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View Full Version : Wyth's guide to a polished level while retaining a sane mind



Wyth
01-21-2009, 11:05 AM
Since my level is praised here and in the LBP comments because of some technical prowess and it's polished look, I thouhgt it would be nice if I wrote a guide about some techniques I use. This should make your life as creator a bit more easy and your levels should come out more polished.

My first level (see sig) features a heavy use of sections, but I didn't use the grid or the corner editor, you could play it and watch carefully to discover the different sections. When the second level releases (1-2 weeks from now) you could play it to check what I did with the grid and corner editor there.

If my first level hits the 100,000 plays (65,000 play now) it will have served it's purpose and stealing it won't be an issue. Then I will republish it in a copyable state, then you can copy it to your moon and see all the tricks (and weird mistakes) for yourself. Same goes for the sequel, which is quite a bit more solid I think.

Sections

First and foremost I will explain my building doctrine. I build in sections, with a section I mean: a part of a level. It could be a single room, hallway or a trap section, work your imagination. What defines a section is that it is a self containing bit of the level. I keep the sections apart until I complete the level so that gluing or moving bits around only influences the single section, more on this later.

For example, in the first Africa (forgot the real name) level, I would make the part from where you start in the submarine until the part where you knock over the monkey, in ONE section. This is a self sustaining piece of the level because everything after really has nothing to do with it, you could copy this part and put it in front of a different level and it would still work fine.

There are two main advantages to using sections:
- Never break, or unglue your entire level again
- Move around, copy, or insert sections in your level without a hassle

I hope that has the concept of a section down.

Section Placement

Each section I make is kept up by a few pieces of dark matter that I put down somewhere out of view. This is handy to keep it up so you can move it anywhere without trouble.

Selecting and moving the block is easy if everyting is considered part of the section by the game. If you have unglued or unbolted bits in it, it will be slightly more difficult to move. Best is to drag a box around it with the popit cursor and if you've got it completely around it, you should be able to move it around like normal.

If a complete box is impossible you can move it around while the game is NOT paused by selecting the floor (or ceiling, the biggest bit of the section anyway), make sure that the grid is also OFF when doing this, the game can't cope with physics and the choppy grid movements. If you work with the grid (highly recommended, see later in the guide) I recommend you move the block to a place where you CAN drag a box around it and then move it to the appropriate place, after realigning with the grid (see: the grid).

While creating I keep my sections 1 medium grid space apart. This makes sure that I won't glue them together by accident (or bug 1 section out while working on another) while still be able to playtest the entire level. You would have to make a tiny jump over the sections but you'll manage that right?

Construction a section

I mostly start with making a big block of material that will be the part where the player plays. Then I make the (if necessary) background (be it a thin layer or a thick one) and glue them together. Then I stick the dark matter through it all so it won't go anywhere (make sure it is glued to it or else it will wack out on you). After that I will go and carve out the area I want and put all the gameplay, decoration and story stuff in there. Use directional glueing (http://www.lbpcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4562), or temporarily carving a hole in the background to avoid accidental glueing to the background.

Switchery and everthing that is wired shoud be attached to the section! This is vital to easily moving or even copying the section. If it is dependent on some switchery outside of the section, you'll get a hassle if you want to copy, or move it.

If you have the first section done, or at least the "entrance" and "exit" (point where, for the player, the section starts and stops) you can work on the next section. You have to pay attention to two things:
- Make sure the sections "entrance" and "exit" fit toghether, both physically and material, make sure it looks good even after it is put together. (never mind about the seam, no-one ever sees that)
- Make sure the new section doesn't need to occupy space used by the other section. Think like tetris: the blocks need to fit togheter nicely, no holes (unless out of view of the player) and they cant overlap offcourse.


Grid

Use the grid ladies and gentlemen! It might take some getting use to, but it will help you create neater levels and make it easier to fit everyting together. Use the square shape for straight bits, the right angle triangle to cut out, or create 45 angle platforms and the Corner Editor to make different shapes. Experiment with it and it will surely grow on you.

Also try to create a brick like look with the grid, it's quite good looking although it likes to have thermometer for lunch.

A big grid space is twice as wide (and high) as a medium grid, which in its turn is twice as large as a small grid.
If you decide to use the grid, you will have to use it on as much as possible, to make sure everything keeps fitting together.

