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Oasis Ruins Market Square Axis Base Old City
One of the key benefits of ET (Enemy Territory) was the construction system and each map had to feature a new or different way of using it. There was no point in creating six maps all featuring constructible bridges, each primary construction had to be unique as possible. After a lot of discussion and whiteboard drawing, the map Oasis was designed with a flooded cave system and a set of water pumps as the primary constructible item.

The original design for Oasis was based around an L-shape with the ruins at one end and the garrison the other. The old deserted city was going to be spread out in the middle with the underwater caves being a short cut between the ruins and the garrison. Each team was going to start at either end of the map and eventually fight it out in the old city.

The block-out of the map was quickly created in a week and featured a lot of rough shapes in one texture. The game play components were then added to the map and tested for balance against team locations. With the map looking extremely promising on game play, the first initial pass on detail was applied to all the rough shapes in the map.

The ruins were situated next to an oasis with high sand dunes on two sides and a large rock formation between the ruins and the back of the garrison. The old city started with a high wall looking over the oasis and featured several streets winding their way towards a wide-open plaza. A small collection of stone / mud huts spread out from the central plaza with a towering obelisk in the centre. Located next to the plaza was another city wall which overlooked a market place leading towards the garrison.

The garrison was a large rectangular complex with thick stonewalls on the outside and a two-storey building in the middle. At the far end of the complex was a collection of tanks under cover and two big guns pointing towards the approaching valley. The garrison was surrounded by rolling dunes on most sides and also allowed space for players to go around the outside wall for sneak attacks.

At the back of the garrison was a small oasis leading into a underground entrance. The underwater cave was linked to the initial ruins by another entrance and the old city via a well shaft. In the original cave design the player could walk from the ruins to the back of the garrison in one go and not via the old city. Water pumps were installed next to the ruins and the old city well shaft and both were needed to lower the water to a safe level.

Front of City Old City Market Square City Exit
The map had been rotated around several different level designers before I got my hands on it. The game play objectives had been fine tuned and placed and a first pass on detail / custom textures had been completed. I was asked to add another level of detail and realism to the whole map and give each section a certain unique look.

A lot of the structures needed more detail adding, but the overall map performance was borderline so it was going to be a difficult task. The best solution was to break the map up into separate zones so that each section could benefit from more detail. The large wall overlooking the oasis was a prime candidate for this type of conversion and would prevent the oasis and old city having any direct line of sight.

The oasis area was pushed back away from the old city and the wall was replaced with a collection of ascending buildings. By adding more layers of houses above what was needed for game-play reasons, the external view of the old city looked more impressive and hopefully justified the tall street design.

The external boundary of the city needed a gatehouse with a strong front door and this idea nicely presented a split level entrance to the old city from the oasis. The lower route would be through the front door and the upper route would be through the gate house above guarding the entrance.

Old desert style cities are generally very narrow streets with high over hanging balconies and housing built very close together. With sunlight restricted from above the lower levels were often in the shade from the hot sun. It was important that the buffer zone between the oasis and the old city was not simply just tunnels, but felt like a built up area of over crowded housing with skylight very far above.

The lower route had to wind around a traditional doughnut floor layout but the roof space could be wide open to the sky. So a small enclosed balcony area was created above the lower route so that the sky would be high up and the city buildings looked squashed together. This was an area which could not be reached by the player but was needed to give the right initial impression of the old city.

With the oasis area finally zoned off, the extra poly count could now be spent on the architectural style of the old city instead. The city needed to look broken down, abandoned with scattered debris all over the place. To speed up the process of creating broken architecture, various brushwork was taken from existing RTCW maps and transplanted into the old city.

To present a structurally interesting style for the old city, the walls were tapered inwards at the top for passageways and the balcony ledges bulged outwards to offer cover for players below. With the combination of Phong Shading and low poly curved brushwork the building corners and edges eventually looked more like they were built from more traditional materials.

Axis Base Axis Base Axis Base Axis Base
As the old city gained more ledges, balconies and layers of houses, the FPS (Frames Per Second) was beginning to suffer. The previous method for getting into the old city worked well at reducing FPS and could easily be applied again.

To create the second buffer zone a large area was made beyond the city wall with an upper and lower route connecting through a wall of houses. With the relevant amount of ascending houses on the opposite side of the buffer zone, the short tunnel between would hopefully feel like part of the old city.

Due to the footprint of the garrison being very large, the oasis at the back of the garrison did not fit the map anymore. The only options left were to either re-arrange the existing layout or start a fresh with a new layout. The latter option was crazy and would involve a stupid amount of time to complete, but for some reason sounded good at the time.

So with the help of a lot of reference pictures, a constant supply of coffee and a new texture set, the garrison went a different direction. The new garrison took the previous objective locations and merged them into a split base layout. The new garrison had taller outside structure walls (good for portal reasons), multiple levels and multiple routes to all objectives.

With a list as long as my arm of things still needing to be fix, the map was rotated onwards to another level designer. I poured a crazy amount of time into the map moving sections around and creating a ridiculous amount of new content. The map was forever breaking compiler limitations due to excessive brushwork but it was fun to create and I just loved the overall look and feel of it.

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