View Full Version : Tutorial 3.3 - Developing an Atmosphere

Logic Pack
11-05-2009, 03:35 AM
Tutorial 3.3 - Developing an Atmosphere
By mrsupercomputer (http://www.lbpcentral.com/forums/member.php?u=1828)

When creating your level, it's usually very important that you nail the atmosphere. Atmosphere sets the mood for the player and really draws them into the world you have created. So, to help you accomplish that, we'll walk through some basic tips and tricks for improving the atmosphere in your levels. We'll cover:

Material and Background Selection
Stickers and Decoration
Sound Effects and Music Selection
Using Logic to Improve Atmosphere

To get started, you'll need to come up with a creative theme for your level. The theme can be be anything, from a bustling city to a desolate wasteland. For this tutorial, we'll focus on creating a swampy bog for Sackboy to run and jump through. While you read through this tutorial, keep in mind that many of the techniques we touch on can be applied to other themes as well.

Before we start building, let's do some research on the environment that we are going to create. For our swampy bog, let's search for "swamplands" using Google's image search. Google finds many pictures of swamplands from around the world, providing ample inspiration for our level. A search for "swamps" on Wikipedia provides us with information about the environment and the kind of animals that are encountered there. This can be help not only in creating atmosphere, but in creating obstacles and enemies as well.

Now that we've properly researched our theme, let's hop into Create Mode and actually start designing it. Since this tutorial focuses on the atmosphere itself more than the actual structure of the level, we've provided a template for you to use. Search for our LogicPack PSN on the LBP servers and copy "Tutorial 3.3 - Developing an Atmosphere" to your moon. In it, we'll find our swamp scene in 6 different stages of atmospheric development. While you follow this tutorial, use the first version to build upon and the remaining versions as a sort of "benchmark" to compare your progress to.

Material and Background Selection

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (1).jpg

Material and background selection is the foundation on which all the atmospheric elements in your level are built, so don't rush this portion! You may find it helpful to create a small, bite-sized version of your level and experiment with several combinations of materials and backgrounds until you find the one that works best for your environment.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (2).jpg

First, we need to decide on a fitting background. In some cases you can build your own, but here we're going to use one of the built-in options. This will also help us with material selection, as it will give us some creative direction.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (3).jpg

After we've selected our background, we'll begin choosing our materials. From our research, we saw a lot of wet, muddy swamps filled with greens and browns, so we'll select materials that will help us recreate that look and feel. As a general rule, try to use less than five total materials throughout your level. It sounds restrictive, but with a little creativity and lots of stickers, you can easily mask the limited palette. Plus, it helps fend away that pesky thermometer, which is always helpful. For our tutorial, we've used the "Dark Green Wood" for our rock and vines, "Hessian Fabric" for our mud, and "Weathered Green Wood" for our trees.

Stickers and Decoration

We have our materials selected for the swamp and they look pretty good, but it's still missing something. Swamps are usually covered in moss, leaves, grime and dirt, right? So, to give our swamp this look, we'll make use of a few stickers and decorations.

For our swamp, we'll be using the "Rust Patch" sticker, "Real Green Leaf" and "Seaweed". Now, you may be asking yourself, "Rust? Why rust? There isn't metal material in our level. And seaweed? This isn't a sea adventure! Why are we using it?" Well, yes, those statements are true, but it's important to remember that some stickers and decorations can be used in ways their names don't imply. It just takes a little creativity and an open mind.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (4).jpg

When applied to the dark green wood, the rust patch works wonderfully to create the dirty, grimy look that our swamp currently lacks. It also helps ensure the level's looks are more varied - seeing the same texture patterns over and over can get boring very quickly, so adding a few stickers here and there really helps keep things looking fresh.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (5).jpg

The seaweed can be used as swamp moss, as you can see above. We'll simply apply a couple pieces of seaweed to the bottom of the trees and the rocks, and voila! The level looks much more lively than it did before. A little movement in a level really helps transform it from a static, rigid "playground" to an actual, natural-seeming "environment", so make use of those decorations wherever necessary!

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (6).jpg

Now, we'll take a few of the real green leaf decorations and apply them to our vines. Not bad, huh? They definitely help give our vines a little movement and preventing them from seeming like curved tree branches.