Realigning an object to the grid: it's quite simple.
- Select the grid to the size you want to align it to
- Select the object with the popit
- Move it in this order, one grid space each: up, down, right, left.
- Rotate right once and then left once

The object is now aligned to the bottom left part of the object. I'm sure you can find the way to properly align it to other bits.

Realigning the grid itself. The grid is not fixed and it will sometimes move around. It will sometimes realign itself to right angles and flat surfaces when you cursor over it. To realign the grid itself to the way it was, just move over a previously created piece of geometry.

The unaligning seems to happen now and then, yet I am not entirely sure when it happens and how to fix it. Fiddling around a bit seems to help with this.

Corner editor

(Note: I use the word corner to describe a polygon, that types quite a bit easier)

This is the most underestimated tool in LBP. How it works exactly is best figured out through experiment but I will note some uses here.

- Making angles that arent 90 or 45 degrees. Grab a corner and move it up 4 spaces and one space to the right, tadaa! You've made a neat 80ish (bad a geometry) degree angle. If you would not like to have it 4 spaces high just snip off the top part afterward.
- Creating characters from stickers. Make a bit piece of cartboard (oversized) and sticker something on it. The easies way to cut the cartboard to fit the sticker is using the corner editor. Create a corner on all the important angles of the sticker. Resize afterward if necessary.
- "Polish" your stuff. If you've created something without the grid on and put multiple shapes together, chances are there are some corners that get ugly. Get the corner editor and sweep over the ugly edge. Delete the odd corner here and there and you will see it will look way nicer, it will even save some thermometer space.

If you've experimented with all the above, more ideas of using the corner editor will spring to mind, saving you time and making the levels we play prettier.


Comments or requests for additions can be posted in the thread or PM'd to me and I'll see what I can do.

EDIT: added a bit about grid realigning.

Takelow
01-21-2009, 06:50 PM
Great thread!

I think it would be very helpful!

Pinchanzee
01-21-2009, 08:40 PM
Hmm.. I make my levels in sections too, but I don't use the grid, I like the freedom of it normally.
Never really tried the corner editor tool either.. but I sure will now that you've mentioned it!

RangerZero
01-21-2009, 09:11 PM
I don't like the grid because it doesn't seem to be "fixed". I don't know if it's the right word to describe what happens but it's like the grid is calculated relatively from where you cursor is at the moment you put the grid on.

So when i'm working grid on (to align certain stuff) and then grid off (to have some offset I need at another place) I come back the place where I used to grid to align something and when I tried to align some more, the grid isn't at the same place anymore. It's extremely annoying and removes most of the usefulness of the grid.

The corner tool is awesome in order to make cool shapes that aren't too taking to much polygons. Using the circle to draw complex shapes is really bad.
Yet again with the corner tool there are bugs. Sometimes the game decides that when there's a certain angle between 2 points, you can't move them anymore (and this with nothing in the way) and sometimes the game decides you cannot create anymore points and this even if your shape is ALOT less complex than something you would have drawn with the circle tool...

.

Voltiare
01-21-2009, 11:37 PM
Oooooh yeah. I use all of those tools/techniques when I make levels. I learned while making Project Shipwreck that the grids and the corner tool are gods. I will never go back to free handing it.

Wyth
01-22-2009, 07:33 AM
I don't like the grid because it doesn't seem to be "fixed". I don't know if it's the right word to describe what happens but it's like the grid is calculated relatively from where you cursor is at the moment you put the grid on.

So when i'm working grid on (to align certain stuff) and then grid off (to have some offset I need at another place) I come back the place where I used to grid to align something and when I tried to align some more, the grid isn't at the same place anymore. It's extremely annoying and removes most of the usefulness of the grid.

The corner tool is awesome in order to make cool shapes that aren't too taking to much polygons. Using the circle to draw complex shapes is really bad.
Yet again with the corner tool there are bugs. Sometimes the game decides that when there's a certain angle between 2 points, you can't move them anymore (and this with nothing in the way) and sometimes the game decides you cannot create anymore points and this even if your shape is ALOT less complex than something you would have drawn with the circle tool...

.

The grid unaligning thing is a point. I added a bit of text about it yet I'm not entirely sure why or how it happens. Fiddling with it does fix it mostly without too much trouble.

I've not experienced your problems with the corner editor, it might be that you are trying to make a very detailed, but small object. Might want to try making it when large, selecting and shrinking afterward.