It's been some time since the last update - I've been completely swamped with RL work and had to put Dragon Age stuff on hold. Hey, need that money to finance these hobbies! Still, I managed to finish the required work on Thursday itself so the past two days have been spent on DA - minus the time spent researching and buying stuff on Black Friday. I ended up buying some games that I will probably won't play for another 3-4 months (Alpha Protocol, Resonance of Fate) and even got myself WoW to try out for a month and some other stuff I didn't think I needed till I saw the price :)
With the aim of getting an alpha out, I started playing through Evermist which was the level I submitted for the Community Contest a while ago and which is a crucial area in BaL. When I was playing through it, I realized something was off. First, it was too big for what it's purpose was and when I say this, I mean way too big. The idea behind this area was a small farming village between Denerim and West Hill but that feeling of being in a village wasn't there. The roads were too wide, the houses spaced too far apart and while I really liked the different mounds from a level-building perspective, they were a little too high and too numerous.
After trying to patch the level for a few hours, I decided to bite the bullet and start reworking it. I redesigned the level on paper - first, removing superfluous stuff like the roads circling the village. This was a very bad design decision in hindsight - these roads provided numerous paths and almost all of them have no scope for interaction with the villagers or the environment. It's just a cliff face/forest/fence on one side and a smaller cliff face on the other side. As I said, a bad design decision.
|Still a WIP but this should give a sense of scale (the height is 288 vs 256, btw)|
Then, came the real re-work of re-arranging the houses and getting the houses closer together without feeling congested. One of the goals of this rework was also to reduce the level size. The previous one had a playable (green boundary) area of 5 x 7 which is way too huge. The reworked one will have a 4 x 4 playable area which is more than a 50% reduction in size. The main reason for this downsizing is the removal of those 'ring' roads. Without those roads, I can leave the structures outside the playable area.
One advantage of having a level as a basis for this new one is the ability to export and import selection groups. Since I had been fairly meticulous in organizing my structures (save for the last minute addition of numerous props), it was easy to copy a lot of the stuff over. I hope to finish this tomorrow and have a play through and finalize things.