Making of Grimrock 2: level building blocks

August 28, 2014|

Creating graphics for games can be quite technical at times. A game artist needs to keep in mind that there’s a finite amount of memory available for graphics in the game. In essense the less an individual art asset takes memory, the more of them you can have which results in visual diversity. Basically that means more varied wallsets, monsters, items etc.

Textures are real graphics memory hogs. That’s why in game art we use all kinds of tricks to keep texture count and sizes low. In this post I’m going to be talking about a method of using the same pieces over and over again to create multiple different assets without any new textures. Sometimes this is called kitbashing.

Exhibit number uno: Wooden supports for the mine environment

(click on the pictures to enlarge them)

I was tasked to create a wooden support structure for our mine wallset. The environment required multiple kinds of configurations ranging from a fence like wall piece with support pillars and beams to a bridge piece for connecting over chasms.

It wouldn’t have made much sense making every asset unique, meaning that every asset has it’s own set of textures, since that would have taken a lot of memory. The assets needed had also pretty big surface areas which means that to keep texel resolution (size of texture pixels in the 3d world) consistent, the textures would’ve had to be big. In grimrock we’ve aimed to keep our texel resolution 1024×1024 pixels per 3x3meters. (our grid size)

So with these limitations in mind I set out to design the assets needed. First we made a simple sketch of what the assets and the environment might look like with Antti. Antti described requirements from a gameplay standpoint and dished out some environment artist wisdom from his Alan Wake days. I also looked at some reference pictures of how supports like these are usually built.

Next step was trying to figure out what kind of pieces I’d need to create them in 3D.

I tried to keep the number of pieces to a minimum, and to figure out how to accomplish that I used a technique we call whiteboxing. It’s essentially just another type of a sketch, but in 3D and placed in game. Using this technique has the advantage of seeing very early on how the asset might appear in game and what kind of dimensions it occupies. Later after the high detail modeling is done, it’s usually difficult to make changes if problems like intersecting with other objects in the environment arise. For example, some of our bigger monsters might intersect through the asset while prowling through the caverns of our mines if the assets are not carefully measured. This technique also helps with making sure the pieces have correct proportions. It’s easy to make planks, nail heads, etc. too big so that they appear cartoonish in game compared to the surrounding environment.

My solution to making multiple mine assets from a single set of textures (diffuse, specular and a normalmap) was to make a collection of different sized planks, beams and some metallic binders I’d use to attach the wooden pieces together. It’s probably what you’d get from a trip to the hardware store in the grimrock world! To create the textured assets I took the whiteboxed pieces to zbrush and sculpted them into what I needed and then created game resolution meshes and textures from the sculpts.

After that it was just a matter of assembling the pieces into what I needed.

When I was finished with assembling the assets we could let Antti off the leash and create our exciting environments!

The added benefit of this techique is that these pieces can then be used elsewhere also!
… and in the case of this collection of hardware store material, everywhere. 🙂

Aaaand that’s it. I hope this was an interesting read and if you have questions just post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
– Jyri

16 responses to “Making of Grimrock 2: level building blocks”

  1. Mutman says:

    Looks totally awesome, I am eager to use new editor functions! 🙂 And shown environments look fantastic!

  2. Pumpelche says:

    I know that there are sub-18 ppl reading here too, so forgive me, but you guys are fucking geniouses.

  3. araczynski says:

    beautiful stuff. the original LoG was the only game I’ve paid initial asking price for in the last decade.

  4. mahead says:

    Where the hell is the Buy button for Grimrock II?

  5. Jack Dandy says:

    This was super interesting. I love these kinds of updates. The mine area looks fantastic!

  6. cvesperc says:

    Is that ladder going to be climbable? (Correct me if that’s not even a word 😀 ) I really hope so as it could add another dimension to the whole dungeon exploring!

    • petri says:

      Let’s put it this way: what are unclimbable ladders good for? 😉

      • xiani says:

        Picking up (with sufficient strength of course), and being moved to another location where the upper area would be otherwise inaccessible!

        Laying horizontally over a pit, so you can cross it.

        Breaking down for wood, to make…other wooden things perhaps. Will there be vampires that need staking?

        There are lots of things us creative dungeon explorers could do a humble ladder;)

  7. TigerAce2712 says:

    Perhaps this has been asked already but, will the level/dungeon editor be available on game release?

  8. MMori says:

    Amazing work, again. And thank you for blogging! I’m soooooo excited about Grimrock 2 that I can’t wait to play it.

    Speaking of assets and textures. Could it be possible for us Arachnophobics to get a teddybear mode in the game just like in Skyrim there’s a mod that turns all spiders into teddybears? (This is what I’m talking about ) Could you even consider this? If you would I’d be forever grateful and I’m sure my spouse would be reliefed too (since I’m not brave enough to play through areas filled with those nasty eight-legged monsters).

  9. Potholepete says:


  10. AroCZ says:

    This was really inspiring.
    You should consider teaching some classes at university…

  11. Looks great – very smart design decisions!

    Just out of curiosity – what do you use to create the new topology? Decimation Master, Topogun, 3DCoat, et?

    • Jyri says:

      Thanks! I use mainly 3Dcoat for retopo. It seems to have the best toolset for it at the moment and you get UV unwrapping done at the same time. I still need to arrange the UV islands in Modo though.

      • Bek says:

        I’ve heard good things about modo’s topology tools but haven’t tried them myself. Possibly that praise was in relation to characters though. How fine a control does 3dcoat give for texel density? Modo’s uv tools (which are pretty great) can be complimented with James O’Hares also great texel density toolkit. I might have to try 3dcoat to see if there’s anything I’m missing out on.

        Any particular brushes you’re fond of for sculpting wood? I’ve had some success with mallet fast w/ square alpha, same for trim dynamic, and trim smooth border.

        Also for anyone interested in a lower level explanation of some of the problems around performance, here’s a wonderful article made recently:

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