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Breaking the Cube

:T1: :T2: :SS2:

Copied from Dark Arrow’s tutorial. Original link:

I decided to make this tutorial in the hopes that it would help some of the new members in making some interesting architecture. This tutorial is meant mainly for new members, but it might offer some new insight to some older members as well. In this tutorial I will explain some simple ways on how to break the basic cube and make some interesting architecture or at least something I consider interesting. The tutorial will follow the building of my new FM. I won’t go to basic things like how to create a new brush, and I won’t go step by step on how I added each brush. The point of this tutorial is to show examples and methods of breaking the boring cube to an interesting room.

The methods I use are the methods I have developed and learned in the six years I have been making levels with Dromed. There are other methods in making good looking architecture, ones that offer better results with some extra effort. For example, one should look at Alexius’ work with the Hammerite Imperium. He has done some excellent work with high quality textures. Another way of making good looking architecture is the good use lights. A good example is a mission like Saturnine’s 7th Crystal. Last time I checked the mission I noticed that the architecture was very simple, but the lights made the place come alive. However, I’m not an expert in high quality textures or light, so what you get is a basic architecture tutorial.

Before you open up Dromed:

You should first make a floorplan of the mansion/cave system/city or whatever you are doing. A good plan will save you time and effort as you won’t have to redesign rooms/hallways because the room/hallway you created doesn’t work well or it will cause you to create paper thin walls. It will also let you look at the designing of the place you are creating. You will know where the bathroom is, where the guest quarters and the servant quarters are and whether they would actually work in real life. Improvising is not bad, but if you can’t think rationally enough, you may end up with a bad floorplan that would never work in real life and it may be impossible to work with when the FM progresses.

Here are the floorplans of the current FM I’m working on:

First the basement (a cube in the paper is 4×4 units in Dromed):

In the first floorplan I have surrounded the entry and exit points of the floor. As you can see, there are 5 circled areas. Two of them are stairs leading to the upper level, the lowest entry point is a secret entry from the courtyard. On the other side of the map there is a well which I have circled, so there is supposed to be a water canal below the manor to allow the player access from there or maybe it offers an exit. On the far left there is a secret exit point. There are two big red question marks which mean that I haven’t locked the final plan yet. Since this is the basement, I can assume that I can change the plan as the floor will be underground and I can easily control the surrounding area as it won’t be visible. I haven’t planned the canal area in paper and it probably won’t be necessary as the canal is not a central part of the design and I can simple make it so it fits with the other floor plans. The floorplan has descriptions on every room, stating what the room will be used for. On the storage I have even added some extra information on what I will add to the room and where I will place the lights. The architecture hasn’t been defined in the designing, only the shape of the room and how the rooms fit with each other. I have numbered some areas where I will demonstrate a way I used to break the “box”.

Also, there is a very important matter which I haven’t decided while making the floorplans, the height of the floor. This is an important factor as it directly affects the floors that are above or below the current floor. I will return to this later on.

The first Floor will look like this:

And the second floor:

The plot is an important part in making an FM, but on the designing step you can get away with some basic information. For example:
What is your objective? A: To steal a special object.
Is the object on display? A:No (hence the no exhibition room in plans)
What type of a mission is it? A: Castle/manor with some minor horror elements
What does the mission look like(overall architecture/texturing)? A: A Castle that has been partly renovated (Bafford’s manor/Rutherford castle/Gervaisius’ manor)

As you keep building the story can get changed or get new twists, but you should have some base lines drawn before you start planning, as it helps you when planning the floors.

The basics of breaking the box (meaning to make the basic cube not look like a cube): You can divide every room or corridor/hallway to three main parts: The floor, the walls and the ceiling. Breaking the box is done by dividing these main parts to smaller sections with additional primitives. In the following examples, I will explain some of the methods I used to break the “box” and how it was done.

Lets get to building: First I had to choose a height to the basement floor. Because of texturing I chose 12 units to be the height of the floor. Garrett is 8 units tall so it had to be at least 10 units. The extra 2 units I added, because I imagined using cylinders on top of some doors and rooms to break the ceiling and I wanted the rooms to have more height than the doors leading to the rooms. Another reason was texturing, but we will return to this reason in more detail on picture 4.

I started building the floor by making corridors. This is going to be a basement so it shouldn’t have an extremely pleasant architecture. No one is going to brag how wonderful their basement corridors look like, atleast not a medieval lord. So the corridors will need to look boring, but not bore the player. This is complicated, because it is rather easy to make architecture that looks interesting, as you only need to add detail to it, so we need to create simple architecture that doesn’t bore the player.

I decided to only break the point where the wall meets the ceiling. I did this by adding a solid wedge with depth being the same as the corridors length and width and height being both 2. I then rotated the brush so that it fits the corner of the corridors air brush. I copied the brush on the other side of the corridor, which left me with a 4 units wide ceiling in the middle of the corridor. This was simple way of breaking the point where the wall meets the ceiling. It didn’t look to fancy either for a basement. In the corners I placed corner-apex pyramids that were aligned by sides (prim_facealign 1) to connect the wedges of the different corridors together I was happy with the ceiling and the upper part of the walls, but the walls and the floor looked extremely dull. I added some pyramids with height 1 to the corridor floors to make the floor a bit uneven. It could still use some work, but I leave it to later on. The walls are a bit more complicated thing to do. When I finally add the lights, I’ll probably add some alcoves for the torches, but I decided that I’ll break the walls with objects. I’m going to make some custom moss objects and add those objects to the walls to make them more interesting without breaking the basement feeling. That should make the corridors look interesting.

