The game starts on this insanely large cargo ship. I have never been on one and I have no idea what different compartments and rooms and whatnot are on a ship like this. So I figured the best way to learn the location is to create it. Once I have a ship I can walk on and explore, the puzzles will be so much easier to figure out! In a commercial production, this might not be the best way to go about it, but as i am not on a budget, I can indulge myself!
Like always, a location study is started by gathering reference. First I googled for some images of ships, the usual stuff. Then I found a nice article on how a ship like this works. After that I realized that I can search for a free 3D model of a ship! I found one on some Cad files website. It was utterly unusable in a game engine and an oil tanker (I needed a container ship), but it allowed me to get a perfect size & blueprint reference for my own model!
I simply loaded up the cad file in Modo and started modeling on top of it. It made the model process super easy! I will not use any geometry from the cad model, but recreate everything from scratch. I do not want any unwanted vertex data or 2 point polygons haunting my game meshes.
In this first pass I am keeping the model as simple as possible. As I do not yet know how it works in game I do not want to go too detailed so that changes get too slow to implement. I noticed that it was a good thing! as the locked isometric camera proved to require big changes to the ship’s shapes for all the pathways to be accessible and visible. Later I need to transform the deck with oil tanker details into a cargo container area. It should be fine!
I made all the walkways a lot wider than in the actual ship. Figuring all this out for the ship location will provide me with a great design guide for the rest of the game’s locations.
A back and forth workflow between Modo and Unity proved to be great. I would load up the ship FBX in Unity, setup the navigation so that I can walk around the ship and look at how different overhangs and walls obstruct the view and what locations feel nice to explore. I would then go back to Modo, make the required changes and loop back to Unity where everything would be automatically updated and I was able to test out the environment right away!
Sound is as important as the visuals, so I already went ahead and looked for ambiance sounds for a ship. I stumbled upon an amazing website for mixing a tanker engine-room soundscape!
The ship level is still very much in progress. I have only scratched the surface with a few flights of stairs and some walkways. I plan to model the inside of the ship as well (of the structure) with bunk rooms, toilets, kitchen, rec rooms, and the deck. Also I will model all the little details outside and instance them in game engine. Then I need to animate all the doors, levers, flags, the whole ship, water and create all the VFX that go with a ship like this. It will be an amazing location once complete in 2024!