Building Visitor Center floors

In the last post I showed how I mapped out one of the floors of the original game's Visitor Center to grid paper. Now I'll share a time lapse video of me using that map to build and texture that floor in Unity: 

If you're familiar with Unity you might notice the tool I'm using is not standard. It's a tool I created for quickly creating environments based around sectors. Sectors were used in 90s era 3D games like Doom to model rooms and hallways and pretty much any shape you can create from a top-down grid. 

This approach only really existed between Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Quake (1996). Wolfenstein 3D levels were created from a grid as well, but carved out from cells on the grid. It was almost like giant negative voxels. You couldn't build a triangle room, for example. Then, starting with Doom, sectors allowed level designers to create rooms from arbitrary 2D shapes on that top-down grid. You could divide those shapes into smaller shapes with different floor and ceiling heights to create steps and stairs. It actually opened up a lot of possibilities without actually being a full 3D modeling environment. 

Once Quake came out, levels could be arbitrary 3D geometry, so level editors were basically lightweight 3D modeling tools. It became significantly more complex to create levels. Quake was ahead of the pack, so a number of games came for a little longer based on sectors. The most significant to me were the ones built with the Build engine, a Doom-like engine with a lot more features. Those games included Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood. Build games also came with the editor. Although it was not super user friendly, the sector paradigm let me build levels extremely quickly, even as a kid. 

I wanted to recapture the productivity of that tool and paradigm. About a year ago I built a tool in Unity that reproduced the Build engine and editor, but at runtime. While this was cool, it really limited my ability to also use common Unity workflows and assets. However, it did work and somewhat early on I recorded this video:

I built a number of prototypes and demos playing with the tool, a lot of which I documented on this Tumblr. And then I put it on pause to work on other projects. 

A few months ago I came back to it and decided to build it as a Unity editor extension. Although it's not as fully expressive as it could be, it was enough to reproduce the simple geometry of the SNES Jurassic Park interiors. And that's how Visitor Center started. 

Anyway, Visitor Center turned out to be a pretty fun game to build and play. It's still not entirely done, so the rest of the posts here will be on the remaining bit of polish. And then after Visitor Center is finished I can start exploring new projects to build with my tool. Exciting!

Get Visitor Center

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