Design Test using Gears of War PC - May 2009

These shots are from a design test I did for a game company recently.  I was asked to provide a map with a current engine that shows five minutes of gameplay and is more than just "combat is fun."

I used the Gears of War PC engine for the test.  I had no real Unreal 3 experience prior to this test, but was able to easily pick up Kismet, the Matinee system, and other new Unreal 3 engine features.  Kismet was surprisingly easy to understand, and I ended up being able to do much more advanced things than I would have thought when I started the test.

I started with the idea of doing a sub-orbit floating platform - something like a more industrial/grungy Cloud City.  It was an ok look, but the lack of any sort of reference in the sky for the player made everything feel a little off.  I added ocean water below the structure, put land masses off in the distance, and switched the sky to an early morning sunrise (and tweaked the lighting accordingly) and the map fell together quickly.

The entire process start to finish took me two weeks, but I spent the first week learning Unreal 3 and the associated systems by making small test maps and trying out different things.  Once I started making the actual test map, it took about seven days to finish it including all the art, gameplay scripting, and cinematics.

The level ends a bit abruptly because I wasn't sure how to display some sort of closing event, but otherwise the level is fairly solid.  The scripting is well documented, and with the exception of the music scripting which I copied from one of the SP Gears maps, all of the scripting in the map is mine.  All of the geometry and art was done by me (nothing was copied in from other maps).

I really enjoyed the test, and thought I'd include it in the portfolio here as a sample of what I can do in current generation game engines.  If you have a copy of Gears for the PC and would like to try the map, you can download it here.

Duke Nukem Forever - Unreleased.  Project Cancelled May 8, 2009

Unfortunately, I've been asked to remove the DNF samples from my site.

I hope this is temporary, but I don't know anything definite at this point.

Sin Episodes: Emergence - Released May, 2006

These shots are from the Intro section of Emergence.  We wanted to provide a period of non-combat so that we could fill the player in on the Sin backstory.

The player starts the game strapped to a table in a SinTek lab.  After a few moments of dialogue by the two antagonists, the player's partner arrives and frees the player.  They flee the facility and drive across town to where the drug lab is located.

Trying to convey the size of the city while keeping framerates reasonable was a challenge.  This was somewhat mitigated by the fact that there was no combat in the Intro maps, but the level of detail in the maps coupled with the sheer size of the levels still required some clever vis work.

These shots are from the U4 Lab levels in Emergence.  While I had some scripting help with the Intro maps towards the end of the project, the U4 Lab maps were constructed, scripted, and polished totally by myself.

The mission takes place in a covert drug lab, where Viktor Radek (the main antagonist in Emergence) is manufacturing the drug U4.  The initial design called for the drug lab to be placed in a dockside warehouse.  I thought it would be a lot cooler to have it built within the derelict hull of a partially sunken oil tanker.  Throughout the level, any time the player sees the actual hull of the tanker it's old, rusted, and tilted at a 30 degree angle.  In contrast, the drug lab additions are new, futuristic, and on the correct plane.  It makes for a pretty interesting visual juxtaposition, although building the hull at that angle presented some grid/precision related problems.

I'm very pleased with how the gameplay works in this mission.  I like the pacing - there's a lot of tension building, big battles, and then nice cool down periods where nothing happens.  One of those cool down periods allows the player to freely wander around the "lab" section of the drug lab (shots 5, 6, and 7) - with the freedom to wonder what kind of creepy stuff SinTek Enterprises is cooking up.

The final shot shows part of the mad dash back through the level after Elexis Sinclaire has activated the self-destruct mechanism in the lab.  As the player runs back through the burning lab, the bright lighting from earlier levels has been replaced with red emergency lighting and firelight.  Explosions send debris raining down, and freed mutants fight pitched battles with drug mercenaries.  It's as much chaos, destruction, and mayhem as I could cram into the trip back through the ship, and it was a blast to set up.

These shots are taken from the teaser map at the end of Emergence.  At the very end of development, the company publishing the retail version of the game suggested that we add a "Next on Sin Episodes" teaser to the end of the game.

Working from a video provided by Tom Mustaine (co-owner and Director of Development at Ritual), I was able to pull together the entire teaser map in three long days.  I used portions of the Intro maps I had already constructed, populated them with extra detail, characters, and the Quadralex monster, and then added all of the camera cuts, fades, and movements.

Men of Valor - Released October, 2004 (shots are from PC version of game)

These shots are from the fifth mission in the game, set in the Iron Triangle area of Vietnam.  The player was to escort his squad to an ambush point on a trail that the VC were using to ferry supplies and ammunition to forces in the Saigon area. 

One of the real challenges to this mission was to make the player feel like he was in a large world - that the map didn't end at the edge of the trees.  With the help of some custom static meshes from the artists and some fancy antiportal work, the mission  manages to carry the impression that the world is much larger than it really is.