We've added our stickers and decorations, so now it's time to make adjustments to our lighting. We can manipulate lighting in a couple of major ways: we can use the global lighting settings, which will help with the entire level; and light objects, which will help with more localized lighting settings.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (7).jpg

We'll start by tweaking the global controls. Our level looks great, but it's too bright! Let's decrease the light in the level so that it's dark, but still slightly visible. Next, we'll add a bit of light brown fog, which will obscure our background a bit and help make the level seem more "dirty".

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (8).jpg

All right, our swamp is looking very dark and moody, but the player still cannot see where they're going all that well. To fix this, we’ll take advantage of some of our lighting objects - by adding a few in major areas, the path will be significantly easier to navigate.

When selecting the lighting for your level, you’ll need to determine whether the light object itself will be visible to the player. In our case, it will be visible to the player, so we’ll want to select lights that fit within our theme. For our purposes, Christmas lights should do the trick. We'll attach a Christmas light to a piece of dark matter with a piece of string. We'll also change the color of the lights to a more yellow hue as well as reduce the brightness slightly so that the light doesn't look too artificial. Remember, if the player will be able to see the light object, ensuring the light object matches the theme of the level is key. It's all too easy to break the atmospheric illusion with an out-of-place light object, so keep that in mind while creating.

Sound Effects and Music Selection

Our swamp is beginning to take shape. In order to establish the atmosphere we have now, we've selected an earthy and organic combination of materials, used our stickers and decorations to enhance those materials, and made small adjustments to the lighting. However, there's still one major problem: our swamp is still much too quiet!

First, let's select some background music for our swamp. Background music can be used to establish the emotion and rhythm of the level, so which one you choose is critical. If we were building a bright, colorful, cityscape, we'd want to choose a peppy, fast paced selection. Our swamp is anything but bright and colorful, so a peppy soundtrack would most likely pull the player out of their experience. We've decided on "Tricky Business", a track that creates a more mysterious and spooky atmosphere, and also increases in tempo as it progresses, which helps ramp up the tension as time passes. If you disagree with our selection, you can try experimenting with other soundtracks to see what works and what doesn't.

Next, well need to add sound effects. Sound effects are important because most "real" environments are not perfectly silent - there are usually a whole host of environmental sounds that lend themselves to the atmosphere. If you're clever, you'll also use sounds to aid your gameplay, such as a small "ding" when a player has successfully completed a challenge or a "ticking clock" to warn the player that they are facing a timed puzzle.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (9).jpg

In our tutorial, we'll focus on using sound effects to set the mood. First, we'll start by adding an eerie wind blowing in the background. Then we'll add a few gusts of wind that will be triggered as the player runs by. (Note: These gusts could also be controlled using logic, but that's for the next section.)

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (10).jpg

To enhance the feeling of "wetness" that our swamp needs to have, we'll also add a slime sound effect to the pool of water that doubles as our hazard.

Using Logic to Improve Atmosphere

The swamp is nearly complete, but you can improve your atmosphere even more by implementing some of the logic techniques you've learned about in the Logic Pack as well as these written tutorials. Logic can be used to control your lighting, music, sound effects, and more, so it can be very important to ensuring certain events are coordinated correctly.

http://www.lbpcentral.com/images/logic_pack/tutorials/3-3/3-3 (11).jpg

For our tutorial, we'll make use of the rhythmic output tool you learned about in the Advanced Pack. If you don't have that in your Popit for whatever reason, the Advanced Logic Vault makes it easy for us to capture the rhythmic output tool and insert it into our level ourselves.

After we've pasted the logic into our level, all we have to do is attach the magnetic key switch to one of the Christmas lights we added earlier. Feel free to adjust the rhythmic output tool's motor bolt until you are happy with the light's flicker. In our case, we changed the output of the rhythmic output tool to "speed" instead of "on-off" so that the flicker looked more varied and realistic. Ultimately, however, how you set up the flicker is up to you - if you don't like it set to "speed" and would prefer it set to "on-off", do so! All of these statements are merely suggestions - the best Creators know when to go against them, so trust your instincts.