facility was the first time we specifically created an outpost for a particular Surface Infrastructure (often abbreviated as SI), we wanted to design all the components to mesh together thematically and functionally. The outpost should look and feel like a real working laboratory, the sort filled with people in lab coats (when not under assault by immortal mercenaries).
One of the big challenges when creating the Gallente Research Facility was the large scale of the project. Trying to design each component separately from the others would present problems meshing them together. We also wanted each structure to look good — not just individually, but also when integrated with the other buildings. So to kick things off, we got some concept art drawn by our concept artists.
We started off with art depicting the large socket structure. When creating this initial concept art, overall shape and silhouette are important. Even though concept art is just generally a rough sketch, the level designers are involved at an early stage to make sure there are clear gameplay paths and objective locations on the map. It needs to not just look good; it also needs to be functional. Involving level designers in early concept art also helps carry the finer thematic details later into the process, further unifying the style of the outpost. It’s often the little things that take a map from being a collection of buildings to feeling like a unified locale.
One of the main requirements with this new map was to ensure that vehicles were at more of a disadvantage while inside the confines of the complex. This was to ensure that the infantry had a more fun experience within their primary play areas. But at the same time, we didn’t want the vehicles to be completely at a loss.
To make this happen, nearly all of the infantry play was centralized at key areas. For example, the Anti-MCC turret consoles are difficult to attack with ground vehicles because they’re confined within their own space. This allows infantry to battle it out around the objectives while still allowing vehicles to intercept reinforcements.
Additionally, one of the critical requirements for infantry was to ensure that there was an area where an infantry unit could safely travel across the road roughly every 20-30 meters. We also tried to provide much more air cover than we did for previous outposts, and specifically avoided surrounding the outpost with towering buildings. While the Research outpost does have very tall buildings, it doesn’t end up feeling like an apartment block in a dense city.
We also wanted to make the entry points more defendable. One solution to that was the creation of gate houses, which can be thought of as bunkers with roof access and bridges that connect them. These gate houses allow infantry to defend from inside the building, take cover, escape, and use team-based tactics to create a defensive point.
Producing Research: Building the level
With the concept art in hand and the level design requirements set out, the Level Designer creates a 2D layout. During this part of the process the Level Designer needs to determine what type of terrain socket he or she should use. Sockets are the slots on the map that structures are placed in and come in three different sizes: small, medium and large. Small and medium sockets hosting smaller structures are the most common. Large sockets are the exclusive domain of outposts as no other socket type is large enough to accommodate them.
Once the socket type is determined (in this case, a large socket since it’s an outpost), the scale of the objects that occupy a socket are measured and set. The objects themselves range from primary and secondary buildings to platforms, interior rooms, and roads. Once the objects are designed and laid out, the gameplay areas within the outpost need to be balanced. This includes infantry and vehicle paths, and how each path will access the three main entrances to the outpost.
Once the 2D layout is completed, it’s handed back to the Concept Artist, who updates the concept art. With this new, updated concept art, the Level Designer uses the Unreal engine to create the level in three dimensions.
All playable areas are built and playtested to ensure that the level is balanced. Often through playtesting we find areas needing improvement, such as an open area needing more cover, or a section too cluttered to navigate. Sometimes we also make aesthetic changes to the level in order to improve how it looks and how well it runs.
After rigorous playtesting, the 3D blockout of the level gets approved and handed back to the concept artists, who will further flesh out the details by painting over the 3D models, determining the types of materials each section is made of.
With the 3D concept art completed, the level gets handed to the level artists, who have the ultimate goal of turning it from a collection of cubes into a fully-fledged outpost.
Going Green: The Gallente Visual Style
Early in DUST 514's development, we created another Gallente themed map: Communications. Chances are you’ve played on this map. But when we looked at it recently, we decided that we needed to “upgrade” how we style Gallente outposts. As part of this process, we created a “beautiful corner” test level to test the design language, color scheme, materials as well as some new techniques we would use to build the new Gallente outpost.
The Gallente style is simple, high-tech and functional. Small environment objects, such as light sources, were embedded into walls and pillars, while the buildings materials are primarily concrete, augmented with several different kinds of metal.
Concrete and metal are still the dominant material in New Eden architecture, but buildings will be prefabricated into modular sections before being assembled quickly and cheaply onsite.
When designing the buildings, we have to make sure that the players can believe that these structures are sitting on the ground with gravity — that there are pillars and beams supporting the weight of the structure, and the shape is balanced and not suspended in zero-gravity like a space ship.
We also wanted the area look realistic in terms of scale and logic: It should feel like an actual research complex. In the main research building, for instance, the entrance leads to elevators that the absent technicians would have used before the bullets started flying.
With these art principles in mind, the team adds static meshes to the level. Using the 3D models created by the level designers, the level artist creates a detailed 3D model and places it in the Unreal Editor. With the model in place, the level artist adds material meshes using the model sheets from the concept artists. Finally, they add the lighting.
When we created this new outpost, we utilized a new texture-mapping method (see the image below). The image now has a lot more details when seen up-close, giving it a more realistic feel.
During the final step of the process we do a polishing pass on the special effects and lighting to set the environment mood. This is done by the level artist, who will optimize the Level of Detail settings for objects and lighting to increase performance.
The Lay of the Labs
The original design of the structure called for a number of different areas, but after playtesting we decided to trim things down a bit. What we ended up with was a more balanced environment comprising just three distinct areas.
- Main Research Facility and Administrative Offices: The lower floor of this area contains the storage depot, where incoming supplies are delivered and stored until needed. The upper floors house administrative offices and micro-labs, which are locked down and inaccessible while under attack.
- The Weapons Lab and Weapon Towers: The weapons lab primarily tests large weaponry, sending its energy and power through the large wires and pipelines to the tall weapons towers behind it. It uses so much power that the facility needed its own enormous cores to provide the energy.
- The Power Cores: And here we have the power cores, which provide energy for the weapons lab. When not in use the power core is retracted underground for protection.
Here are some more images showing some interior play space and infantry paths in the new outpost. These will offer more cover and protection from vehicles in-game for any infantry.
A Selection of Sockets
So the new outpost looks great. But in addition to the main outpost that occupies a large socket, we have a number of new supporting medium and small sockets.
(Clockwise from top left) Landing Pad, Relay Station, Satellite Launch Pad, Standalone Power Core, Security Scan, Reactor Cores (Click for larger image)
So that’s the new Gallente Research Facility SI set.
With the new outpost and supporting structures, this will inject some more variety into your daily battles. We hope you have as much fun fighting in it as we did designing it, and we’re looking forward to your feedback. Stay tuned for our next dev blog in the future as we build more of New Eden for you to fight over.
Team Knee 101