These shots are from the recreation of the NVA attack on the MACV compound in the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive of 1968.  This map takes place at the beginning of the final operation in the single player game.

This mission represented a unique challenge: I was unable to find any source images of the actual MACV compound in Hue.  The best I could find was some shots of a French Colonial hotel that was originally described as being part of the MACV compound, so I used that as an anchor for the base and visualized a US base surrounding it.  Later research revealed that the hotel in the original photograph was actually from a building in Hanoi instead of Hue.  The map still turned out well, considering.

This series of shots are from the Reclaim Cholon multiplayer mission.  This map recreated the 7th Infantry's fight to recapture the Cholon district of Saigon near the Phu Tho Racetrack.

This level was a blast to work on.  I had done a great deal of research on the battles around Saigon during the Tet Offensive in 1968, and it was a rewarding experience translating that research into a living, breathing game space.  The level of detail is fairly rich, while the sightlines down the streets remain open.

These are from the Operation Starlite multiplayer map for the PC version of the game.  A dual-objective map, the Marines were fighting to the top of the hill to mark the VC mortar position for a napalm strike while the VC were attempting to drive off the Marines with the mortar.  The first team to successfully complete their objective won the round.

These shots show the Ho Chi Minh Trail multiplayer map from the PC version of the game.  US forces were required to locate and secure a series of explosive charges before using the charges to destroy an NVA resupply depot along the Trail.

This level presented some serious framerate challenges.  The map was very ambitious in size, and the per-frame polycount and overdraw were problems during development.  The final version of the map had to be tweaked to reduce the overdraw in several key areas before framerates were acceptable.

This series of shots are taken from the multiplayer map Valley Battle.  This map was released shortly after the release of the PC version of Men of Valor as a multiplayer bonus pack.

With Valley Battle, I was trying to do something that we hadn't done in MoV yet - to create a gameplay environment that had truly large view distances.  I was able to pull this off successfully by setting the map at night.  The darkness allowed me to limit the ground detail to a fairly short radius around the player, while maintaining the impression of lush foliage throughout the level.

Unpublished Work

These shots are from a concept that I and some designers and artists I know collaborated on using the Doom engine.  It's a war-torn Asian city about forty years from now.  I was responsible for the overall layout and most of the detail in the map.  It was challenging to pull off the level of detail I wanted in the map while maintaining the sightlines.  It doesn't come across well in 2d, but the level is very large - sightlines were very open.  Framerates weren't fantastic, but the map was totally playable.
These shots are from a sample level I and some artists I know worked on using the Doom engine.  It's a saloon in the old West.  I directed the overall look for the level and worked with the artists to achieve an authentic feel to the map.  We were trying to make the map feel historically accurate, not Hollywood-accurate.  The artists and I poured over a great deal of research to nail the look and feel down.

This series of shots are from a futuristic 'space-liner', kind of an ocean liner traveling the stars.  It was part of a study I did with some artists I know using the Doom engine.  The shots here show the main dining hall of the ship at night.  We were trying to capture a futuristic art-deco look to the level, which comes across in the floating holo-paintings and the fluted columns along the sides of the hall.
These shots are from an old prototype I worked on a couple of years ago.  The cell shaded look to the environment and models was really fun to work with, and I enjoyed the look.  Maintaining a good framerate considering the size of the level was a bit of a challenge, but limiting the vertical areas the player could reach plus some clever vis work in the map kept framerates playable - even on the Xbox.

America's Army: Operations v 1.0 - Released July, 2002


These are screenshots from the map JRTC Farm from America's Army: Operations.  I created almost all of the models in the screenshots, except some of the trees and the lantern.  Jim Brown and I worked closely on this level to achieve the right 'early morning outdoor' ambience.
These are shots of the map Bridge Crossing from AA:O.  Once again, Jim and I worked together to develop a good wintery atmosphere for this level.  Jim developed the original look of the level, and I built all of the models except the vehicles and the weapon.  


These are a couple of shots of a desert themed map I was working on when I left the AA:O team.  I created everything in these shots except for the building shell in the right shot and the bushes in both shots.
These shots are from the Leavenworth Prison map from AA:O.  With the exception of the toilets and the bookshelves, I created everything in this map.  
Amateur (Ancient) Stuff- Released a LONG time ago. :)

These are screenshots from before I was in the industry.  All of the shots are from maps I made for the Rocket Arena mod for Quake III Arena.  I mainly put them up on the site to give people an idea where I came from.

The upper left corner is a shot from an arena I did as part of a collaborative effort between several mappers in the Rocket Arena scene.  Each author did an entire arena for the map, and they were all pulled together in one full map on release.

The rest of the shots are from different arenas in the map I did for the original release of Rocket Arena 3 (RA3MAP4 - The Citadels).  I was invited to be one of the eight original mappers for RA3, and the work I did on this map helped me land my first several interviews (and offers!) in the industry. :)