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#1 28/11/16 18:01

paradox-01
Member
From: Germany
Registered: 14/1/07

Hardy LeBel's Video Game Career Academy

I haven't really watched them myself yet but I hope it will be informative and by skimming .. heh look at Class 3 for a few minutes of Oni.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRTexS … 21y4hdx4Yw

Maybe we can gather here some notes which could be still interesting for us with this old engine but also in general.

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#2 28/11/16 21:55

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Re: Hardy LeBel's Video Game Career Academy

Wow, I didn't know anything about this.  I'll start chipping away at watching these.


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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#3 10/12/16 13:59

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Re: Hardy LeBel's Video Game Career Academy

His videos have some real issues with sound levels, but I guess that's why he's a level designer, not a sound designer smile  So far I've watched the first three videos.  I really like his point about Central Park in video 2 ("Intention") and Olmstead's seven (!) laws.  He doesn't really delve into these at all, perhaps because this is a beginner video, so additional research is needed to really get the point.  But I've long thought that one of the best things a map can do in order to be interesting is have three-dimensionality, such as rolling terrain to explore, like the Park does.  Unfortunately this is not really an option in Oni because of the limitations of the ray-caster and the character physics, but it's a nice thought anyway.

He makes a good point in video 3 ("Invention") about impressing the player with scale, when he talks about the Game Boy game.  This is something that Oni's engine was actually built to do -- to handle large in-door spaces.  Nowadays we take that for granted in games, since PCs are powerful enough to handle those spaces with any kind of engine.

His anecdote in that video about Oni, where Michael Wu hid goodies all over the levels, was first told on our forum here, though at the time he called them "Wu Goodies", not "Mike Goodies".  Though it's hardly realistic for a world to have ammo and other power-ups randomly scattered around it, hey, it was the 1990s, and it did make the game more fun.  His point in the video is that this was a simple thing that they could do within their existing, limited resources to improve the game.

Not being familiar with the Halo games, the story in video 3 about supporting Marines (AIs) was interesting.  One level scripter's idea about the AI helping the player turned into a full-fledged feature, which then was expanded upon in later games, despite not being part of the original design for Halo.  Assistance from the AI is something I've talked about before, specifically how I want to see more of that in Oni.  It's not hard to script AIs to accompany you, and there's not even the obstacle of the player traveling in a vehicle, as there was in Halo.


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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#4 1/1/17 11:27

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Re: Hardy LeBel's Video Game Career Academy

I finished watching the videos Hardy has created up to this point.  Here's some more points I found interesting from them.

Class 6 ("Level Themes") has some good tips starting at 16:10 for designing simple MP arenas where realism is not a major goal.

Class 8 ("Level Concepts") starts off talking about how to make regular settings more interesting.  This includes letting the player explore spaces in common settings that they don't get to see in real life; at 5:45, for instance, he mentions how it would be interesting to get to run out on the tarmac of an airport.  I kept waiting for him to tell an Oni story here, but oddly he never did.  We were told a while back by a Bungie West dev (Okita?) that originally the Airport I level didn't let you go outside, but then they decided to open up that space and make it part of the path you traveled.

At 10:35 he talks about using a hydroelectric dam as a level setting and then shows some pictures reminiscent of Oni's ACC level.  At 11:15 he talks about showing familiar settings in unstable or damaged states.  If only Oni could have done that!  It's crucial to mention here that Hardy did not get to use his design acumen very fully with Oni, because he was assigned to the project in mid-1999, by which point the levels had already been designed and modeled.  At that point, all he could do was re-order the levels to fit with the story he was writing, and perhaps perform slight remodeling to the levels.  For instance, the reason that the ACC Interior level resembles an electric power plant is because it was one!  See the wiki's Early Story page.  And of course the engine was already mostly coded by that point, and was simply going through polishing and debugging.  So Hardy couldn't just say, "What if we made this level in the process of being destroyed?"  The engine didn't have much support for changing level geometry on the fly (though they could remove preset quads, as seen in Airport when the Mad Bomber blows up a walkway).


