Modularity within game environments is often a tricky topic, however if you stick to a few key principles you will be able to create great looking optimised game assets that can reused extensively through out a level:
- It has to work within the grid.
- The textures have to match up.
- Does it look accurate?
A friend of mine was kind enough to send me some screen grabs of the work he did on Watchdogs™, from the images bellow you can see a large variation of houses made with a small number of modular pieces. This is quite a simple process because here they are only using an exterior grid for their modular kits. it is none enter able; this means that if certain areas of the modular kit stick into the building slightly, it’s not the end of the world (this should still be avoided as much as possible).
When we look at modularity we break it down into simple sections, wall, floor, ceiling & roof; all of these elements need to interlock into each other the same way you’d expect Lego pieces to continuously build whatever it is you wanted to create. if at any point a Lego piece doesn’t work, Lego have failed to do their job. this process transfers over to modular kits for environment artists.
Bellow are some Images of the techniques I used to create a modular kit for Zombie Army 4: Dead War™ which was released on the 6th of March 2020.
You can also see these buildings in action bellow:
So, you may have noticed I’ve taken a different approach and only used modular materials and modular elements. The reason for this was because the Artist who previously set up the level worked in a non modular fashion and modeled every single building, This became a problem when too many changes were needed, I was on a 2 man task for tasked with ‘repairing’ these issues and adding more life and variation into this specific environment which would become the ‘Vertical Slice’.
This same approach works for interior scenarios.
So what is the takeaway from this?;
I was tasked with ‘repairing’ a destructive workflow; because too many changes needed to be done and it would/did break the entire level.
It took Andrea and I (who were the only 2 working on fixing this) 3 months to Create;
3 variations of material sets, a large number of modular elements such as; building trim; building architrave, windows, doors, decals, shutters & corner pieces.
This all had to fit onto a number of buildings that already had a specific foot print. otherwise we’d have taken an approach similar to how Ubisoft™ created their Modular Kits for Watchdogs™.
Remember: when working in a modular fashion it becomes non-destructive; if at any point you want to change something large I.E; an entire building footprint, all you have to do is remove those specific walls and replace them with different modular pieces However, as you can see from the two different approaches at modularity; The materials must also match up.
The last thing I’ll leave you with will probably start arguments; Modular kits work from specific floor grids; 4 Meters wide by 4 Meters high or, 4×4, things start to get messy when you change to 4×6 (4 Meters wide by 6 Meters high) and then even crazier. I found working from a 4×4 Grid was best however, it often feels over scaled compared to a 3×3 workflow, with a 3×3 workflow we can often take Texel density from 2M and just get away with having it on a 3M area. I will go into detail on advanced modular kits in another blog. For now, Thanks for Reading!
What are your thoughts? – Have you worked on Modularity kits before? – What was your takeaway? – What did you learn? – How would you approach it now?