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Look Mum, I'm an artist!


Sorra the Orc
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I started learning Unity just a few years ago. I've not released any games yet, but I have put out a bunch of game jam entries. I'm simply learning as I target a game launch in 2024. As I learn I produce tutorial videos to solidify it in my mind. I spend far too much money on assets as I learn the trade. The vast majority I do not use once I've built a prototype, but PW tools are an exception to this.

They do not provide a "make my game" button.

They do not even provide a "make my level" button.

What they do is provide a "make my prototype level in seconds" button and then they provide a raft of tools to turn that prototype level into a real level.

Within seconds (literally) of installing Gaia, for example, you will get a dopamine hit as you are running around a terrain that looks great. I got that first hit in 2016. I still remember proudly showing my wife and kids that I was a visual artist. Something I have never felt I would be able to claim.

Over the years I have dug deeper and deeper. I've learned a ton about Unity and a ton about Gaia. The tools go so much deeper than that magic "World Designer" dopamine hit. I'm currently putting the final touches to a tool that randomizes World Designer values within defined constraints and then generates hundreds of terrains for me. I use my own Biomes tuned for the game I am building, but you get some awesome biomes to get you started, I can generate hundreds of possible levels in hours. I review those terrains, selecting the ones that are "close enough" to what I need and get to work. 

At this point GeNa comes out. Placing areas the player is intended to go to. Adjusting the terrain to suit. Creating denser forest to discourage players from going that way. Planting lighter colour vegetation to draw the player forward. Placing incidental buildings to break the line of sight and improve both performance and player intrigue. And more.

Then it's back to Gaia. Generate the world vegetation, fully respecting the manual placements with GeNa. I might not want players to go through that line of trees, but if they do I want it to be interesting. Gaia does that for me. 

Then comes lighting and weather. Again, Gaia brings it. Get the angle of the sun just right. Ensure the player is drawn to the areas of play. Maybe drop back into GeNa to create areas of tree shadow, or perhaps make that hill a little taller or shorter with terrain tools. It's all fair game, because I can go back to Gaia and retexture and replant the entire scene.

Then there's sound design. No need for boring and constant background sounds. Throw in a few Audio Zones and have the audio change with the player. Use sound to attract the player to areas of interest.

Next, optimization. Gaia brings plenty out of the box, with terrain streaming and so on. But you can also quickly and easily vary the amount of terrain detail. Add in a mask to adjust planting density in areas the player is not supposed to go to, reducing what needs to be rendered in the distance. Look at the counts for each prefab in use. Maybe there should be an extra LOD on that tree that appears twice as much as the others? And so on (optimization is something I'm still learning about to be honest).

PW tools have a depth to them that make me successful. There are only a handful of assets on the store that do this. Don't just hit that World Designer button and be happy with the first dopamine hit, there are so many more beyond it.

Edited by Sorra the Orc
Add a note on biomes
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