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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#5 1/1/17 15:49

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Re: Hardy LeBel's Video Game Career Academy

Most recently, Hardy uploaded Class 9 ("Game Mechanics").  Hardy tells a story from SOCOM 3 about how a level's objects became out of sync with their invisible collision boxes, causing the AI to malfunction... this will sound very familiar to anyone that knows about Oni's issues with displaced pathfinding grids and occasionally-mismatched collision boxes around objects (like the cars in the TCTF parking lot).

Hardy then goes on to talk about the importance of understanding your camera before designing a space.  What's interesting about this is that he brings up Oni.  I saw this coming because he was talking about how some cameras are very sophisticated and can handle many different spaces — and as we know, Oni's camera, the JelloCam, is as simple as it gets.  I wasn't expecting the exact story he told, however.  First he relates that Oni's level designers designed spaces that were too realistic and this caused the camera to constantly be popping through walls.  We always knew that the original level designs were too realistic, but I thought the problem was excessive detail (Hardy once mentioned fully-modeled toilets, supporting this notion).

But in this video, he says that the problem was lack of space for the camera; this would have been easily predictable for experienced level designers, by the way, because it's common knowledge that you can't design a space to normal human scale and also have room for a camera floating several feet behind the character — not unless you have a smart camera system or a series of fixed camera points which are designed for each space.  Because Oni had a "dumb" camera, the level designers had to make each area 3-5 times larger to accommodate it.

Hardy then goes on to relate that "one unlucky artist had to spend a month of weekends building black boxes around the geometry of every level, so just in case the camera happened to peek through the walls, all the player would see was blackness rather than seeing behind the facade of the level space".  This is a curious story, because I'm not aware of any such boxes.  Rather, we're quite accustomed to seeing the JelloCam go through walls and show us everything on the other side.  In fact it would actually be more jarring if the screen went black every time JelloCam went behind a wall.  What happens instead is that the intervening walls turn semi-transparent, which is a simple but effective hack in lieu of making the camera move dynamically to avoid walls (which could have made Oni harder to play).

What's interesting is that Hardy told us a while back that Dave Dunn, one of the two level architects, had to revise a lot of the levels at the last minute.  He never told us what exactly Dave had to do.  I thought it had to do with reducing the detail of the levels or fixing a problem with level construction.  It sounds like he's telling the same story about Dave here when he references an "unlucky artist", but perhaps his memories are not entirely accurate, like with some of the other stories I covered above.  That leaves unsolved the mystery of what Dave really had to do.  It's possible that it's a little of both — that the realistic spaces were too cramped, but also too detailed for computers of the time.

Anyway, there's a lot of good advice in these classes, but I thought it would take too long for me to actually summarize it all and post on the forum, so instead I focused on Hardy's stories, and any connections to Oni :-)  But the series is definitely worth looking at for anyone who is interested in game design.


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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#6 4/1/17 13:14

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Re: Hardy LeBel's Video Game Career Academy

So, Paradox has informed me about the black boxes!  It turns out that Hardy remembered this accurately after all.  It's kind of crazy, because we had no real documentation on the wiki about it, until now.  I have written an article about it on the wiki under the name "Jello-cam"; this was actually a red link we'd wanted to be filled in for a while.

If I'd done more with Oni's level models, I might have known about the boxes, but this came as a big surprise to me.  I didn't consciously remember seeing blackness outside of parts of the level when playing, since it seems more common that you simply see into the next room when the camera goes through a wall.  But when the camera actually exits the outermost room of a level, that's where the black boxes come into play.  See the screenshots in the linked article.

Just thought I would throw this out there as a correction to my above post, for any interested parties.  Understanding what the jello-cam is, and why it works in Oni (due to the aforementioned black boxes) is a key to understanding why Oni plays as well as it does.


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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