Here are some more ways one can break the ceiling from a previous mission I made (the Ghost House/Haunted Hospital):

Here in the storage room I made the ceilings by using cylinders. There are also cylinders on top of the doors. I used two cylinders to create the frame for the catacomb/party texture. Then I added a solid cube and modified it to form the bottom of the frame. I embedded the torches to the wall with an air cube primitive scaled to 2x1x4. Now that I look at it, I notice that the walls could use a bit more detail, although, the barrels and boxes cover most of the wall. Cylinders are a good way to break the flatness of the ceiling (since there won’t be a flat ceiling afterwards). I recently played “Transitions in Chaos Part I : Conspiracies in the Dark” by Ramirez’s Old Fat Burrick and cylinders were extensively used in this FM to break the ceilings and to create door alcoves.

Servant quarters were changed from the original plan. Originally I planned to add a game table here, but I moved the table to the guards quarter. So this became the home to most of the servants with the butler having his own separate room. I simply broke the ceiling and walls with large solid beams. However in the future I might reduce the size of the beams and add some supporting beams to balance it a bit. Beams are a good way of breaking the ceiling and the wall when you really don’t know what else to do.

The room for the captain of the guards. I wanted to do something that looked better than the rest of the basement. I might have gone a bit overboard, but the guy is becoming rich because of the smuggling operation he is running. But this is a good example on how to break the walls and the ceiling. I added two trims to break the connection between the walls and the ceiling/floor. The trims are both 2 units smaller in depth and width. To break the walls even more I added solid 4x1x8 blocks with another texture than the rest of the wall. On the ceiling I added two 4x4x1 blocks of solid surrounded by wedges and corner-apex pyramids. The room is complicated enough, but I may need to revise the textures I used as it might look too fancy compared to the other textures in the basement.

One of my reasons for choosing 12 as the height of the basement was to allow me to add a room with two trims and a wall texture to the basement. Trim textures are usually 4 or 2 units in height while wall textures are 16 or 8 units. When you are deciding the size of the room, always keep in mind that you need to texture it and textures are sized by powers of 2. So try to avoid uneven numbers when planning the room size.

NewDark Update
There is now an additional texture alignment mode, Align Ext, which allows texture scales to be decimal values, e.g. 15.5, which gives us much more flexibility with room sizes:

The butler’s room. This time I concentrated on the corners of the room. The ceiling has been raised by 2 units making it 14 units high. The corners were formed with solid blocks arranged and placed like this:

Breaking the corners of a room is one way of breaking the box and making a room look interesting.

Doorframes break the corridor and the room that the door leads to. A simple air brush that cuts a doorhole for a door just doesn’t do it anymore. Making good and original looking doorframes seems to be a competition these days. Here is a one simple example. It uses three brushes: One solid brush for the frames, one air for cutting the empty space inside the frames and one air for texturing the middle part.

Now I’ll continue this when I make progress in my FM. I hope that reading this hasn’t been a complete waste of your time or that I haven’t pointed out the obvious that everyone already knows. (I sure wish I had known as much about breaking my architecture as in this thread when I started making my first levels. Then I called a box with textures a room.)

Tips for the beginners:

Think in five dimensions:

Floorplans should be two dimensional.

When you make floorplans in paper, remember that the floorplans are 2-dimensional and they should be that, since they are just guidelines which help you build the space and decide where the walls are. Whether you add extra detail is up to you. However, the third dimension is good to be present in the papers in some form. For example, the height of the room/floor a can be added. Also, when designing streets or hallways, it is a good idea to add any elevation information to the plans. This is because the level can easily become flat when you work with floorplans.

All three dimensions are used when you start building the mission in Dromed.

I prefer to build rooms when an inspiration strikes me and improvise the detail. Whether one draws the architecture in paper and plans everything else before touching Dromed is of course their own preference.

The fourth dimension is used as you designing the plot.

Imagine Garrett living in his own a world when making the FM. Things have happened before the FM begins and life continues after the FM is over. Don’t forget the power that entering an on going plot has. (Does that make any sense to you, I’m having trouble getting that sentence to come out right.) A good story can make the FM one of the best, even if it is lacking in other parts.

The fifth dimension is critical to gameplay and can totally ruin the missions if not notified.

Thief is not a corridor shooter. The player expects that he/she has options and choices to do. Allow the players to use their own play style. Don’t force the player to kill, don’t force the player to find all the loot and don’t force the player to ghost. These things are of course acceptable if there is a good reason. You should be able to see the options in the floorplans. Allow multiple exit and enter points between floors, houses and outdoor areas. Try to maximize player options.

Tip two:

Don’t forget to texture faces that are towards walls and are hard to get to or see. Like this corner:

It is big immersion breaker, if a player finds a way to see a texture that doesn’t fit the other faces. This is easy to miss when making sinks or toilets with brushes.

Dark Arrow

dromed/break_cube.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/24 16:26 by r_soul