I started this project to challenge my ability to create a large and detailed world (16.8km2). I decided on the realistic, tactical shooter Squad, because of it's large level sizes and the use of Unreal Engine 4. This proved to come with both pros and cons, but I will talk more about that further in.
The level itself is heavily inspired by Panjshir, a mountainous province in northern Afghanistan. It's a beautiful and surprisingly lush region, with valleys stretching for miles. Fields cover the ground between the mountain tops, while the rivers carve through the landscape.
Development Time - Ongoing.
Game - Squad
Gamemode - Advance and Secure (AAS)
Genre - Tactical Military FPS
Engine - Unreal Engine 4
Applications Used - Unreal Engine 4 (Squad SDK), World Machine 2, Photoshop
When deciding on a location I had a few things in mind.
I was looking for a mountainous region with flowing rivers, while still providing relatively flat ground for vehicles to traverse easily.
The location also needed to provide with an interesting environment to battle in. These points led me to the northern regions of Afghanistan, more accurately the Panjshir province.
After finding a suitable location I began searching for good real world topology data. I then proceeded by loading the data into World Machine and adding erosion, height contrast and a playing area.
When satisfied with the result I outputted a height-map, which would be the actual landscape, as well as 4 detail maps. A slope-map, flow-map, deposition-map, and a wear-map, all which would help me apply materials to my landscape in a natural way of erosion.
Loaded into UE4 as a landscape I could start mapping out capture points and their connections to make a balanced and enjoyable gameplay experience.
The Squad SDK include a lot of assets, so I could spend more time on getting the environment as close to the real life region using reference photos from the area, including satellite data.
I used Landscape Splines to create the roads, and walls around the fields. This way I could quickly get my road network up, which in turn would get me started early with buildings, compounds and wall placement.
I use 8 Material Functions with different ground textures, set up with far and near tile scaling.
The Landscape Material input these, add some macro variation to break up tiling look, and lastly put them through Layer Blend nodes. In short, it inputs 8 different materials and output one which I can apply to the landscape.
During development i encountered a couple of issues, ranging from crashes, corrupted levels and hardware limitations. Although none of the problems were very severe, I did end up losing a few hours of work.
I found most of my issues boiled down to one thing, working with such a large world in UE4 proved to use a bit more RAM than I had available. This resulted in some unfortunate crashes, but I quickly worked my way around it by monitoring my RAM usage and saving the project to ease the load.
In the end I'm really satisfied with how it turned out, and even though I encountered some issues I learned a lot from it. There's still some areas to improve upon and I will continue to do so, as the game is still in development.
Once the tools to package maps are released I will do what I can to make it an official level.
I'm also planning to make different versions including new game-modes, time of day and capture points.
Thank you for reading!